Looking for the best ways to engage with your family on a video call? We have over 15 tips on how to keep your calls fun and exciting!
We’ve all experienced a phone call where there really isn’t much to say. We’ve said it all, done it all, bit still feel like we are obligated to call our extended family and to talk. But what can we talk about? Who doesn’t want their video calls to be more engaging? More fun? Staying connected to our grandchildren is easier than ever, but we want our interactions to be meaningful and enjoyable for everyone. Here are some tips for engaging family video calls.
In this article we’ll show you how to keep those long-distance grandkids and their parents video calling you again and again. Here’s what we have for you:
- Some general tips to start you off
- How to make video calls fun
- What to do before and after your calls
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General Tips and Things to Remember
- Everyone is busy – make a calling schedule
- Skipped calls or “not today” are occasionally okay
- Make it fun – Just talking can be boring, especially for children
Make a Calling Schedule
One of the biggest hurdles to having a great video call is time. It seems like nobody has any extra time to spare these days. Parents are busy. Kids are busy, and yes, you are busy. Everyone is busy. To overcome this, make a schedule that all of you can agree on.
For example, maybe you talk to one of your grandchildren on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM when his older sibling is at a scout meeting. Then perhaps you talk with your teenage granddaughter on Sunday mornings for half an hour before she really gets out of bed for the day.
It might take some effort, but there will be a time that works for everyone, and you do not have to have a marathon call where you talk to everyone at once. Along the same lines, you don’t have to talk for a “significant” amount of time. Checking in for five minutes here and there is also keeping in touch. You just need to find that perfect timing.
Skipped Calls or “Not Today”
There will be times when your grandchild won’t want to talk. That’s okay. We all have off or bad days where we don’t want to act cheery or chatty, and we certainly don’t want to explain ourselves either.
If this begins to happen too often, however, maybe it’s time to take an evaluative look at how fun the calls are. Is it time to change things up a little? As your grandkid grows, he is going to want to do different things than he did before. Keeping it fresh and fun will help him continue to want to talk to you each time. We don’t want talking to Grandma or Grandpa to become a chore, something he has to do.
Make Your Video Calls Fun
“Hi, how are you?”
“Hi Grandma, I’m fine.”
“What have you been up to?”
“School. Going outside to play.”
“Ok, love you. Talk to you later.”
“Bye Grandma. Love you.”
Does this dialogue sound familiar? When I was growing up, as well as when my kids were growing up, it seems like this is all you said to Grandma and Grandpa. No one thought about it.
Nowadays, especially with video added, our calls can and should be so much more. It can be much easier to establish and maintain relationships from a distance. No longer does a quick check-in suffice, you want to make your calls fun and dynamic.
Children learn using all five senses. The more they move, taste, smell, and touch, the more they will enjoy your “talk” and want to do it more and more.
Tips To Follow Before Your Video Call Begins
- If using a smartphone, get a stand/tripod
- Make sure your battery is charged
- Don’t turn off in the middle of the call to check your other apps or messages
- Send a reminder text
- Have a plan
- Collect any materials you’ll need during the call
If You Use a Smartphone, Get a Stand
Remember watching those old home video tapes that make you nauseous because of the constant movement? It’s the worst. You don’t want to provide that experience to your loved ones so if you are just sitting in one place, get a phone stand or tripod. Have it set up before you start talking.
It’s definitely encouraged to have movement during your calls, even going on a walk or a tour which will make the movement a little wonky, but at least it’s not the entire length of the call.
Make Sure Your Phone is Charged
I’m sure we’ve all experienced talking to someone on the phone and they cut out because their batterie died. Sure, it’s not a big deal, and it happens to everyone. But, if your granddaughter is in the middle of a song she wants to sing to you or a story, it’s often hard to get back that same emotion. The easiest solution is to plug in before the call starts and leave the phone alone.
Stay Focused on This Call
Just like losing a connection due to power, if you take another call or check your messages, or do something else on your phone while you are talking, you will lose momentum. It can change the whole demeanor of the call, and as the person sitting and waiting on the other end, it can feel rude.
As our society’s use of technology evolves, we want to start setting up an etiquette that makes sense for everybody. Even though this might seem a bit persnickety, don’t we want everyone to give us their full attention while on a video call?
Send a Reminder Text
Texting is the new reminder system, one that we can all embrace. Why call when you can send a few words in a text and get your message across. Texting is amazing, and I’ve found one of the ways I use it the most is to remind our relatives when we are going to call.
Just a few minutes before the call, I’ll send an “Are you ready?” text, and it works every time.
Have a Plan
When you have taken the time to schedule a call, doesn’t it seem prudent to make a plan on what you want to remember to say and do? Your “plan” doesn’t have to be anything too detailed, but a quick note to yourself to not forget certain things.
Have Your Materials Ready
If you are doing something during your call, like teaching your grandson how to crochet a square, or teaching your granddaughter how to build a birdhouse, then sending a text or email telling them and their parents what they will need ahead of time will be a great help.
I would send two texts, one a few days before to make sure that all the materials are bought or found. Then another a few minutes or half an hour before, to make sure they are where they need to be for the call.
Tips to Follow During Your Video Call
Along with our specific activities (links below) that you can do with the kids in your life, here are just some general ideas that you can tailor to your own likes and talents. Having a focus on what to do during the call is really going to make the difference on how enjoyable your calls are.
- Be prepared with some conversation starters
- Same Same, but Different
- Play games
- Read with Them
- Get up and Move
- Teach them your hobby or crafts or talents
- Make art or music simultaneously
Be Prepared With Some Conversation Starters
Whether you talk together often or rarely, it can be helpful to have some ideas about what you want to talk about, what questions you want to ask. Some parts of the year are easier than others, because if there is a holiday or special time in the family, these are always topics to explore.
It’s the in-between special times that can be a bit harder, but perhaps can provide a much richer, deeper, and more memorable conversation. These times are when you can take the opportunity to ask the harder questions, and have more personal interactions.
Same Same, but Different
People love routines. We have instituted them in everything we do from getting up in the morning to washing our dishes. It makes us feel comfortable. Establish a routine with your video calls as well. It’s a great idea to have a few things that you do the same each and every time, like your greeting or beginning of your conversation.
I have a friend who starts every one of her calls with a rhyme she made up for her granddaughter. It’s only a few lines, and at some point her granddaughter might think it’s a bit childish, but it’s a tradition and so far makes the little girl feel special.
I have another friend who has a hand signal she uses with her nephew. It’s a contorted finger weave that are his initials. He loves it. She never leaves a call without doing this, and again it’s really special. Creating a special hand signal is something she can carry on doing his entire life, without everyone in the world knowing about it. It’s their secret.
Establishing a routine doesn’t mean doing the exact same thing every time, though. Change it up. Don’t just talk. Don’t just read a story. Don’t just play a game. Try something new or different as often as possible. We don’t want our calls to be predictable.
Every child, regardless of age, likes to play games. Adults do too for that matter. Whether you play chess, cards, video games, I Spy, it doesn’t really matter. Games are fun, and they will be different each time.
My cousin went through a phase of playing Tic Tac Toe with anyone she could find for about six months. She carried her tablet with her and asked everyone if they wanted to play. It was hilarious. Why not take some of that childish curiosity and fun and incorporate them into your video calls?
Read with Them
We all know the importance of reading to, and with, our little ones. Story books, magazine articles, anything you can find will be fun to read with them. At first, depending on their ages, you might be doing all the reading, but as they grow older they can read to you or with you.
Get Up and Move
Especially with younger children, movement is key. Sitting for more than five minutes is going to make them cranky. It makes me cranky! Get up and take them on your walk with you. Show them the new tomato plants you bought.
You can also do yoga, dance, aerobics, anything that gets the two of you moving together will make your grandchild happy.
Grandparents are the best teachers! You have so much experience to share. Whether you want to tell them family history, local history, or world history this is one thing that kids will listen to. History isn’t everything though.
You can teach them some cool math, do some science experiments together, teach them a craft or how to cook. It doesn’t matter what you teach them, they will lap up the attention and have fun with it.
Make Something with Them
You don’t always have to be in teaching mode. You can just do something to have fun. Maybe you want to sing, paint a landscape, or do something that both of you can do at the same time, chatting about the process and you know, life.
You might want to make something together, like crocheting a blanket for your grandson’s new little brother that will be here in a couple of months. He makes some squares; you make some squares, and then you get together for a weekend and put them together. The sky is the limit!
Check out our other articles about keeping in touch with your grandkids. All of them have lots of ideas , tips, and activities to do with them. Check out:
Technology Tips To Make the Best of Your Video Call
- Record your video call
- Take screen shots
- Take notes for next time
- Schedule your next call
Record Your Video Call
There are many reasons you might want to record your calls, or, at minimum, parts of your call. The biggest of which is simply to remember how cute and funny your grandchild was at this special age.
It’s easier to just record and worry about what you capture later, so that you are not trying to do too many things at once. However, most recording applications cannot do the entire call at once, which means that you need to record for five or ten minutes at a time. This of course adds to the difficulty.
The best way to combat this is to already know which parts you’re likely to want to keep, such as his telling you a story, reading to you, whatever it is that you really love. Then you can just start recording before that part of the call and not worry about the rest.
Take Screen Shots
It’s somewhat easier to take various screen shots throughout the call. It’s just a matter of pushing the buttons. If you do take screen shots, it’s a good idea to give them a unique name and put them in the correct folder for safe-keeping. Otherwise, your desktop or catch all folder will soon get overloaded and unwieldy.
Some reasons I like to take screen shots are for making photo albums, posting to Instagram or Facebook, or just to keep for whatever future use I can come up with.
Take Notes for Next Time
If you talked about what you are going to do next time, write down some reminder notes. For example, last time I talked with MP, he wanted to play the card game “War,” but I was in a hotel room without my playing cards, so we couldn’t play. I promised we’d play next time, so I needed to write that down, because I’m sure if I didn’t I would certainly forget.
Along the same lines, if we decided to color pages together, I would want to make a note to send Mom a coloring sheet or two for next call so we would have a couple of sheets to choose. In other words, whatever plans we make that involve materials, both Mom and I will be ready.
Schedule Your Next Call
If you have a standard time to talk this is unnecessary, however if you need to pick a date, then schedule it right on your calendar.
Family video calls are becoming more and more important as our world continues to change and us with it. Keeping up with our relatives that live all over the country and the world has become so accessible and easy, that it would be a shame if we didn’t. Therefore, thinking proactively about how to get the most out of our video calls and making them as engaging and fun as possible just makes sense.