Children often live in a world of their own. And we love to encourage that.

But what happens when you have that long-expected video call with a faraway loved one? You know, the one that took days – even weeks! – to finally nail down a time that works for everyone.

And then your toddler, at that exact time, gets fixated on something else and tries to rush the call or just joins in half-heartedly.

It’s heartbreak on the other end of the line! 

But it needn’t be. See the truth is that Baby doesn’t “dislike” grandma or auntie/uncle. It’s just that kids are, well… kids.

As John Updike said: “Children are not a zoo of entertainingly exotic creatures, but an array of mirrors in which the human predicament leaps out at us.”

And your child is merely doing what you want them to do – being their own little person (even willfulness is a positive trait in the long run!).

So, how do we work with your child when video calling, to keep chats fun and engaging for everyone involved?

6 Tips for Video Calling with Toddlers

1. Remember the goal: Creating connection

Engaging via video can be a little abstract for young children. And abstract thinking only develops after age 7. While the device itself is a tactile, physical object. This is why young kids often get more engrossed in the phone than in the conversation. 

The person on the screen isn’t really there, after all, they just appear on a screen – like the people on TV. So it helps if the adults on the call engage on the child’s level.

Be more animated. Play peekaboo. Talk about things that interest the child – what they are doing, what games they are playing etc.

(We adults often take turns in video calls to inform the other party what’s going on in our own lives. But that doesn’t come naturally to kids, and they’re really not interested in adult things, so of course they’ll lose interest if you don’t talk about things that interest them.)

2. Switch off picture-in-picture mode

You know how when you’re video calling, there’s a smaller version of you in the corner? Switch it off when video calling with toddlers, so they can only see the person on the other end.

Younger children especially can get distracted when they can also see themselves on a device’s screen. Removing it helps them focus.

3. Ask them to show/share

Again, conversations can get a little abstract. So a good way to keep the interaction as concrete as possible is to share physical objects of importance, something they can see, touch or show.

Even better if you get them to engage in this way: “Mommy tells me you got a new teddy today, can you show her to me?”

4. Be realistic with the time

Toddlers generally only have an attention span of 3–6 minutes. Of course, they do – they’ve got a whole world to discover!

(And it’s debatable whether many adults can focus much longer…)

But that just means you need to get your timing right.

We’d take a short, sweet and meaningful call over a long and teary one any day. 

5. Get a good conversation rhythm going

Please refrain from bombarding them with a million questions – we know you miss them and want to know everything, but it gets overwhelming very fast.

Maybe have 3 or so good questions lined up. Like: “You look happy, did anything make you happy today?” or “did something make you feel sad today?” and “is there anything special about today that you want to tell me?”

Just remember to keep it as concrete and specific to the day and moment as possible.

6. Plan an activity 

Video calling with toddlers becomes way easier if you plan an interactive activity. It can be as simple as the “show and tell” idea from point 3 above.

Or, you could look at using an app specially designed for sharing experiences with faraway friends and family – think photo sharing, online board games, watch parties or reading a book together.

In fact, Nooksy is just such an app. We have a growing library of curated impactful children’s books that allows faraway loved ones to read together with your toddler – for a much deeper, meaningful connection and experience.

Discover it now on Nooksy.

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