Most kids love being with their friends and socializing with their classmates, so being apart and stuck learning from home can make them feel isolated and upset. Children need to have positive social interactions with others in order to develop their social-emotional skills, such as empathy, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. It might seem like it won’t hurt for them to play with their friends in an open space, but it is clear that even though kids won’t be as affected by COVID-19 as older adults, they can still carry the virus and bring it home to the family.
Social distancing, however, doesn’t mean kids need to be completely isolated. They may miss their friends, but instead of sympathizing with how terrible this situation is, help them reframe this circumstance and see how they can spend time with their friends through creative avenues.
Without a clue when things will return to normal, here are some ideas to get you started on keeping your kids connected in a safe manner.
Create art together.
There are artists on YouTube that give step-by-step tutorials on how to paint or draw. Art tutorials can be a fun activity for kids to do together over video chat. All you need to do is get the necessary supplies and watch the video at the same time. As the tutorial leads your kids into the drawing or painting, they can chat with each other while creating. Once they finish, they can show it to their friend and talk about their experience.
Take a virtual trip.
Even though physical trips are canceled, kids can still check out zoos and aquariums through live webcams. The San Diego Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and Zion National Park are just a few of the many national parks and animal conservation parks with live webcams. Kids can enjoy watching their favorite animals or tour a national park and talk to each other about what they see.
Virtual playdate over video chat.
Kids may feel burnt out after spending several hours on the computer for class. However, when it comes to socializing with their friends, video chat suddenly doesn’t seem too bad after a quick break. If your child is under 13, it’s a good idea to monitor their activity. Over FaceTime or Zoom, kids can share their toys, talk, play games like charades, or have fun dance parties.
Encourage them to send letters.
In a world where technology has become the quickest form of communication, sending personal letters has become obsolete for the younger generation. During quarantine, kids can mail each other letters, drawings, stickers, or other things. It allows them to take a break from technology and create something physical that their friend will enjoy, while also forcing them to practice waiting patiently for a response!
Set up a multiplayer game.
You may not want your kids to play video games all evening after finishing school, but allowing them some time to play games with their friends is a great way to help them stay connected. And there is a myriad of options! Minecraft is a highly popular game for kids to play together where they can create their own playgrounds without the fear of spreading diseases. However, as a parent, it may be a challenge figuring out how to connect the game with their friends (you can find some help on Life Hacker).
Another fun online game is Skribbl, where kids can play a game similar to Pictionary in private rooms and text chat with their friends. Houseparty is yet another fun game, much like Zoom, but with engaging minigames and text chat included in addition to the video. Up to 8 people are allowed to video chat in one room, but users can have infinite rooms and easily float between them.
Go on family outings.
Going on walks around the neighborhood can help stimulate the brain, allow you to exercise after sitting all day, and get the kids away from technology. You can also plan a walk or hike to give your kid a chance to interact with family members.
Another idea is taking your kids on a family picnic. You can stay a safe distance away from others at the park but still get a breath of fresh air and the chance to step away from the computer screen. Playgrounds may be closed in your area, but you can still play soccer and toss a football or a frisbee in an open space. Though kids may not be able to get outside with their friends, that time socializing with family is priceless.
This is not an easy time for both children and parents, but finding creative ways to allow your kids to socialize will help them stay connected with their friends and continue exercising their social skills even during distance-learning.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.