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Online Playdates, Game Nights, and Other Ways to Socialize at a Distance

Whether you’re trying to keep your preschooler busy while you take a work call, give your tween someone else to discuss Minecraft with, or host a neighborly game night, these ideas — crowdsourced from just about every parent we know — will come in handy.

Little kids/Big kids video-chat activities

Board games (Battleship, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Sorry):  Works best with two to four players who all have the same physical game at their home. For most games, each player will need to move the other players’ pieces simultaneously.

Charades: Either use the traditional rules, or just act goofy and ask friends to guess what you’re doing.

Legos/Beyblades/other toys: Any toy that occupies your kid for a while can be played with alongside a friend or family member on the screen.

Marshmallow/toothpick structures: Look for building challenges using household materials online. If you don’t have marshmallows, try pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, construction paper, or cotton swabs. A few kids can print out the same challenge and then work on it simultaneously. They can cheer each other on, offer tips, or even race to see who finishes first.

Parallel play: Little kids may just enjoy playing side by side with an occasional glance to see that a friend is still there. You and the other parent can set up webcams for your kids and see how it goes.

Playdough or clay: Take out all the clay and any cutting or shaping tools and get started. Works well as parallel play or with specific goals (“Let’s all make animals,” or “Let’s each make something and then guess what the other friends made”).

Scavenger hunts: For younger kids, parents can guide the hunt by choosing something to find. For example, “Find something blue!” Or, “Find five of the same object!” Or, “Find three things that start with the letter B!” Older kids might want to jointly come up with a list of items and then race to find them first.

Show-and-tell: This can work with a small group of kids so long as an adult can facilitate. Each kid takes a turn showing something from their home and talking about why it’s special. For an ongoing activity, the group can choose themes (something given as a gift, something that makes you laugh, etc.) to focus on each day.

Story time: Parents, teachers, or reading-age kids can read aloud to a group. Picture books work well for younger kids, but older kids can choose to read chapter books — try one chapter a day.

Tweens/Teens video-chat activities

Board games (Balderdash, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit): Works best with two to four players. Older kids can play more sophisticated games, and not all require every kid to have their own gameboard.

DIY crafts: Whatever your kid’s into — knitting, decoupage, Legos — they probably have a friend with a similar interest. They can do it together, or one can teach the other.

Play Heads Up! Like charades, but even more fun, this free app can be downloaded by both parties. Then players hold their phone up to their forehead, and the others give clues to help them guess from categories like “Pop Culture” or “Animals.”

Social games and apps: These console and online games include social elements that can be fun for kids to play together or with family members, either in the same home or not. Some include text or voice chat. Dig into the reviews to figure out what makes sense for your family. (Draw Something, Fortnite, Jackbox Party Packs, Mario Maker 2, Minecraft, Roblox, Words with Friends)

Write plays: For those who want to skip the shooting and editing involved in filmmaking, a playwriting session can be a great creative outlet. One person can write the script on paper while video-chatting with friends about ideas, or multiple people can collaborate on a shared document.

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Common Sense
Author: Common Sense

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for our newsletter to read more articles like this.

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Ways to Socialize at a Distance

by Common Sense time to read: 3 min