Family, Kids & Relationships

9 Great Apps and Games For Playing With Grandparents From Far Away

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America’s seniors have been among those most isolated during the pandemic, a fact that impacts millions of families with children whose relationships with their grandparents play a big role in their lives. As a result, parents are looking for safe, simple, and socially distanced ways for kids to stay connected with grandparents, even from far away. Following is a list of nine great apps and games perfect for doing just that.

Scrabble Go

Kids love the treasure chests filled with letter jewels in this new version of America’s favorite word game. Familiar to everyone and easy to play no matter what your age is, Scrabble Go is also perfect for kids who are just learning to spell. Try having your kiddo spell out a special message to grandma and grandpa as part of their word play. 

Guess Who? 

Ideal for families with younger children, this is another classic board game that has finally gone online with its own app. If your grandparents aren’t tech-savvy at all, there are free printable, customizable Guess Who? boards on Pinterest (you can even make your version with family photos!), so you can play the game over the phone or video, as one mom told us her little one does with her grandma. 

Jackbox TV

If you’ve got a moody teen who needs to be nudged to connect with their grandparents, Jackbox may be the perfect solution—though the game can be switched to a 10+ rating if you’ve got middle schoolers, too. Here’s how it works: The host player goes to jackbox.tv on their choice of platform (smartphones, tablets, Xbox One, and Apple TV) and chooses from a variety of games (everything from drawing to trivia). Some games are as low as $5.49 and party packs with three or more games start at $13.74. Launch the game to get a room number you can share with up to seven remote players (guests go to jackbox.tv and simply input the room number), then start playing using a phone or tablet as the controller. Jackbox was purposely set up for gamers and non-gamers, so Grandma and Grandpa should be able to breeze right through setup.

Facebook Messenger Kids

Most people don’t realize that Facebook has a free Messenger Kids app for children ages 6-12 that allows them to send texts, photos, videos, create group chats, and make video calls once you’ve helped them establish contacts (parental controls allow only you to decide who they interact with). Since most grandparents these days are on Facebook anyway, this app provides another easy way for them to interact with the littles, even when you’re far apart. Kids love adding playful filters and “decorating” photos, videos, and drawings to send to grandparents.

Heads Up!

Perfect for Zoom or Google Hangout video calls and created by the hilarious Ellen DeGeneres, fans call this the best “charade-with-a-twist” game around. Once you download the app, players choose a category, hold their smartphone up to their head with the screen facing outward, and try to guess the words on their screen using Grandma and Grandpa’s clues. The best part is you can keep videos of each of your game nights to watch later, or share them via text or social media.

Together Family Video Chat

This video calling app is great for grandparents who like reading bedtime stories. It offers a library of books to “snuggle up” and read while video chatting, or you can even scan your own books to read in the app so you can share familiar favorites. You can also play simple games like Bingo and Memory, search for hidden objects, or draw together in real time.

Phase 10

This all-ages free online card game allows you to play with up to four players at a private table—perfect for game nights with the Gramps. Fans have called this game addictive because of the rhythmic, repetitive nature of it: Players compete to see who can complete 10 different “phases,” or card combinations, first.

Teleparty

The year 2020 pretty much belonged to Netflix, so chances are your child’s grandparents are already familiar with the streaming service. Netflix’s Teleparty is a free Google extension that allows up to four people to sync their stream and adds group chat to Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO, allowing you to watch and chat together in real time—perfect for long-distance movie night! A special link is required for access, so it’s easy to connect and you don’t have to worry about strangers crashing your party.

Drawphone

This game is so simple, the creator encourages people to skip reading the instructions and just start playing! It’s based on the old “telephone” game, where each person in a line whispers a phrase to the person next to them, and the last person announces the phrase (which has usually changed quite a bit—to something completely different and hilarious—by then). This game is similar but starts with a prompt that players have to draw, and other players guess what the drawing is. It requires at least four players, so you might be able to join in the fun, too!

Even if you don’t want to learn how to play an entirely new game, you still have lots of options. Many classic board games and card games now have digital versions you can play without being physically together. If your kids (or their grandparents) have a favorite game—like Yahtzee, Uno, Boggle, Battleship, or even Monopoly—it’s worth a look to see if there’s an app or website that supports remote play!


Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

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The former Content Director at Parenting, parenting.com and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.