Making festive celebrations over video calls a success

Top tips to keep the whole family engaged as Christmas goes digital

Tips to keep the family engaged in virtual celebrations

If you’ve spent time using conference calls to create shared moments with family, celebrating milestones or just catching up, you may have found that it can be a challenge to keep children and young people engaged during calls. To help you keep the festivities over video fun for everyone in the family, especially the kids, we’ve pulled together some simple tips you can use.

Practical tips to get prepared

Set the right time

Arrange a time that’s not ‘on the hour’ when everyone is trying to call.

Man reading on his device

Get devices ready

Make sure your battery is charged, nobody likes to gather around a plug socket.

Battery image

Check connection

Make video calls over wi-fi to avoid eating into your data plan.

Man streaming on his device

Get kids ready

Bribe, coerce, incentivise your children to take part (or see our expert advice on how to get them engaged)

Four Cupcakes on a purple background

Help kids prep something to share

Remove the fear of awkward silences by planning a show and tell with the kids ahead of time so they are ready to give a blow by blow account of something they are interested in.

Girl and dog on the screen of a laptop

Choose a platform that works for everyone

The last thing you want is someone having technical difficulties to delay the festivities. Whether it’s Zoom, Skype or Facetime make sure all those who will be joining can use the platform (particularly how to mute and unmute). See our video conference tips on how to use these platforms

If you are planning to play games that require an extra screen, like quizzes on Kahoot where you need a mobile, make sure you plan for that too.

Think about how long the call needs to be

Be familiar with the platforms schools use for online learning and how kids submit their work online, whether that’s homework or classwork completed during lockdown. There have been instances of some children telling their parents that they have to submit their homework via Fortnite but I can guarantee this will never be the case!

Ask good kid-questions

Think of interesting open-ended questions that give children the opportunity to give more than a simple yes or no answer. For example, ‘what’s your favourite….’ (fill in the blank).

Don’t just talk – play a game

Put some fun into it by playing games during the call. From virtual board games like Monopoly to timeless games like charades, there are a whole range of ways to play these games virtually and keep the whole family having fun. Apps like Houseparty which are built for virtual play could also come in handy if opt to meet using this platform.

Don’t just talk – play a game

Put some fun into it by playing games during the call. From virtual board games like Monopoly to timeless games like charades, there are a whole range of ways to play these games virtually and keep the whole family having fun. Apps like Houseparty which are built for virtual play could also come in handy if opt to meet using this platform.

Make it a show

If your kids are up for it, they might also like to showcase their talents in a talent show. This will require more planning but could be a great way to capture memorable moments and keep everyone engaged.

Watch a film together

Create a shared experience by watching a film together virtually. Netflix and Facebook offer ways to host a watch party so you can watch a family-friendly film while keeping the conversation. See our watch party guide for more information.

Capture the moment

If you’ve got the whole family connected, why not capture the moment by taking a screenshot or pressing record when you start the video call (if the platform allows it). If you are recording, remind everyone ahead of time so they are aware.

Expert tips: How to motivate kids for video calls this Christmas

Dr Linda provides advice to help kids engage with a digital Christmas
When we understand our why, it’s easier to find out the how

  • The first tip and this is also general in life, but when we understand our why it’s easier to find out the how
  • Speak to your kids about why it is so important to connect – for example, talk to them about the fact it’s been a really strange year. It’s been different because they would have been off school more, they possibly haven’t seen grandma or grandpa or other loved ones as much as they normally would, if at all. So, ask them why they think it’s important that we maintain a connection.
  • Focussing on the why is really important, we focus on this in cognitive behavioural therapy – get them to come up with two or three things. Then once you have that then you can think of how can we make this thing as fun as possible?

Remove barriers

  • The second tip is to remove the barriers to behaviour. We speak about this in behavioural psychology.
  • For example, one of the barriers for kids may be that they’re not sure what to say. Sometimes phone calls get awkward. Sometimes it’s like, “how are you?” “Fine”, “how’s your school grade?”, and then it stops there. So together help them think of things they can talk about with Grandma, think of three questions together they could ask her. Get them to think of open-ended questions, helping them understand the art of communication.

Get creative

  • The next thing that I would say is to be creative.
  • For example, if you can’t bake cookies with grandma in person this year, why don’t you set up a FaceTime call and get baking at the same time
  • Send her the ingredients in the post and decorate your cookies together for 20 minutes and you can chat at the same time.
  • Even though you’re not having a deep discussion with your kids, you’re still connecting and doing something together.

Teach them how to do the bigger talks

  • The fourth thing I would say is about speaking to them about how you might do those longer, bigger talks with a relative
  • You may have a family day/night where everyone is involved in chatting together or you might agree that they spend 10 minutes just telling Grandma and Grandpa how their day was.

Factor family phone calls into their timetable

  • Another tip is to schedule these calls into their day.
  • Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and it’s good to structure it so you agree that before they play on Fortnight or any game, they call whoever is it and chat to them for 10 minutes.
  • Factor it into their timetable in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re taking time away from a game they were playing.

Get them to see the benefit of connecting and reflecting on it

  • Lastly, talking to them about the call after they’ve done it – find out what they were saying. Was it fun? Was it ridiculous when you showed them how to do X?
  • It’s about reinforcing the idea that they got something out of it, and actually validating them and saying, you know, what, you would have had a really big impact on their day, they’ve really missed you.
  • So getting them to think a little bit reflectively about what happened.

Supporting resources and guides

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