Now that many of us are confined to our homes, kids are going bonkers and parents are struggling to get stuff done. So here’s an idea to keep kids happy and lighten the load: Corona Chats!
The concept is simple: A few families join together, choose an hour for their kids to meet together on video every day, and have a different adult lead an activity each day.
You’ll need a smartphone or a computer with a camera and internet. Parents have to prepare a little for their session, but as a reward, you can also get work or household tasks done while other parents are hosting on other days! If you can find five families to join up with, you’ll have every weekday covered.
If an activity leader has a special interest, skill or talent to share—that’s awesome! But there are plenty of easy activity or game ideas online that work great, too (in our Facebook Group for parenting in a pandemic, we have activities organized by age and educational ideas if you need inspiration). It’s more about connecting with each other during this tough time than providing instruction in a particular subject. And if you have a generous cousin or non-parent friend who wants to help out, guest hosts are welcome, too!
Here’s how to make it happen:
- Reach out to your friends and school contacts to find families willing to participate.
- Each parent should be able to lead a one-hour activity one day per week — it can be any game, activity, or topic they choose, as long as it’s engaging. (See our sample invitation.)
- Start a group text or Whatsapp thread to coordinate your sessions.
- Pick a time each weekday to meet. (You can also do this just two or three times a week). Make sure each family has a laptop, tablet, or phone they can use at that time.
- Choose a videoconference platform to use (we’ve written a comprehensive guide to help, which has instructions and advice on different platforms).
- Send a Google or Zoom calendar invite for a video conference, and create a sign-up sheet for activity leaders. (Here’s a sample google doc you can use, or create your own using a Google Sheet or Doc, or SignUpGenius).
- Share a sample meeting agenda (see example below), and have parents use that to structure their lesson.
- Hold your first meeting!
Sample Agenda for Your First Meeting
Before you start, pick a parent and child to lead the session. Send around the agenda and ground rules for video chats ahead of time.
- Wait for everyone to join.
- Make sure each person knows how to turn their video and microphone on. Practice muting and un-muting.
- Explain how to adjust the view so that everyone can see everyone else on the screen (“Gallery View” in Zoom).
- Go over the Video Chat Ground Rules (see below).
- Once you’re comfortable with the system, the leader calls on each person in turn. That person should unmute and say hello, and introduce themselves and their parent if they are new to the group. They can also share one thing they are looking forward to doing that day or one fun fact they’d like to share about their day so far. They should mute again when done.
- Next, lead an activity that is pitched to the ages of the kids in the group. (See sample activities below.)
- Finally, ask kids if they’d like to share anything about what they learned, or about their day. This helps kids get a little bit of social interaction outside of the activity itself.
Here’s sample text you can use to invite other families:
Hey! I’m setting up a daily video meetup for our kids, so they will be happier and we can get more done! I’m hoping to find a few other families who want to join a daily video conference at the same time each weekday, with a different adult leading each day of the week. You could teach or lead any activity you want. Want to join? I’m using a guide from ParentsTogether to get this going. Check out the details here.
To help you get started, we made a Google Doc with a sample agenda, suggested ground rules, and activity ideas that you can circulate (you can also scroll down to see these). If you need tech support for setting up your video chats, check out our guide to hosting on Zoom and Hangouts.
Let us know how it goes in our Coronavirus Parents Facebook Group!
Sample Activity Meeting Agenda
Ahead of time: confirm time and any necessary supplies needed.
- Greeting: The leader says hello, introduces the session theme, and reminds everyone of the ground rules.
- Each child should say hello; kids can wave if they’re shy or having trouble muting/unmuting themselves
- Optional icebreaker: Each child can share one thing that they did the day before, or one thing they’re looking forward to that day
- Host introduces daily topic, and explains activity and supplies
- Interactive activity
- Wrap-up & goodbye
Sample Video Chat Ground Rules
- Mute your microphone if the leader is speaking.
- Try to stay on camera so the other participants can see you.
- Keep distracting behavior to a minimum so everyone can focus on who is speaking.
- If you need to say something, you can use the group chat or raise your hand and wait for the leader to call on you.
Sample Activity Ideas
You can lead or teach literally anything that can be done over video, and that can engage kids for an hour. The sky’s the limit! Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.
- Do several rounds of Questions 4 Kids
- Virtual Pictionary
- Group art project—a drawing exercise
- If you speak another language, teach a few phrases and talk about a country where that language is spoken
- Guessing games—guess the animal, guess the place, guess the historical figure (based on clues)
- Improv games
- Yoga/exercise class
- Tell a story
- Read aloud
- Group story—each person adds a sentence to a story when it’s their turn
- Try to make a person laugh, read jokes from a joke book
- Perform a science experiment that can be seen on-screen
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.