As adults living abroad or in another part of the country, connecting regularly with loved ones can help keep you grounded and motivated. Because it's kind of like having a support system when you’re away from home.
But it’s even more important for young children.
Connecting with extended family members gives your child a sense of security: Children need to feel safe, secure, and loved. When they know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are there for them no matter what, it makes life a little easier and more pleasant.
A sense of identity: Children learn who they are by observing others, and their extended family can provide them with valuable insight into what makes them unique. They can also provide opportunities for children to experience different cultures and traditions within their own family unit – which helps them grow as individuals.
Learning from each other: When children spend time with older relatives, they get to hear stories (and learn) from the past. This allows kids to develop an understanding of how life has changed (or stayed the same) over time.
And it’s becoming easier with technology to maintain those vital connections, no matter where you are. Here are some ideas on exciting and fun activities to share with long-distance family.
Text, image and video chat are a great way to keep a regular connection in bite-sized chunks. But you want to be sure the platform you're using is safe for your child.
Comforting apps with anxiety-free features, no marketing and controls to prevent unwanted contact and cyberbullying are great.
So you might look for encrypted, contact-list-based apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. Or even apps specifically designed for children, like Messenger for Kids, Kinzoo, Family Chat and Family Talk.
Much the same as messaging, video calls can be done via WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype and FaceTime.
There are of course also conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Meets if scheduling is a concern and you want to have the use of a calendar to plan calls. Otherwise consider an availability-based app like Kovii or even Marco Polo, which lets you record and send video messages instead of direct calling.
To ensure everyone enjoys the call, see our tips for video calling with toddlers.
A great way to keep in touch on a more personal level, and still keep everyone’s schedules in mind, is using a family-based photosharing app.
These normally allow you to collaborate on creating photo collections – for example: “our Durban holiday” – so faraway family can see and share their own in a private space that only you can access.
Look at solutions like Family Album, Tinybeans, Photocirlce, 23 Snaps and Moment Garden. More commercial apps like Flickr and Shutterfly also have similar features, if you’re using them already and don’t want to change. Just make sure you set up your groups to be family safe.
NOTE: Unlike the other items in this blog, only paid versions of online board games are ad-free. So use it with caution.
You can play most of your favourite board games online today. There’s an official, paid Monopoly App, or you can play (with ads) a rendition at richup.io.
Similarly, you can get a Cluedo, Risk or even Battleship from your app store.
For a free alternative, you can play Trivial Pursuit online here.
Another way to share a fun, relaxing activity is to watch the same show or movie, and then about it afterwards. It’s called a watch party, and there are options that work with the most popular streaming services.
To have a Netflix watch party, you need the separate Teleparty app. While Amazon Prime already has this feature included, as does Disney+.
For independent options (when you own the movie and are playing it on a media device), see apps like Kast or Syncplay, which will sync everyone’s screens to yours.
Our absolute favourite on this list! What can be more magical and create a deeper connection than sharing bedtime stories with faraway family?
In the past, it was simply impossible for long-distance relatives to share in something as special as story time. Even trying to do it across traditional video calling apps causes more frustration than anyone needs at bedtime.
That’s why we created the Nooksy read-together storytime app.
So you connect with loved ones, choose from a library of impactful children’s books, make use of advanced developmental features and really connect and share in a calming, peaceful space that’s specially designed for the task.
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And, for faraway family, here are some ideas on how to stay connected.