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Top 5 tips for video chat with young children

Watch the video for tips from early childhood experts and sports superstars.

This episode of FTF’s Parents Playbook is all about video chat with young children. Young kids learn and develop by interacting with caring adults, and whatever app you choose — FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Skype, Google, etc. — video chat is a great way to help your little one build a relationship and stay connected with long-distance family and friends. That’s true anytime, but especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the video and read more below!

video chat with young children - up close

1. Get up close and personal.

Eye contact is the key, so sit close to the screen and make sure there’s enough light that your little chat partner can see your whole face.

2. Get your timing right.

Schedule the video chat for when your baby or toddler is more likely to be alert and ready to pay attention, like in the morning. And expect the chat to be relatively short in length — about five minutes or less, depending on the age of the child.

video chat with young children - interactive

3. Make it an interactive experience.

There are a lot of fun ways to engage and play together virtually. You can read them a book, sing songs and rhymes, play with stuffed animals, puppets or toys. No matter how you engage them, the key is to make it a back-and-forth interaction.

video chat with young children virtual play

4. Ask them open-ended questions, and be a good listener.

Young kids learn language and develop early literacy skills by having back-and-forth conversations, even before they can use words themselves. Ask questions that take more than a yes-or-no answer. Then lean in and give them a chance to respond. As a leading early language expert recommends, “Talk to them as if they’re the most interesting person in the world. 

video chat with young children - love

5. Show them the love.

Video chat with young children is about making an emotional connection. And you — the parent sitting together with your child during the video chat — can play an important role. When your child’s on-screen partner gives them a virtual kiss or tickle, you can actually give your child a kiss on the cheek or tickle as a way to nurture their relationship. As our partners at ZERO TO THREE put it, “Be the ‘hands and heart’ of the person on-screen.”

Facetime-Peekaboo_SmallerWhat about screen time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit screen time for young children, and that children younger than 18 months should avoid the use of screen media. But video chat is an exception, even for babies.

“Live video chat allows the adult to respond to the baby’s sounds and gestures and have the kind of back-and-forth interactions that are so good for their development,” says Dr. Jason Vargas, president of the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Babies can tell when the adult is responding to them in real time, and they can respond back.”

Read more about AAP’s screen time recommendations for children birth to age 5.

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