Skype-tivities: 20 Fresh FaceTime Ideas to Keep Long-Distance Families in Touch

Whether you are trying to maintain relationships with long-distance grandparents, create connection among faraway cousins, or bond with your own children during work-related travel, there’s no dispute that technology is on our side to make it happen. However, if your kids are anything like mine, the usual questions get old quickly and the webcam we were just giving thanks for quickly becomes a doorway to an unprecedented three-ring circus…set in a barn…swirling in a tornado…only louder. 

Who are these children? When has it EVER been OK to launch Legos at the laptop using a sock or shake your tushie at Uncle Mike?!

Besides toning down the chaos (which—let’s be honest—is reason enough), doing something our kids love helps faraway family get a glimpse of their growth, personalities, and interests between visits, creating a foundation for lasting relationships. As a mom of a newly emerging tween (a post for another day—in the meantime, send me all the chocolate!), I love overhearing the conversations my daughter has with her cousin while they paint their nails and exchange giggles and moans over the woes of third grade. 

So while for the moment we can’t snuggle in Grandma’s lap for reading time or play jump rope with best friends made over the holidays, I hope this list for all ages gives you a few new ideas to foster better connections despite the miles and missing each other.

Show up and Smile—activities that are perfect for just showing up!

  1. Play “Simon Says,” “I Spy” (with what can be seen through the computer), or “Charades.”
  2. Sing songs with hand actions like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” or “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”
  3. Play “Storyteller Pass-Along”: Watch the clock for one minute while someone starts a story. When the minute has passed, it’s the other person’s turn to pick up where the first left off and move the tale forward. Continue switching back and forth until the story ends.
  4. Recite nursery rhymes together (or recite them to very young children).

Pain-free Preparation—activities that require minimal thought before fun!

  1. Arrive to the Skype session dressed for whatever weather is in your neighborhood that day (i.e., wearing sunglasses, a winter hat, or holding an umbrella).
  2. Read a favorite picture book and show the pictures to each other. Let them read (or tell the story from pictures) one to you.
  3. Do dolls’ hair, or play with Barbies together.
  4. Make a simple snack together, such as Ants on a Log or crackers topped with cheese and sliced pear.
  5. Draw each other—as realistically or as silly as you can—as what the other wants to be when they grow up, etc.
  6. Host a long-distance blocks, Lego, or Kinex build. Since this one requires both sides to have building toys, this is an excellent option for cousins of close ages.
  7. Color together on blank paper, printable pages, or coloring books.
  8. Read a chapter book together, one chapter at a time. Check out Katie and Michelle’s recommendations here, here, and here!
  9. Have an Origami or Duct Tape Creation Contest. Choose a pattern ahead of time and email your partner a matching list of instructions; then give points for amount of time completed, creativity, and appearance of the finished product.
My husband went ahead of us the year we moved to Washington D.C. and couldn’t be home for our daughter’s seventh birthday. So he bought his own cupcake on the commute home and belted “My Little Pony” songs with her while they ate. Yep…he’s a keeper.

Take time before Talking—activities that require supplies to be rounded up ahead of time!

  1. Plant seeds together in two separate pots, and in later visits, compare the plants and watch their progress.
  2. Set up for a “mini mani” session, laying down a hand towel, emery boards, nail polish, quick dry polish, etc. Little fingers will need an adult to assist!
  3. As the adult, gather three “artifacts” from your life and share what each is, where you got it, and why it is meaningful. Stop here, or invite the child to do the same.
  4. Dress up and have a virtual tea party.
  5. Several board games were made to be played across the internet: Battleship, Guess Who, etc. If the other side doesn’t already have one of the same set, loaning half of yours through snail mail is a great idea.  
  6. Play regular or holiday-themed Bingo.
  7. Make your own boards, or send one to your chatting buddy and play a few rounds of “Don’t Eat Pete!”

What other ways have you found to stay in touch between visits with your long-distance loved ones?

Molly is a recent San Antonio transplant, originally hailing from the Idaho tundra and most recently the Washington D.C. metro area. Besides avoiding the giant question mark that is surviving their first Texan summer, she and her husband are doing their best to keep up with two energetic children, a nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son who alternately drive them crazy and melt their hearts. Molly is a yogi and pastry-turned-clean-eating chef who describes herself as a “creative dabbler.” She spends her days teaching yoga, writing, and photographing healthy recipes, power-lifting, rocking lip-sync battles with her kids, and playing outside. She recently did a front handspring for the first time ever, can’t stop talking about it, and has concluded it couldn’t hurt to leave space for future “professional gymnast” on her life’s resume.