Eight activities that will help you stay in touch with relatives – even when you’re apart
Christmas is traditionally a time for seeing family, but this year may be a little different.
Lockdown rules have been relaxed for the Christmas period, but many people may still choose to avoid seeing relatives until a vaccine has been rolled out.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch.
We’ve compiled a list of activities to enjoy with grandparents and other family members who may be living somewhere else.
Video-calling chats and games
Credit: Shutterstock/LightField Studios
All these are free and easy to use – and there’s plenty you can do during digital meetups aside from exchanging details of your fantastically interesting days shut up in your home. You can play games such as Snap (if both parties have a pack of cards), or Categories; set each other quizzes; teach each other skills, for instance knitting or baking; or read to each other or start a (kids’) virtual book club.
READ MORE: A parents’ guide to Skype
Family group chats
WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service, is a great option for families wanting to keep in touch. Each group chat can be set-up by an admin who can add members.
You can, for example, have a family WhatsApp and an extended family WhatsApp with cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and in-laws.
Parents should be aware that WhatsApp has a lower age limit of 16-years-old, due to data-protection legislation. You can, however, set up group chats through text messaging services on both iOS and Android.
READ MORE: A parents’ guide to WhatsApp
Gift a gif
Gifs (Graphics Interchange Format) are a fun addition to family group-chats. These moving image files, many of which are clips from TV shows, are a great way to add a dash of fun to your messages.
To send a gif in WhatsApp using iOS, click on the post-it note icon on the right hand side of the text box. This will pull up a search function where you use what is referred to as a ‘Giphy keyboard’. Simply click on the magnifying glass icon on the bottom-left-hand-side of the screen to bring up a search bar; feel free to go mad with the cat gifs.
To send a gif using Android, select the emoji icon on the left-hand-side of the text box. This gives you an option to toggle between emojis and gifs; you will be able to distinguish these by the emoji and gif icons at the bottom of the screen. As with iOS, there is an option to search through Giphy if you have a particular keyword in mind.
READ MORE: A parents’ guide to memes
Cook up a digital feast
Mealtimes can be much more fun if you include a (remote) family cooking session. Everyone can join in using video-messaging (see above), preparing their meal from their own home. BBC Good Food has great recipe ideas, and its family and kids section helps make mealtimes fun and simple for everyone.
You could even turn your digital feasts up a notch by introducing competitions to see who can make the best looking bakes or the scrummiest-sounding dinner.
Collaborative music playlists
The music streaming service Spotify offers the opportunity to create collaborative playlists, which can get the whole family involved. The playlist’s owner is allowed to decide which users have access, and the username for whoever adds a track is visible. So if Gramps is adding too much Nickelback, the kids will know.
While Apple Music doesn’t have the same collaboration function, it does allow you to share your playlists with friends and family members through messaging, email and social media platforms.
Family viewing time
Watch a TV show or film with the family and share your thoughts and reactions on the group chat.
Counting down till the viewing starts, discussing what snacks are being consumed, and debating the plot are all great ways to get everyone involved. Stuck for what to watch? Check our our list of great family Christmas films and shows.
Get competitive with mobile games
Child-friendly multiplayer mobile games are a fun way to involve family members of all ages and can even include a learning element.
Trivia Crack is a free-to-download quiz game that tests your knowledge and allows you to challenge friends and family around the world. As you answer questions, you unlock virtual characters: it’s a great way to improve your general learning.
Words with Friends is a free-to-download word game (Scrabble, basically) to play with friends and family. If you’d rather play traditional scrabble there’s also Scrabble GO – and the multiplayer option allows you to express yourself in-game with chat emojis and phrases.
Family pen pals
We can probably all agree that there’s nothing more touching than receiving a letter from a loved one. While you can still send physical letters, braving the Christmas post is always a bit risky – so why not send a long email instead?
For younger family family members, who may not have a mobile, emails are a great option for communicating with grandparents and other remote family members. Feel free to use as many words as you want and can come up with.
Main image: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock.com