“Virtual” is trending everywhere these days! From virtual learning to virtual field trips to virtual work meetings, everything has moved online including playdates! Virtual playdates are a wonderful way to help your kids stay connected with their friends from school, homeschool co-op, church, scouting troop and more.
How do I host a virtual playdate?
Technology also makes it really easy to stay connected with our friends. Most families have smartphones, tablets, or computers with Facetime or video conferencing capabilities. If you do, you can set up a virtual playdate for your children in a matter of minutes.
First, you need to pick an app or online program that you want to use to host a playdate. There are many easy-to-use technology apps and websites to choose from. Here are a few suggestions.
- Caribu: Caribu is like Zoom for kids and currently it’s free to use! Caribu is an video-calling app integrating children’s books and activities together. Kids can read books from the 1,000-plus titles together, play games and color during a video call.
- Messanger Kids: Facebook’s Messenger Kids allows kids 6-12 to video chat and message friends and family with challenges, drawings and filters. Plus, they can use it to collaborate on homework with a study group or talk about group projects. Available on iOS, Android and Amazon tablet download.
- Marco Polo: Just like the game Marco Polo, kids can reach out to friends and family with this video chat app easily. It’s nice because you can chat and play live in a group or, if the person you are connecting with isn’t available, the app records the message for them to view later. They have a free version or a premium version available $9.99/monthly $29.99/annually.
- Google Hangouts: GoogleHangouts allow you to keep in touch at the click of a button! You can set up a conversation with one person or a group up to 150 people (not that you’ll want that many on a virtual playdate!)
- Zoom: Zoom is really easy to use! All you have to do is set up a meeting and share the link with the other parents. With a time limit of 40 minutes per video call, Zoom makes it a great option for kids with a limited amount of screen time.
- Facebook Watch Parties: If you’re the host of a Facebook group for one of your children’s activities, you can host a Facebook Watch Party. Facebook Watch Party allows group admins to hold a live screening of pre-recorded videos that are publicly available on Facebook. Group members can all watch and comment on the videos at the same time to create a shared viewing experience. You can share a series of videos on a particular topic like animals, drawing projects, science experiments and more!
12 Virtual PlayDate Ideas For Kids
Next, you want to pick an activity or two for your kids to do with their friends while on a virtual playdate. Read on for a list of fun activities and parties you can plan!
Read a book together: Reading is more fun and motivating together. So, pick a book that is on the same reading level of everyone in the group, take turns reading the pages and create a list of questions about the book that you can discuss together at the end of your call. Make it light and fun.
Research topics: Have the kids research a topic and present it to each other on Marco Polo. Topics can be about their favorite animal, food, sports and more.
Host a themed playdate: You can plan all sorts of themed playdates including mad scientist, superheroes, dress up in your favorite costume, bubbles bonanza and more! One mom participated in a rainbow themed toddler/preschooler playdate with her MOPS group done virtually via Zoom. The themes are endless!
Have snack time together: Create a personal account on Zoom and send out invitations for everyone to meet at a certain time to eat their snack together. Share about what you’re eating, what you did that day and so on.
Draw Each Other’s Portrait: Crack open those art supplies and have the children draw each other’s portraits. Then share what they look like. You’ll be surprised at what they might see!
Sing songs together: Pick a song that both children like and sing it together. You can download karaoke tracks ahead of time as well.
Virtual scavenger hunt: Scavenger hunts have always been a great way to get people interacting and collaborating. To set up a virtual scavenger hunt, parents need to decide on the clues and items to be found around the house ahead of time. Then the kids meet together online to start the scavenger hunt and parents hand out the clues one by one. Each time the kids find an item around the house, they come back to the screen to find the next clue.
Play a game virtually with a friend: Kids can play virtually together on the math app called Prodigy. First, you need to pick a virtual world within Prodigy for the kids to join. Once you login to the game, select “Play at Home” and then choose a world. You should be able to meet up in the game if everyone logs into the same world at the same time. Prodigy has both a free and paid version.
Watch a movie together: With Netflix Party, kids can hang out and watch their favorite movies and shows at the same time no matter the distance. Attached to the program is a group chat window to let you message each other, too. Currently Netflix Part is available on Google Chrome.
Show and Tell: Remember in Kindergarten when you were so excited to share your favorite toy with your classmates? Show and tell has now gone high tech! Kids can share and discuss their favorite toys with one another over Zoom.
Play a musical instrument: Have each child perform one of heir favorite songs on an instrument. Children can also sing their favorite song if they don’t play an instrument.
Host a dance party: Prepare a play list ahead of time and have the kids get their wiggles out together online. Each child can take turns showing off their dance moves!
Have you hosted a virtual playdate before? How did it go? What tips do you have to share with other parents to help them plan their first one? Please share in the comment section below.