It’s no fun for elementary school-age kids to suddenly lose sight of their friends because of shut down schools and playgrounds. Parents know that playing with buddies is a great healer in stressful times. They want to help children stay in close contact when young pals are forced apart. Getting creative with new technology and even going old school with snail mail are some of the ways to bring kids together.
Make playdates virtual.
Apps such as FaceTime, WhatsApp, Caribu and Marco Polo allow children to spend time with friends in groups as well as one at a time. The Zoom service has exploded in popularity but recently has faced security problems, so look into passwords if you’re using it. These apps allow children to work on projects together or play games.
Share videos of activities.
Videos aren’t perfect, but they are almost as good as being there. Shared interests are the foundation for childhood friendships. Encourage kids to make videos of their activities and hobbies and send them to friends. Whether it’s building an indoor fort or helping with cooking dinner, videos let friends know how your child is spending the day. Marco Polo is one app that’s easy to use for this.
Get friends together for a game night.
Players who use apps don’t have to be sitting around a table in the same room to socialize over games. The card game Let’s Play Uno is available online free of charge, while Pogo is an online game site that offers favorite board games such as Yahtzee and Monopoly. Kids can share their usernames and play video games with paid subscriptions on Xbox Live and Nintendo Online.
Turn outdoor walks into scavenger hunts.
Even with stay-at-home orders, most guidelines encourage getting outdoors for exercise as long as you respect social distancing. Turning those walks into neighborhood games can let your kids feel connected to their friends. Children can leave chalk art messages on friends’ driveways. You can organize I Spy scavenger hunts for the neighborhood by asking kids to tape objects such as a shamrock in their windows.
Go old school with snail mail.
Writing a letter and addressing an envelope may be an unfamiliar skill for kids who’ve grown up with texting. Help them write notes and create drawings and cards they can exchange with friends. They’ll discover the retro fun of letters they can hold in their hands and save in a scrapbook.
Set up a virtual lunch.
Invite school friends in for a virtual cafeteria lunch with Facetime or Zoom. This won’t be able to commiserate about the quality of lunchroom cooking, but lunchtime may feel more normal.
Host a movie night and have them all watch together.
If you’ve got a monthly Netflix subscription, you’ve got a ticket to the free Google Chrome extension Netflix Party. Let your kids host a long-distance movie night and invite friends to watch the latest. Synchronize video playback with everybody and add group chat so party goers will be able to message during the move. Only those invited will be able to join in, so you won’t have to worry about strangers crashing the party chat room.