Since children are spending a lot of time at home these days, they’re likely to really be missing friends from school and other parts of life. But there are ways to help children stay socially connected, even when they’re physically apart. Explore these activities.
Elmo’s Video Chat
- Before watching the video, ask children which friends or family members they miss seeing the most. What do they miss doing with those people? You might talk about some of your own loved ones that you miss most, and the things you wish you could do with them.
- As you watch, point out that that Elmo really misses his friends, too. Together with children, watch this video to see how Elmo’s mom helps him set up a video call with his friends.
- After watching, talk with children about other ways you can maintain friendships from afar.
Keeping Close Hearts… Even When We’re Apart
Physical distance doesn’t mean giving up social and emotional closeness, but it’s natural to miss our friends (and most children are used to spending the entire school day with their buddies)! Of course, children may also be disappointed about cancelled plans such as preschool graduations or birthday parties. You can tell your child that you miss your friends, too. Explain that everyone’s finding new ways to stay close, and that you’ll help them do the same. Consider these tips:
- Prioritize scheduled chatting with teachers and classmates (for instance, if the class has morning circle time).
- For birthday parties, host a video party and invite an adult friend or family member to dress up in a silly costume, lead children in song or circle games, tell jokes, or anything that might happen in person.
- Look at photos of friends and talk about special times they shared and what they’ll do when they see each other again.
If Children Are Seeing Friends at a Distance Outdoors
Help children choose and practice new, safe ways of saying hello:
- shake both hands in the air as they do a wiggly dance (or make up their own special “hello” dances)
- make a heart shape with their hands
- put their hands on their hearts and give them a few pats
- blow kisses
- wrap their arms around their own bodies and give themselves hugs (pretending they’re hugging the other person)
To remind children what six feet looks like (on a porch, for instance), you might put down masking tape or duct tape.
You Don’t Need Video to Stay Close!
- sing songs or read aloud to each other (for older children) on the phone
- play sound games on the phone (one child makes a sound such as tapping or crumpling paper and the other child guesses what it is)
- draw pictures and send them by mail (or take a photo and text or e-mail it)
- dictate a text, e-mail, or letter
- make videos on phones and send them in texts or e-mails
- take turns writing parts of stories in a shared Google document so the finished story can be compiled and illustrated once it’s finished (for older children)
If children can have their own video play dates (whether on a phone, tablet, or larger screen), keep in mind that too many children on one screen can get chaotic, and consider limiting to four children per call. In groups that size, you might suggest that they:
- blow bubbles, sing songs, do silly dances
- play with the silly filters available on many video chat apps (“Now I’m a potato!”) and make up stories about their new characters or settings (such as outer space)
- play a simple game of show and tell (taking turns showing something of interest and talking about it)
- play with puppets, stuffed animals, or dress-up props such as silly hats
- share a special snack (pretending it’s snack or lunch time at school or day care)
- read to each other (younger children might turn pages of a favorite book and talk about the pictures)
- do an activity they normally do at circle time
- use apps that allow them to play an online game or watch a movie together
In one-on-one play dates, children might:
- each create something on their own (for instance, one child can build a block house and another can use play-dough to create people and pets that will live inside)
- do the same simple art activity (such as coloring) then show each other their work take turns contributing one line to a story (give them a simple starter such as “Once upon a time there was a dragon who had to stay home for a while…”)
- take turns naming things they’d like to do together once it’s safe to do so (how many can they name?), or play “mirror” (one child moves and the other mirrors their moves)
- invite an adult to host “story time” for the children on the call
- at meals, set up your screen at the table so a friend (or family member) can “join” you
- play group games such as charades
- have adults play peek-a-boo with very young children
A Little Help From My Furry Friends
Children can take comfort from their friends on Sesame Street, too! In this interactive game, Muppets suggest and demonstrate important strategies to use in difficult moments. Invite children to choose a Muppet to help them and watch what he or she does in the video. After watching the video—or anytime at all—help children use that strategy in their own lives. You might use this as another opportunity to connect with your child’s loved ones. Invite friends and family to send a video of them telling a funny joke or doing a silly dance. Watch the videos when one of you needs a little pick-me-up.