One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that we have so many different ways to stay connected. Just because we can’t see each other in person doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch, be social, live, and laugh together. There are plenty of creative ways you can host parties, dates with other families, and more virtual events so both you and your kids can continue connecting with those you love. Unlike events in person, virtual events aren’t tied to one location. Multiple people can join the fun from just about anywhere there’s WiFi.
Right now Zoom and Google Hangouts are two of the most popular platforms for gathering friends virtually. If you’re using those, great! Just don’t forget to add a password to prevent uninvited guests. If you’re looking for an alternative, Apple users can turn to Group FaceTime. It supports up to 30 callers and places the person currently speaking at the front, so it’s easy to follow along with a conversation.
Skype works similarly but lets you invite up to 50 people to your video chat, and like Zoom and Hangouts, it even lets you screen share. Free to download, Microsoft has changed its settings since the start of the pandemic so you no longer need to open an account to use Skype.
But wait—once you get everyone gathered in a video chat, what do you do? Here are a few ideas for hosting virtual group activities to stay connected to your community, whether that’s in an adults-only virtual Happy Hour with friends, a family reunion, a big birthday party, or a get-together with a few families in your neighborhood:
- Launch a competition. From Craziest Hat to the Best Family Impersonations, try hosting a contest with a fun theme where everybody can compare via screens. A simple vote at the end (all those in favor, raise their hand) determines the winner. Or try a talent show! These tips for hosting a virtual talent show work for entire classrooms of kids, so there’s no reason you couldn’t organize one for a friendly competition between whole families, coworkers, or your friends.
- Host a movie night. Nextflix users can download the Netflix Party extension in Google Chrome and watch a Netflix movie at the same time with a group of friends. Everything is synchronized, including playback, pause, and resume features, and there’s even a chat room where everybody can talk about their favorite scenes.
- Challenge another family to Charades. Using your favorite video chat platform, team up with another family for a game of charades, and have one household compete against the other. Maybe the losers have to host the winners for a BBQ party when the quarantine finally ends!
- Host a workshop. From magic shows to cooking demonstrations, there’s no shortage of ways to display talent on a video platform, and we’re willing to bet someone in your family or circle of friends has mad skills to share (maybe it’s you)! Offer to host a workshop about something you know a lot about—Can you do origami? Build a container garden? Know a great trick for organizing closets?—to teach your friends or family, and ask others to do the same.
- Have a Lip Sync Battle. It’s super easy to do with almost any virtual platform you use, and it’s a ton of fun to see someone belt out their favorite song in the middle of their living room—silently. Create a special Pandora or Spotify playlist, share it with your guests and fellow competitors, and determine a lineup so everyone knows when it’s their turn to grab the mic. Of course you could try actual karaoke too, if people aren’t too shy to sing!
- Start a virtual book club—or keep your old one going. Using free websites and apps such as GoodReads for recommendations, track what your friends are reading and organize a book club meeting using your favorite platform. GoodReads also provides great discussion questions to get you started.
- Host “Hot Cakes and Hot Takes” Weekend Brunch. The digital evite experts at Paperless Post suggest shaking up your weekends with virtual brunches that give everyone three minutes to riff about “whatever nerdy, historical, or pop-culture topic they want while you sip your BYO coffee and mimosas.” Of course, you could make your group’s topic whatever appeals to you most, even if it’s just a venting session or a time to share highlights from the past week. Sounds pretty good to us, plus it’s a great way to reconnect with friends.
- Share Story Time. Get kids excited about bedtime (and maybe even get a break from it, too!) by inviting multiple families to an evening story time. Parents can either all sit in, or you can take turns having one parent lead the group while the others take a few minutes of “me time” elsewhere. It’s a great way to share your favorite kids’ books, whether it’s the well-worn copy of a short story you’ve read 100 times or you’re reading the whole Harry Potter series over a series of many nights. If you’re all looking for something new to read, opt for a database like Storyline that’s chock full of children’s stories both sides can follow along with.
- Break out of a digital escape room. Normally, an escape room refers to a space where small groups get locked in and solve a series of puzzles or mysteries in order to escape. It might seem strange to pretend to be locked in a room when we’re already on “lockdown” at home, but the communication and cooperation needed to figure out the clues can provide so much entertainment! Just log into one of these themed free virtual escape rooms and either work together as one big team, or challenge families to compete to see who can escape first.
- Write the next great story. For book lovers (and book clubs!) who want to try writing their own stories, BoomWriter allows you to collaborate on stories for free. It’s beloved by teachers, but kids or parents can sign up for free and use the tools on their own. For just a few dollars, it will even let you publish the final draft into a softcover book you can keep forever.
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.