If you have loved ones in far away places, chances are they want to see and talk to your child, camera-to-camera! As video chat technology gets easier to use, even grandparents and great-grandparents are wanting to Skype or have FaceTime. But many parents are finding that their toddlers aren't exactly ready for the calm sit-still that's expected during a video chat.
So just how do you keep a busy toddler engaged and interacting for a successful chat? Some of my favorite bloggers have excellent tips for video chatting with toddlers.
1. Time the chat carefully.
Jessica Katz at eHow wrote How To Skype With An Infant, and many of her ideas are helpful with toddlers and preschoolers as well. Number one on her list is to Skype with your child in the morning. "[Kids] tend to be more tired and fussy at the end of the day. First thing in the morning they are more willing to pay attention," she says.
Stephanie Gruner, a writer for The Faster Times, talks about timing your Skype session well and being flexible in her article; Skyping 101 for Toddlers and Grandparents. Gruner acknowledges that adults often want to schedule the call to fit their plans for the day, but this doesn't always catch a toddler in their best mood: "Toddlers don’t switch gears like we do, and you can’t force them to be charming. A better strategy is to ask grandparents to turn on Skype when their computers are on. That way, if your kid wants to Skype, you can be more spontaneous."
2. Position the adults for eye contact.
One of the most important aspects of any video chat is that both sides must participate. Katz stresses using eye contact to make the connection: "Sit close to the monitor so the baby can see you, and make eye contact."
Gruner also knows that eye contact and good positioning make all the difference. She took the time to advise her mother-in-law how to sit and to look into the camera so that it looks more like she's talking directly to her grandchild. "This makes a big difference when interacting with a really small child. If they can only see half a face and there’s no eye-contact they quickly lose interest."
3. Engage around familiar books, songs, and toys.
Stick with what you know... and what they know. It may take a little prep time before you video chat, but Katz suggests having the person on the other end of the call read your toddler's favorite book or sing songs that are already familiar to your child.
Gruner finds that Skype sessions work best when she lets her daughter take the lead: "Our daughter sits and chats longer if she can introduce her stuffed animals and favorite books. Lately we’ve been encouraging her to 'read' her books to her visitors."
Other types of props can also be essential to keep your toddler engaged while Skyping. Gruner says Skype is just like television to children; they expect to be amused. Props do the trick when her mother Skypes with her daughter: "She talks to our daughter with puppets and stuffed animals. In this way, they can play."
Ilana Wiles is a blogger who shares her sense of humor about raising a toddler at Mommy Shorts. In her Seven Stages of Skyping with a Toddler, she describes props as part of her 'one woman show' with her daughter, Mazzy: "You must sing, read a book, pretend to eat your own arm, etc. If you're lucky, your child will take a cue and help you out. Mazzy is a big fan of introducing me to each of her stuffed animals. But be careful— this might be a ruse. I once found myself talking to Elmo for a good fifteen minutes before realizing Mazzy wasn't even in the room."
4. Plan for technical difficulties.
You definitely want to get the call going without making your toddler wait. Computer problems, sound and video issues, and the connection itself can take time to get up and running. That's why Gruner likes to have her daughter Skype with grandparents on the weekend, when she and her husband can both be there: "That way he can get our daughter excited about the call in another room while I run a sound check with the grandparents."
Wiles warns of the "accidental hangup," which she says is inevitable on the computer... "even more likely when you are doing FaceTime on the iPhone. The iPhone is maddeningly easy to hang-up since the 'END' option is a temptingly touchable red rectangle right there on the screen. Even adults have to actively avoid touching it. (Apple— invent a toddler lock please!)"
5. Keep expectations reasonable.
When it comes to the length of the call, it's important to remember your toddler's attention span. Katz advises ending the call before things go downhill: "A successful call may be five minutes or less."
Gruner also accepts that you are on toddler time, and you have to be realistic: "Even the best strategies and props will only get your kid to sit for so long."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.