11 Fun and Useful Apps for Expat Families in 2022

11 Fun and Useful Apps for Families in 2022 by Vincent van de Noord

Do you ever feel like your family is missing out on the life of your child? I know I do. When I was young, I saw my grandparents often because they lived very close by. Naturally, we developed a very strong and loving bond.

Nowadays, my family is living further apart. My son can’t hop on his bike to see his grandparents, so we need other ways to stay in touch. Luckily, almost everything can be done virtually these days. We’re still waiting for technology but kisses and hugs, but my son is saving them up for the moments my family is together in real life.

Finding the right apps can be a chore. We know because we sorted through many of them. To help you, we’ve made a list of 11 apps that you could use. Some are free, but most are freemium (you can try it out, but have to pay to take full advantage of the app).

Each of these apps offers something different and can help you build a virtual connection with your family. So that when you are together in real life, it will be as if you were never apart.

We’ve sorted them into categories. Let’s dive in!

The best video calling apps

For live video calls, these are great options.

FaceTime (free)

Apple’s video calling platform is great for live interaction with your family. You can use it on an iPad for an extra-large screen, and it offers funny animal filters that you can play around with.

It’s only available on Apple devices. You do have the challenge of finding the right time, and depending on the creativity of your family members it will be a conversation with the child or just the adults talking.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/facetime/id1110145091

Zoom (freemium)

Zoom really took off during COVID. It works very well as a tool for video calls, but it’s built for business communication, so there is no playfulness unless you bring it yourself. The free option is limited to 40 minutes.

https://zoom.us

Alternative:

You can also use Google Meet, which is free to use.

The best messenger apps

If you want to send messages, these are the right apps for you.

Marco Polo (freemium)

Marco Polo is a great option if you want to have video chats with your family. It works by sending short videos back and forth, which makes it more suited to use for young children. It’s designed for close relationships and is relatively easy to use.

What it doesn’t offer is content or activities to get the conversation going. As a parent, you often still have to initiate the contact.

https://www.marcopolo.me/wellbeing/

WhatsApp (free)

I don’t think this one needs an introduction. With approximately 2 billion (!) users, WhatsApp is the most popular mobile messenger app worldwide. It’s great to share messages, videos, and photos. You can also create a group for your family.

The downside is that it’s a very generic messenger built for adults, and your videos and photos are easily lost in your message history. And let’s not forget it’s owned by Meta (formally Facebook), a company that isn’t well known for its privacy standards.

https://www.whatsapp.com

Signal (free)

Signal is privacy friendly alternative to WhatsApp. It offers similar functionality, but its focus on security and privacy can make it a better choice for users concerned about their data (and of course, that should be everyone!).

https://signal.org

Best photo & video sharing apps

If you primarily want to share photos and videos, these apps could be great for you.

Google Photos (freemium)

This is a popular platform where you can store and organize all your photos and videos and share them with your family. You get some free storage, if you need more you have to buy an additional subscription.

Google Photos offers a great photo-sharing platform. However, for some people (myself included), sharing private photos of my child with Google feels uncomfortable.

https://www.google.com/photos/about/

Tiny Beans (freemium)

Tiny Beans is a platform with lots of content for parents. They also offer an app that allows you to share photos of your child with your family and track their milestones.

It offers great ideas for parents, but they don’t facilitate two-way interaction between loved ones and a child. It’s perfect for keeping your family in the loop but less suited to building a relationship with loved ones.

https://tinybeans.com

Best family games

This is our favorite category. It’s not just sharing videos and messages, but really playing together. Being playful is important for a child’s development, and its also a lot of fun!

Together (freemium)

This is a family video chat focused on grandparents and grandchildren that lets you play little games and read books together in a video call. It offers games like chess, checkers, and memory. You can have 3 free calls, after that you will have to buy a subscription.

https://www.togethervideoapp.com

OK Play (freemium)

This is a bit of an odd one out because it’s not about connecting with loved ones remotely, but about playing games when you’re together. But because it’s also about creating a connection, I wanted to point this out as well. As a parent, definitely give it a try and play together with your child.

https://okplay.co

Caribu (freemium)

Caribu lets you do fun activities together in a video call. For instance, you can read a book or create a drawing together. You can start for free, but to make the most use of the app you will need a subscription.

It can make video calls more engaging and playful, but you still have to find the right time. As a parent myself, I know that can be a challenge!

https://caribu.com

Peekabond (freemium)

Peekabond is a family app that combines the best of video messaging, photo & video sharing, and family games. It’s built with children in mind and designed to be easy to use for all ages. You can share videos or play little games with loved ones. It helps grandparents and grandchildren to build a deeper relationship, with activities that grow with the age of the child.

Download Peekabond

A final word

I am a proud father and co founder of Peekabond. All the apps we’ve mentioned here could help your family to feel closer. Building a meaningful relationship always requires effort. I’ve found that many families really WANT to have a closer connection, but it’s hard to maintain in the daily hustle of life.

This is the challenge that we want to solve with Peekabond. Create a virtual place where you can be together as a family, without adding more work on your plate as a parent.

I invite you to try Peekabond, hope to see you there soon.

About Vincent

Vincent is a father and co-founder of Peekabond, living in the Netherlands. He loves designing beautiful products and wants to use his skills to make (at least) 20 million people smile. When he’s not working on Peekabond, you can find him doing outdoor activities or spending quality time with his family. You can find more about Vincent here

Join Us at Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under by Vincent van den Noort

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under

I am an avid reader. 

Our son is now almost 5 years old, and I don’t think there were many days without us reading books or telling stories to him. When he was just a baby, I made up little stories for him. It was all about hearing my voice and just being together. I don’t have the illusion that he remembers those tales 😉

Telling stories is our little ritual. Every evening after dinner we sit together and explore the stories. Storytelling is about using your imagination and creating magic and a sense of wonder in the world.  It started out with very simple and short stories that I told over and over (and over, and over) again. I can still tell these stories without having to look at the books. One of the most popular stories was Nijntje Pluis, called Miffy in English.

As he grows older, the stories become more elaborate. My range as a storytelling actor has expanded, and I can now easily play a cast of 5 characters with their own voices. 

We always like to take elements of stories and build our own stories from them. He comes up with the hero and the cast of characters (usually plush animals), and then we think about the build-up, the challenge that the hero has to solve, and how it all comes together in the end. It’s amazing to see how creative kids are, and how his children’s logic leads to fantastical stories. 

The most beautiful part is that these stories aren’t “just” stories. They give a peek into his mind and let him playfully express his emotions.

I hope that I’ve instilled a fondness for storytelling in him too, that will last a lifetime. For now, I cherish our travels into these fantastical worlds. I think I’ll have a tough time when he says: “Dad, I can read these books by myself”.

Why is storytelling so important?

Telling stories is one of the oldest forms of teaching. In caves around the world, we can see storytelling paintings that are from the time we were still hunting Mammoths. Stories bond humans, they define us, shape us and make us. Every single culture in the world tells stories to teach us about love, life, ourselves, and those around us. It’s how we learn to understand the world.

“If you want your children to be smart, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more fairy tales.“ – Albert Einstein

Science shows us that storytelling is more than just a fun pastime. Storytelling has a positive effect on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. Young children enjoy reading, writing, and listening to stories, and from the stories, they are able to understand more about society and life in general. 

Did you know that science shows storytelling and story reading helps young children with:
  • Improving language acquisition (Lucarevschi, 2016; Miller & Pennycuff, 2008; Speaker et al., 2004)
  • Improve their oral or spoken language (Cooper, 2009; Cremin et al., 2018; Isbell et al., 2004; Typadi & Hayon, 2010)
  • Develop reading comprehension (Craig et al., 2001; Haven & Ducey, 2007)
  • Make sense of basic mathematics (Casey et al., 2008; Goral & Gnadinger, 2006; Pramling & Samuelsson, 2008)
  • Explain science (Hu et al., 2020; Preradovic et al., 2016; Valkanova & Watts, 2007; Walan, 2019)
  • Prepare for school (Nicolopoulou et al., 2015)
  • Communicate effectively (Sundin et al., 2018)
  • Help children to learn and appreciate their world (Cremin et al., 2018; Vélez & Prieto, 2018)
  • Improve cross-cultural communication (Al-Jafar & Buzzelli, 2004)
  • Promote moral and social development (Bailey et al., 2006; Burns & Rathbone, 2010; Thambu, 2017).
Pretty impressive, huh?

Children’s brains are like little sponges. They absorb the words and sentences, equipping them with the vocabulary to articulate thoughts and experiences. When they are able to express their needs and emotions better, it develops their social skills and self-confidence. Through stories, they also become aware of the emotions of others and learn to be empathetic.

Stories and fables show little ones commonly accepted cultural ways and norms. But not just from books. Grandparents narrating stories from their childhood, or sharing funny memories of the child’s mother or father teach the child about ways and norms.

I am always impressed by the breadth and depth of the vocabulary my son already has. I’m certain that, at least part of it, is from the many books and stories we’ve read. Hearing a four-year-old saying he finds something “mildly amusing” is hilarious to me.

How to become a great storyteller

Everyone has it in them to become a great storyteller. I’ll share a few learning that I’ve had in my four-year journey as a dad. One stands out before all others: Don’t read a book to them, read it with them. That doesn’t mean you have to be together, but you do want to make a connection. Look at them (or the camera) when you read, talk to them and ask them questions. Reading is about making a connection and exploring this magical world together. 

General tips

Make sure they’re settled in, for instance, cozy on the couch. We love reading in front of the fireplace, a small fire crackling in the hearth. Create a bit of anticipation before you start: “Ooh, I can’t wait to find out what happens to the little owl”. This sets the stage for a great story.

  • Read a lot

Get into the habit of telling stories often. For young kids, simple stories of one minute are fine. As they get older, the stories can get longer. If they can talk or point, you can also let them pick a book they love. But be prepared, kids usually love hearing the same story a billion times.

If you’re using an app like Peekabond to read stories, you’re in luck. Record it once, and they can rewatch it a billion times 😉

  • Be fun and playful

A great storyteller is a playful storyteller. Use your whole acting repertoire to make a story fun and engaging. Read with fun in your voice, and add quirky sound effects for extra effect. You can even sing a book if you want. And don’t forget your facial expressions. It’s not about the words, but how you tell them.

Is there a monster around the corner? Slow down, bring your voice down to a whisper and bring the listener to the edge of their seat. Is the monster talking? Talk in a growl. Or, for comedic effect, make it sound silly. You’re the storyteller, make it come alive!

  • Go deeper

There is more to a story than it seems at the surface. Ask the kid questions about the story, or the meaning of specific words. Engage them in the story: “Do you think that is smart? What would you do?” Trigger their imagination. You can also point out pictures, or ask them to point them out. I always enjoy asking my son to read a story back to me. He can’t read yet, but hearing him tell the story in his own words is often surprising and fun.

Something that is very helpful in understanding their own emotions and how others are feeling, is talking about the emotions of the characters. You can ask questions like: “How do you think the fox is feeling? Is he angry?”. You can also relate it to their own life: “have you ever been angry?” This is a great way to talk about emotions together.

My Top 10 storytelling books

We have A LOT of children’s books, so it was hard to pick a top 10. So I tried to think back on the stories that we told the most, the ones that he still picks even though we’ve told them a million times.

And of course, they’re stories that I like to tell. So without further ado, here is my top 10 in no particular order.

Little Owl Lost

Uh-oh! Little Owl has fallen from his nest and landed with a whump on the ground. Now he is lost, and his mommy is nowhere to be seen! With the earnest help of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl goes in search of animals that fit his description of Mommy Owl. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/8036503

Why I picked this book: It was the first story I read to my son. The artwork is beautiful and the story is funny and lovely. We still pick it up from time to time.

Tow-truck Pluck

Pluck has a little red tow truck. He drives it all over town looking for a place to live. Pluck makes lots more friends and solves all kinds of problems. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30030547-tow-truck-pluck

Why I picked this book: This book is a Dutch classic. I read it as a child, and it’s still being read in classes today. The characters are great and the story is very compelling.

The Greedy Goat

A very greedy goat wreaks havoc in the barnyard in an entertaining cautionary tale from Petr Horacek.Goat is tired of always eating herbs and grass. She wants to try something new! So one day she embarks on a tasting spree, trying the dog’s food, the pig’s potato peels, and more, with the farmer’s underpants topping off a massive meal. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/36095356

Why I picked this book: Not my personal favorite, but my son loves it. Especially the goat eating the farmers underpants (bleh!)

The Lion Inside

A rhyming story about one little mouse trying to make himself heard and discovering along the way that even the smallest of us has the heart of a lion.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26257320-the-lion-inside

Why I picked this book: The moral of this story is a very positive one (you don’t have to be strong to be brave), and the rhyme makes it a lot of fun to read.

Hungry Caterpillar 

One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday, he ate through three plums–and still he was hungry. When full at last, he made a cocoon around himself and went to sleep, to wake up a few weeks later wonderfully transformed into a butterfly!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4948.The_Very_Hungry_Caterpillar

Why I picked this book: It’s an all time classic. The artwork is beautiful and it gives an amazing insight into one of the marvels of nature, the metamorphosis of the butterfly. 

The Guffalo 

This is a rhyming story of a mouse and a monster. Little mouse goes for a walk in a dangerous forest. To scare off his enemies he invents tales of a fantastical creature called the Gruffalo. So imagine his surprise when he meets the real Gruffalo.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1013383.The_Gruffalo

Why I picked this book: It’s about a witty mouse. Like the “Lion Inside”, it shows a child that it’s better to be smart than to be strong. I love doing the voices of the enemies and the Gruffalo.

Where the Wild Things Are

Max, a wild and naughty boy, is sent to bed without his supper by his exhausted mother. In his room, he imagines sailing far away to a land of Wild Things. Instead of eating him, the Wild Things make Max their king.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19543.Where_the_Wild_Things_Are

Why I picked this book: This book is all about imagination. And for kids, seeing a naughty boy like Max is very interesting. The artwork is timeless, and Alt-J used the story in their song Breezeblocks.

 

The Tortoise and the Hare

Tortoise proves he is a formidable opponent in this comic adaptation of a classic tale.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/1363829

Why I picked this book: Again a classic. It teaches kids that arrogance doesn’t pay, and it’s a funny story.

Winnie the Pooh

The adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends in which Pooh Bear uses a balloon to get honey, Piglet meets a Heffalump, and Eeyore has a birthday.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/99107.Winnie_the_Pooh

Why I picked this book: My son loves the stories. I like how the stories show a variety of emotions through the characters. Eeyore is always sad, and Pooh is sometimes quite egocentric. Even with their differences, they get along.

BONUS: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women

What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33016249-good-night-stories-for-rebel-girls

Why I picked this book: Stories define how children see the world. This is a great book that’s not just for rebel girls, but also for boys. Children’s books should reflect and celebrate the diversity in our world, and these stories are a great addition.

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

Get 11 FREE Holiday bonding activities, now available in the app

Holiday Cards

The holiday season is a time we all look forward to being together. It’s a time to reconnect, to spend some time enjoying each other’s company. For many families, however, this will be the second season spent apart due to the constraints of the pandemic. 

We built Peekabond to bring families together. There are 11 new Holiday Themed cards now available for you to enjoy!

  1. Let’s Macarena
  2. Santa Laughs
  3. Holiday Hunt
  4. Dress for the Holidays
  5. Let’s go Caroling!
  6. Guess the Carol!
  7. Show your Chrismas Tree
  8. Read a Christmas Baby Book
  9. Being Giving!
  10. Create a Christmas Story!
  11. Elf Says!

The Cards are in the Cards section of the Peekabond app. Tap Draw Random to find them all.

Can’t find a card? It could be that they’re not suited for the age of the child.

Peekabond in RTL Nieuws (Dutch)

Familie op afstand toch dichtbij:’Een soort TikTok meets Sesamstraat’

Als je familie in het buitenland woont, moet je vaak veel van hen missen. Zeker met opgroeiende familieleden is het moeilijk om alle mijlpalen bij te houden, laat staan het gewone dagelijks leven. Dat merkte ook Anieke Lamers, die via haar zelfgebouwde app ‘Peekabond’ een band met haar 2-jarige nichtje in Australië onderhoudt.

Anieke Lamers (31) en haar zus zijn beste vriendinnen. Toen haar zus besloot naar Australië te verhuizen was dat even slikken, maar ze houden elkaar regelmatig op de hoogte via videocalls. Het werd vooral ingewikkeld toen Aniekes zus twee jaar geleden aan de andere kant van de wereld beviel van een meisje. Anieke: “Vanaf dat moment ontdekte ik hoe lastig het is om van zo’n grote afstand een band op te bouwen met een jong kindje.”

Het gevoel dat Anieke zo ver weg was van haar nichtje – en haar niet goed kon leren kennen, knaagde enorm. In juli vorig jaar startte ze daarom met het bouwen aan ‘Peekabond’. “Ik zocht naar een manier om via een app of platform een band op te bouwen met een jong familielid ver weg, maar dat bestond nog niet echt. Toen dacht ik: ‘Waarom maak ik het niet gewoon zelf?'”

Lees het hele artikel hier:
Familie op afstand toch dichtbij: ‘Een soort TikTok meets Sesamstraat’

Press release: Startup Peekabond brings families together for the holiday season

Amsterdam, 23 November 2021 – The holiday season is a time we all look forward to being together. It’s a time to reconnect, to spend some time enjoying each other’s company. For many families, however, this will be the second season spent apart due to the constraints of the pandemic. The importance of being together, across space and time is what inspired the creation of Peekabond – a video messenger to connect families using science-based play activities. Designed for families with young children, to feel connected to loved ones. Peekabond is now available in the App Store and Google Play.

Anieke Lamers, the founder and CEO of Peekabond, was inspired to create Peekabond after she became a long-distance auntie: “I discovered first hand how hard it was to build a bond with my niece remotely. After talking to hundreds of parents and family members, I found out many had the same struggle. That is when I decided to build Peekabond to reunite families in this digital age.”

An app to share beautiful moments

Peekabond is an app for iOS and Android that makes it easier to share memorable and meaningful moments together. Using technology for good, we help strengthen real-life relationships. With simple, engaging, and clever content ideas at the touch of a button, it’s easy for every member of the family to get a little closer, even when you are not close by. 

Record and swap videos inspired by the playful activities, it couldn’t be easier to use. You do so in the knowledge that proven behavioral science has gone into making sure it does what it promises to do.

You don’t all have to be online at the same time so Peekabond overcomes the challenges of different time zones and also the reality of trying to persuade young children to stay focused and still as they talk on a small screen. 

“Getting these lovely messages from the people I love has been my saving grace”, says Lisanne Casement, a Peekabond user who is living in Melbourne with her 2-year-old daughter. “She loves watching their videos, and can’t wait to see them again in real life”.

A time for families

For the upcoming holiday season, Peekabond has a couple of special holiday activities prepared. They are also releasing a new feature called family circles whereby you can invite your family into the app, to create a private and secure place to share videos with your own circle. Peekabond believes this will bring families closer together and make the holidays feel less painful for families who can’t be physically close due to travel restrictions. Family circles will launch early December.

About Peekabond

Peekabond is an Amsterdam-based startup founded in 2021 by Anieke Lamers, Vincent van den Noort, and Alyea Sandovar. Before starting Peekabond, Anieke worked as an investment manager at Rubio Impact Ventures. Her co-founders, Vincent van den Noort (ex fintech Jungo) and Alyea Sandovar, PhD are both experienced entrepreneurs.

Peekabond is an impact-driven company, with team members around the world. Peekabond prides itself on a diverse team, with expertise in child development science, design, gamification, and technology. Peekabond raised funding from a group of angel investors in early 2021 and has an informal board of advisors including Daniel Gebler, founder and CTO of online supermarket unicorn Picnic

For more information:

Anieke Lamers
Founder & CEO
anieke@peekabond.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/aniekelamersnl/

You can find our press kit with our logo and royalty-free images on our website, through the link below: