Family, Kids & Relationships

Creative Ideas For Fun Virtual Playdates and Meet-Ups

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As the weeks of social isolation stretch longer, and video chats start to lose their novelty factor, families are looking for new ways to spend time with loved ones virtually. Plus, many parents are finding that kids simply talking to their friends on-screen isn’t holding their attention quite like it did at first. Read on to find out how a little creativity, and sometimes a little planning ahead, can help you find great joy in connecting with friends and relatives, even if you can’t invite anyone over for a while.

Whether you’re using Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or another tool, here are some ideas for making a regular video chat session with friends or family more fun and less awkward—or possibly more awkward, but in a good way (we could all use some laughs right now).

For the younger set (under age 5)

Play “exercise instructor”: One kid gets to lead for a few minutes, then switch. Even if they can’t follow each other’s moves, they’ll hopefully be laughing and getting some energy out!

Show and tell: Plan a future date/time where kids can show off their favorite stuffed animals, funkiest outfits, pets, most impressive Lego creations, or objects they’ve collected from the backyard. If possible, have them practice how they’re going to “present” their chosen item. This is especially great for larger groups!

Lead a remote scavenger hunt: Tell kids to run off and find objects one by one (something yellow, something that starts with “B,” something that fits in a cup, etc). Then they come back to the screen to show off their findings.

Get back to basics: No-frills games can provide an easy way to increase the engagement factor when chatting with the grandparents or other playdate friends. Think Simon Says, I-Spy (using each other’s backgrounds), or animal charades (where kids take turns pretending they are a certain animal while the other guesses).

Make art or build something together: Set up the cameras so kids can see each other’s creative areas, and then have them draw, sculpt, or even build with Legos together. To make it more of a game, kids could try to stick to the same set of parameters and see how similar their creations turn out.

For older kids (ages 6+)

Show off your talents: Plan an online talent show with a group of friends, like Tina Fey’s kids did, where each kid gets to wow everyone with the magic trick, gymnastics routine, or dramatic lip-sync of their choice.

Play a simple game together: Games like 20 questions, charades, or pictionary are simple to play on video, and provide a break from keeping up a conversation. You can play the classic game Categories virtually, too—just come up with a list of categories (animals, boys’ names, cities, etc) then choose a letter. Everyone has 5 minutes to fill in each category with something that starts with that letter; when time;s up, you get 10 points for each valid answer, and 20 points if no one else gave the same answer you did. Most points wins! For a more streamlined setup, the Houseparty app (rated for age 12+) lets up to eight users video chat while playing on-screen games like Heads Up or trivia.

Adapt a classic game like hide-and-seek: If you’re chatting with someone who knows your house well, try a version of hide-and-seek by turning off or blocking the camera while you hide somewhere, then slowly zooming out from your face within your hiding spot to see how long it takes the person to figure out where you are in your house. Or instead of zooming out slowly, the person hiding could give clues to their whereabouts by showing a close-up detail of their surroundings (like a shower curtain, bedspread pattern, or the wall color) to help the other person guess.

Funny fashion show: Plan a DIY costume or hat competition, where everyone has to put together their look off-camera and then present it on-camera. You could even have an impartial adult take a poll (via text if you want to keep it anonymous) to see who won.

Read My Lips. Have each child say a word or short sentence, without actually making any sound (if you try this with younger kids, you can just mute the child who’s mouthing the words in case they forget not to say their phrase out loud). Whoever guesses what they’re “saying” correctly first wins.

Have a night out, while you’re in: Set up a karaoke night or a group viewing of a movie or an episode of a show. You can accomplish this by using your favorite chatting app alongside a tool like Watch2Gether, which lets a group of people sync up to watch a video at the exact same time. To plan a karaoke challenge, have each person find a video of the lyrics of their chosen song on YouTube beforehand.

Host a theme party: Are there wacky outfits or decorations you could put together as a family to make everyone on the other end of the internet connection giggle? Want to celebrate a holiday way out of season? Throw a luau with paper flower leis (which you could make together during the call), fruity drinks, and a remote limbo contest? The options are endless, really, all it takes is a little time and creativity!


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.

For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.




Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.