This morning, I was part of a Skype session between grandparents in the UK and two children under six in New Zealand. This was not the first time we had undertaken this type of conversation – but each time it often takes more organising than a school play.
We want everyone to be able to see and hear, we want it to be enjoyable for everyone, to be natural…in other words, we are trying (and yearning?) to replicate a face-to-face chat.
And, most importantly, we are trying to help the children build loving bonds with their grandparents, whom they hardly ever get to visit. And, of course, vice versa.
So, here are a few tips – so you can learn where we have sometimes struggled:
- Pick your moment: Kids don’t like to engage if they are hungry, tired or otherwise engaged, and time zone differences will be something to consider here. Watching TV or eating breakfast is far more important that family ties, y’know;-)
- Prep them: Get them excited and build the moment. And prep the grandparents, too. Explain that the children may not sit and talk like adults, make sure they listen as well as talk, so they don’t drown out little voices. Set all the equipment up first and do a trial run just before to check it’s all working. Pre-schoolers have no patience with tech that doesn’t just work.
- Involve them in planning: little kids will be much more likely to engage if they are talking about something that is important to them that day/week (a picture they have drawn, new shoes they got for school) and especially if they have chosen the topic themselves.
- Keep it short, sweet and often: Better to chat for five or ten minutes a week, than try to have looong conversation for half an hour.
- Show them how it all works: point out where the camera is, set up the mic, even put a photo of the grandparents (or Mickey Mouse, or their favourite toy) above / around the camera so they talk to that and make eye contact, rather than at the screen.
- Keep ’em busy: If they aren’t ready to talk directly to the camera, set it all up so they are busy playing or drawing at the table, and let the grandparents watch them do that. This takes the pressure of them to ‘talk…now’.
And if all else fails – and it so often does – send video clips instead, capturing them at their most chattiest and excited.