My kids have been spending much more time than I’d like online these days. Rather than give myself a perpetual guilt trip, I’m just trying to have their online time have as much value as possible. My 11-year-old will scroll Instagram all day looking at memes and NFL videos if you let him. While their is a time and a place for that, he needs limits.
I started encouraging him to play Xbox and Facebook Messenger his friends simultaneously. I immediately noticed his overall mood improve once he started regularly ‘hanging out’ with friends. But, even that needs to have limits. Socializing is necessary, but so is a physical activity and brain games other than video games.
Kids need to stay in touch with their friends, especially when they can’t meet up in person or even see one another in school. This is why I’ve compiled a list of a few ways you can help your kids stay in touch with their friends.
Virtual Play Date Ideas for Tweens
These ideas can be adapted for all ages and depending upon what you have at home.
- Sports Challenges-Now that the weather is finally getting nicer, my kids can be outside more often. I’m giving them ideas of sports challenges, whether it is tricks on the trampoline or basketball free throws, or using his lacrosse bounceback. Obviously it will vary by what you have available, but he gets his friend on Facebook Messenger, then they talk and one sets down the phone while he does the challenge and they switch back and forth. So it’s sorta like the person is there watching you, counting how many lacrosse catches you can do and so on.
- Art Hour with Friends-Give the kids an art assignment. This might be something like drawing a picture of their playground at school or something a little more creative like a castle with dragons attacking it. Then let the kids go unsupervised. They’ll chat as they work away on their project and for a brief time, it will feel like they’re back at school again.
- Kid’s Cooking Club-Set up a Kid’s Cooking Club each week where kids (and parents) all bake or cook the food of the week together. This will take a bit of coordination with the parents beforehand but it is a fun (and educational!) activity that kids will love. After they’ve cooked the kids can all sit down together and talk about whatever it is kids talk about these days.
- Play online Games Together-There are a ton of fantastic online games that kids can play together in a safe environment. Minecraft and Roblox are both popular with kids but other games they can play together include Stardew Valley and even traditional board games.
- Messenger Kids-If your kids have devices of their own then they can use the messenger app Messenger Kids to keep in touch with their friends in a safe, controlled environment without having to constantly send texts. This is a great option that takes kids away from social media and into the world of one on one messenger services. We have several device stands so we don’t have to hold the phone or tablet. Girls can paint their nails together while they chat, just like they were hanging out in the same bedroom.
- Collaborative Story Creation-Finally, arrange a collaborative story. You’re probably familiar with the idea of drawing a person as a group. Each person gets a different section of the person to draw and then you unfold the paper at the end and see what you ended up with. Well, this is the same idea! Only instead of drawing a picture, they’re writing a story. Help them get started by picking a genre and a setting, maybe it’s about astronauts flying to another galaxy or maybe it’s about a fantasy land with ogres and Princesses. Then assign an order for the kids to write in, alphabetical order of the first name is a nice and fair way to do it. Each kid has to write at least 100 words when it is their turn that follows on from the person before them. You can do this via email or, even better, Google Docs which will allow all of the kids involved to read the story whenever they want.
It’s inevitable that kids are going to be online more in the coming weeks. But, parents can still facilitate activities that keep their minds and bodies active.
Good luck, and stay safe and healthy!