Category: Bonding

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. 

5 Nature Selfie Tips Every Grandparent Should Master

Taking a Selfie in Nature to Share with Young Children

Hopefully, we all get the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature. Many of us, for the first time when we are small children. If we are lucky enough, there are trees to climb, puddles to jump in, sun and rain to feel on our skin, and rainbows to see in the sky. Watching children have their first experiences with nature can be a very special moment to take part in. That is why we want to share how to take a selfie in Nature and share that with your child at a distance. 

How Nature Benefits Young Children

Nature is diverse and beautiful, but also sometimes a bit gross or weird! Having access to nature and witnessing life and growth can be a very stimulating place for young people to be. Encouraging adventure and exploration, discovering new things, and seeing what life has to offer.

For many, nature is a place free from social judgments. Nature does not have an opinion on what you look like or how many friends you have or how smart you are at school. Nature is an even playing ground for all. Nature reminds us that there is so much more to life and the world is much much bigger than any of the problems we are experiencing. Even if your little one is too small to understand this concept, the sense of freedom that nature brings is there to be enjoyed.

5 Steps to Taking a Good Selfie in Nature

Ok so here we are, on a beautiful day out (or maybe it isn’t so beautiful because, hey, nature!) with our little ones and we want to capture some long-term memories. A selfie is a great, easy way to capture a quick photo and immortalize the moment.

If you feel like you need a recap on your selfie-taking skills, check out our article with all the instructions HERE.

  1. A Good Background

First things first – find a beautiful backdrop. Something to stand in front of for your picture. It doesn’t have to be the main feature of your adventure, just something you think would be nice as a background. Let your instincts guide you. Maybe you’re surrounded by wonderful scenery or maybe you spot something charming or funny that you’d like to remember. Don’t get too obsessed with it though, the more people you have in your selfie, the less you will be able to see the backdrop.

  1. Equipment Ready!

Once you’ve found a good spot, let everyone know you’d like to take a quick selfie. As they gather themselves for your photo, you can take the opportunity to open the camera app on your phone. Switch the view to the front-facing camera and decide if you want the flash on or off. Your smartphone will probably have settings automatically set up so there should be very little to prepare.

  1. Get your face and the view!

Once you’ve found a good spot, make sure your face is shown clearly, squeeze in really tight with the object you wish to show. Hold your phone out as far as you can with the front-facing camera on. Hold the phone at eye level to capture your face well (children love faces!). It helps if you are at the front of the photo so you can extend your arm as far as possible, giving you more space to get everyone in.

  1. Make some Adjustments

The good thing about a selfie is that everyone in the photo can see themselves. If the picture doesn’t look good at this stage – maybe it’s too dark or there is something obscuring the photo, now is the time to fix that. You can always send it as is and take the opportunity to have a conversation with your little one at a distance. Ask your little ones ‘Do you think that looks good?’  

  1. Take the Photo

Once you are ready, you can click the button to take the photo. Usually, it’s the big round one at the bottom of the screen. Make sure both your face and the object you are trying to show are in there with your best smile. Take a few! It’s nice to have some options. You can look at them there and then with your little ones or maybe save them for later. If you don’t like the photo, feel free to take another one.

Extra Tips

Here are some other ideas we love to make things even more fun:

 Include Nature

Wherever you are, maybe you can do something fun with your surroundings. Kids tend to pick all sorts of props when they are out in nature so it might be fun for you to do the same and to include these in the photo.

  • You can have sticks for bunny ears or stand in front of a nice tree to give you all angel wings.
  • If it’s dry, maybe grab a handful of leaves and try to take a photo while they float back down to the ground.

Ok, these selfies might be a little hit or miss, you could end up with a great action shot or an absolute mess, but it’s the memories that count!

 A Special Setup

As you don’t see these special people very often and you want to create a special photo that you take every time you’re together. Stand in a circle with your feet together and take a photo of everyone’s shoes. If it’s dry, lie down on the grass with your heads together and take a photo of your faces by stretching your arms out above you. Any assembly you can think of works, the trick is to make sure you take it in exactly the same way, every time you see them. This is a wonderful way to collect memories and watch how much everyone grows over time. 

Alternatively, if you will not see your little one for a long time, take a picture of your shoes or your face in the grass and ask your little one to take one too and send it back!

 Use the Timer!

Did you know that most smartphone cameras have a timer function? There should be a button or icon on your phone screen that looks like an oven timer. When you click this, it should ask you how many seconds you would like to wait before the photo is taken automatically. This is a great trick when needing to set up with props or action shots. You can set the smartphone up on a tree or a rock somewhere and have everyone get into the photo. I once used a can of beans to prop my phone to get a shot of me in the pool!

Click the button you would normally click to take the photo and the timer feature will get started. You should see the countdown on your phone screen. This saves you the bother of clicking the button yourself and you and the little ones can have more time to do whatever it is you want to do for the photo!

To Conclude - The Selfie is Your Friend

You do not need to fear or dislike the selfie. It might be strange or weird at first but that’s okay. If It can take some time to get your head around but remember, it’s a tool. Taking selfies is a great tool for capturing moments and creating memories that you can look back on forever. Don’t worry if you’re a little stiff at first, you’ll soon get the hang of it. It’s all about creating memories that your little ones will have the privilege of looking back on when they are big and all grown up.

Alex Meade is a freelance writer, living in Portugal. Originally from England, she likes to spend her days in the water, improving her surfing skills or learning to wing foil. When she’s not writing or surfing, she teaches yoga near the local beach. You can reach Alex by going to here

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. 

5 Selfie Tips for Grandparents

5 Selfie tips that will change your relationship with your grandchildren

Well, here we are, fully immersed in this ‘selfie’ era. Can you remember a time before selfies? It seems not so long after the smartphone was introduced, with its clever front-facing camera, the selfie was invented. Before this, our self-portraits had more of a ‘point and click’ approach to them. It’s funny to think of now. There was a time in which taking photos of yourself was considered strange, vain or conceited. While many of the younger generations have embraced the success of the selfie, there are a few among us still bewildered by the concept, and that’s ok. It can feel awkward at first, but we’re here to show you how to make it easy. 

How Selfies can Help you Bond with Your Child at a Distance

Within their first year, babies learn to gather information from faces to determine identity, personal characteristics, and emotions. These associations help to shape their relationships with the face in question. Subconsciously, their brain receives information from somebody’s face and thinks ‘that’s Grandad, that’s Grandad’s smile, that’s his nose, that’s the noise he makes when he laughs’. We also learn social cues at this age, building our social skills to understand how other people are feeling. 

Becoming familiar with your face helps build the bond between you and your little one. They’ll start to read your facial expressions and understand your emotions. Having a clear picture of you helps to build memories and associations. If you can’t be there in person, a photo of you is the next best thing to build lasting relationships.

How Do You Take a Selfie?

Ok, let’s be brave. You can do it!

  1. Open the camera app on your smartphone:  On most devices, you’ll see a little symbol, shaped like a camera with two arrows inside. This button switches your camera to face you, rather than facing away from you. Check out the image below, the button you’re looking for is circled but it might be in a different place on your phone. Now you should be able to see your lovely face on screen!

2. Angle your phone: Don’t worry, the front facing camera takes a bit of getting used to. To start with, you might not see the most flattering angle of your face! Its ok, you can readjust the phone position to find a better view. Hold the phone out at arm’s length directly in front of you. Keep your face in the middle of the screen with your eyes at eye level. Now you can try tilting your head to the side or tilting the phone to get a nice picture. It’s best to hold the phone quite far from your face unless you’re looking for a close-up!

3. Take the photo: Make a big smile and click the same button you would do if you were taking a normal photo. It’s usually a big round button at the bottom of the screen. On some phones, you can even use the volume button on the side to take a photo more easily. 

4. Retake the photo: If you’re not happy with your first attempt, take another. You don’t have to love the photo but it’s important to feel accurately represented. The more photos you take, the more comfortable you’ll feel with the concept. Most selfie-takers will tell you that sometimes it can take 50 attempts before settling on the right photo! So don’t worry if you take a lot of pictures. You can easily delete them from your camera roll after by selecting the button that looks like a trash bin. 

5. Send the photo: It’s got to go somewhere right! Make sure you send it to your loved one. If you take the photo using the camera app on your phone, it should save to your camera roll. Then you can click on the app you are using to communicate with your loved ones. This can be any social media app, maybe Facebook messenger or WhatsApp. Select the person you would like to send the photo to – you probably already have a conversation on the go with them. Every app is slightly different but generally, there should be an icon that looks like a picture/landscape. This indicates your stored pictures. Selecting this option should show you your camera roll where you have saved your selfie. Select this picture and hit send.

Some Do’s and Don’ts!

 
Lighting

The best way to take a good, quick selfie is to find some good lighting. Lighting makes so much difference to a photo. Stand somewhere there is natural light, shining from the side – not directly above your head. 

Flash vs No Flash

Usually,  the flash function on your camera will wash out your face and make your eyes go red like a demon. Not always though. Click the little lightning bolt option on your phone screen to experiment having the flash on or off. 

No Photoshop

In this crazy world of selfies we now live in, there are apps you can use to edit your appearance. Take it from us, you don’t need to do that. Your beautiful face does not need editing and your little ones will love you, just as you are. Teach them confidence and self-care by proudly presenting your realistic photo. 

The Benefits of Sharing your Selfie with your Loved One

Studies show that babies and young children LOVE faces. It’s one of the first things they start to connect with when they are born. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself, making silly faces to babies to get them to laugh. This isn’t just entertainment, this is a learning exercise for the little one. Faces are integral to the first few stages of their development. As they grow, their language skills develop. Focus is drawn towards the mouth as they begin learning words and relating these words to meaning. 

To Conclude

It might be scary at first, it might feel weird or just too difficult, but we promise, you’ll get the hang of it. You’ll be sending selfies without a second thought and your little one will be delighted. 

About Alex Meade

Alex Meade is a freelance writer, living in Portugal. Originally from England, she likes to spend her days in the water, improving her surfing skills or learning to wing foil. When she’s not writing or surfing, she teaches yoga near the local beach. You can find more about alex here

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. 

User Research Study: How One Global Family Built Lasting Bonds in 2 Weeks

How a grandma became top of mind for her grandchild

Would you believe me if I said that real, lasting connections can be made over a distance in just 2-weeks? Well, listen closely to the story of Hannie, Nora and baby Sanne.

Hannie, Nora and Sanne participated in a 2-week study with Peekabond last month. For this project, we asked them to simply use Peekabond at their own pace for this time period. Our user researcher spoke with each of them at the beginning and end of the 2 weeks. They also filled out surveys about their remote bonding experience along the way. This experiment not only taught us SO much about our app, but also helped facilitate strong, lasting connections for their family.

Our goal with this research study was to understand how using Peekabond would affect a family’s remote connection. We set up the experiment to measure if the frequency of connection, the strength of connection and the enjoyment of the connection changed over two weeks. We hoped that using Peekabond would increase all three of these measurements. We also were interested in discovering what was difficult for these users, so we could improve.

This is the start of something new

Hannie is a grandmother who lives in The Netherlands. She misses her daughter, Nora, and 2 year-old granddaughter, Sanne, dearly. Nora and Sanne live over 16,000 km away in Australia. They don’t get to see each other very often, and the big time difference makes it hard for them to stay in touch.

Before Peekabond, they connected via WhatsApp video call once a week during Sanne’s bathtime. They also occasionally sent messages, photos and videos on WhatsApp to each other.

Hannie finds it difficult to connect with Sanne on the video call. Sanne likes it when her grandma does something silly on the camera, but this is not very comfy for Hannie to do. Hannie hopes that Peekabond’s activity cards will make it easier to be silly on camera for Sanne.

Nora, as most moms, is very busy, and keeping her daughter connected with her family far away can be challenging. The time difference makes it extra difficult. She hopes that Peekabond can help ease the stress of finding time in their busy lives to connect.

We’re halfway there

After just one week of using Peekabond, Hannie and Nora both reported a small increase in the enjoyment of their remote connecting experience.

Hannie was beginning to feel more comfortable with making videos that Sanne would enjoy. She got creative with the activity cards and also made videos on her own.

Sanne started recognizing the videos and already had her few favorites. One with her grandma and grandpa practicing their names in the car was a hit! She also liked one her grandma sent of a frog (“kikker” in Dutch) and would ask to watch this one on repeat by saying “kikker, kikker”.

For Hannie, knowing that her granddaughter was enjoying the videos meant a lot to her. It felt like they were able to have shared experiences together, even while being worlds away.

Both Hannie and Sanne also reported the strength of the connection to be stronger after just one week. These shared memories made all the difference.

The finish line

At the end of the experiment, they felt positive feelings towards their remote connection and how Peekabond helped them get there. Even baby Nora started asking to call grandma and grandpa more often because she wanted to see their faces through the screen! This was very important for her mother because it meant that Nora wanted to take steps all on her own to stay close with her grandparents far away.

Both the mother and the grandmother reported an increase in the strength of their connection before and after the study. For Sanne, the strength of the connection increased by 20%. And for Hannie, the connection she felt with her granddaughter was 10% stronger after the two weeks. The enjoyment of their connection moments also improved throughout the experiment. For Sanne, she experienced a 30% increase in her enjoyment of connecting remotely. Hannie enjoyed the connection moments 10% more than before the study.

Overall, the study motivated them to try out new remote connection techniques beyond their typical once-a-week video call. This brought them excitement and new-found appreciation for each other.

Of course, though, getting used to a new app is not easy. Hannie still wants to spend more time exploring Peekabond to get more familiar with it. Being kind with yourself as you learn is part of the process!

From the whole Peekabond team, we want to thank Hannie, Nora and Sanne for exploring how Peekabond could work in their lives. ❤️

Next steps

We have since expanded this study to be one month long, for us to gain deeper insights throughout the process. More families are currently enrolled in the study, and we are always searching for more!

Want to get involved?

If your family would like to participate in a 2-week or 1-month study with Peekabond, please reach out to our user researcher Katy (katy@peekabond.com) to get started!

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. 

About Katy

Katy is an Amsterdam-based user researcher originally from the West Coast of the US. She is passionate about creating ethical and sustainable technology and believes in the power of user research to get there. She holds a Bachelor’s in Graphic Communication and a Master’s in Digital Design. You can usually find her taking long walks in the park, cooking big batches of soup, petting all the dogs on the street or making random crafts with friends.

Reconnecting with your Child at a Distance: 5 Activities to Help You Bond Today

Reconnecting with Your Child at a Distance by Anieke Lamers

Many of us focus our new resolution efforts on the turn of the new year. Vowing to drop certain bad habits and pick up newer, healthier ones. Spring however, provides the perfect opportunity for change – a transient time of life, rebirth and revival. As we move into longer, lighter days, it’s common to have more energy and clarity of mind. It’s the perfect time to start something fresh, pick up a new healthy habit or make changes to an existing one. 

Remote Bonding with Young Children

Children need a solid foundation. Our task as grown-ups is to provide a safe space for children to develop. The world is getting more complex every day and we need to ensure that young children grow up to be resilient – adequately tackling the challenges of the world.

Researchers at Princeton argue that many parents need more support to provide proper parenting. They need social support from family, even from a distance. 

Keeping in touch with the young children in your family can have a very positive impact on their wellbeing. How young children go on to feel about themselves has a lot to do with their interactions and relationships with the adults present in their lives. This circle of people might include grandparents, close friends, or even paid help. By reaching out and creating positive bonds, you are contributing to a personal awareness that may stay with the child for a long time.

Guilt

Maybe it’s been a little while since you got in touch. It’s ok, we’ve all been there! Life is busy, dates pass by and all of a sudden you feel quite distant from your already distant little one. Try not to let this get you down. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Guilt in particular is a tricky business. As well as being entirely useless for everyone involved, it threatens our self-esteem. Hurting our self-esteem does not create a good environment to reach out to others from. Often, if we are not feeling good about ourselves, we don’t value our contribution to somebody else’s life. 

So, let’s drop the guilt and start small. Choosing just one connection to begin with, or if there is just one connection, start with a small point of contact. A small message on a quiet afternoon for example. Approach this task lightly and give yourself plenty of room to feel comfortable. 

Or maybe you’ve run out of inspiration and need some new ideas to connect. Below we’ve listed 5 of our favorite activities to help you connect today.

5 Activities to Help you Connect Today

The Magic Spoon Trick: 

Suitable for kids 3 years and older. 

Magic tricks are great for kids and the magic spoon trick is a classic. Performing this trick with your little one allows you to share something together. It even offers a teaching opportunity which can help build trust and appreciation. 

All you need is a tablespoon and a video connection to your little one. 

Grab a tablespoon and tell your young child that you can do a magic trick. Show the spoon, say a magic word, and hang the spoon on the tip of your nose. Challenge your young child to do the same and see how they get on. 

Showing Gratitude 

Suitable for kids 3 years and older.

Practicing gratitude activates several parts of the brain that are associated with reward and motivation. Sharing a moment of gratitude with your little one can help them feel good and associate that feeling off love and kindness with you. 

All you need is yourself and a video or audio connection to your child at a distance. 

Think of 3-4 things you are grateful for today and express them to your little one. After, you can ask them what they are grateful for. 

Emotions 

Suitable for kids between 2-4 years.

At two years of age, children experience complex emotions but have not mastered how to express them healthily. By pointing out what words they can use to express themselves, young children learn new vocabulary and build their self-confidence. This is a teaching opportunity which can help to bond and build trust with your little one. As children develop a vocabulary and more independence, they will experiment with expressing emotion in new ways.

Prepare your acting skills! All you need is yourself and video connection to your child. 

Teach your little one about emotions. Cover your face with your hands and then uncover your face to show an emotion. Ask your little one what emotion you are showing. Repeat by covering your face and revealing a different emotion. Try showing happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. 

Draw Your Family 

Suitable for kids between 3-6 years.

Children develop creativity and enhance their fine motor skills through drawing. Drawing family members also supports their social, emotional connection and bonding. 

Grab a pen (or crayons) and a piece of paper. Use these in a video connection to your child. 

Make a drawing of your family and show it to your little one in a video. It’s not about creating art, so don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Be sure to point out the family members in the drawing. You can even ask your little one to make a family picture for you as well.

sid-balachandran-_9a-3NO5KJE-unsplash
Animals

Suitable for kids between 2-3 years.

Imitating animal sounds helps young children develop cognitively. At 2 years old, a child might be able to name some animals, and kids this age love playing simple make-believe games.

Connecting with your little one in this playful way helps encourage happiness and long lasting memories. 

All you need is yourself and a video connection to your child at a distance. Pretend to be an animal! Ask your little one to guess what animal you are by making the sound of the animal.You can ask them to do the same, following your demonstration.

About Anieke

Anieke is the Founder and CEO of Peekabond. Anieke is an ex-VC having worked on impact investments and consumer tech deals for the past 8 years of her career. Anieke founded Peekabond from a personal passion because she is an aunt of a 2 year old niece in Australia. She immediately began searching for alternative ways to bond remotely with her little niece. But she couldn’t find a real solution, so she made it her mission to create the best digital platform possible. To build beautiful bonds across generations, continents, and cultures. To connect with Anieke click here 

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 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. 

5 Ways to Use Love Languages for Young Children at a Distance by Alyea Sandovar

Valentine's day is not just for adults

Children benefit from love. Feeling loved not only helps improve your child’s well-being, but also improves their physical health, brain development and memory.

Communicating love to your grandchild can feel like a challenge if you don’t see them very often. These days, lots of families are navigating the challenges of loving their little ones from a distance. The good thing is, there are lots of ways to express love to a child. It’s not all just hugs and kisses!

What are the Five Love Languages?

The concept of the 5 Love Languages was created by a marriage counselor called Gary Chapman. Through his work with married couples, he discovered that different people receive love in different ways. Actions that mean a lot to you, might not mean the same to your partner.

He categorised these actions as languages. The 5 Love Languages are Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Receiving Gifts. He cites examples in his book of couples struggling to understand their partner’s efforts of communicating love. After all, if you’re not a fan of physical touch, having a partner who expresses their love by constantly touching you is not going to feel good! This concept has helped many relationships worldwide. Not just with married couples but with friends, work colleagues and children. Once you understand how somebody prefers to receive love, you can cater your actions to reflect this.

Usually, each person has one primary love language, and one secondary. So, your love languages could be physical touch as the primary and words of affirmation as the secondary. Any combination of the languages is possible.

It’s also worth noting that the way you express love is usually the way you like to receive love.

How the Love Languages Can Help Show Love at a Distance

Learning the love language of your little one can help you to communicate with them. Communication is key when you’re working on a relationship from a distance. Speaking to your grandchild in their love language can help build bonds and bring you closer. Children love to feel loved. You can create lasting memories and leave a lasting impression if you can communicate your love effectively.

Discovering the Love Language of your child from a distance

Now, this could be really obvious to you, or an absolute mystery. It’s ok if your grandchild’s love language is unclear. We have a few suggestions that might help you discover them remotely:

  1.  Start by asking! If your little one is at an age where they can talk to you, there is always the option to ask. You can talk about what makes them feel loved. If they are unsure, talk about what makes you feel loved, or even describe some of the love languages and see what evokes a reaction. ‘Grandad bought me a new puzzle book today! I love getting gifts from Grandad. Do you like getting gifts?’  
  2.  Notice how your child expresses their love for you. This might offer a clue as to how they want to receive love.
  3. Use a teddy bear or stuffed animal to role play the question. Instead of asking the child directly, they can express themselves through a toy they like. All you need is a stuffed animal of your own to communicate with.
  4.  Test out each of the love languages on your little one and see how they react. This might take a little longer but it’s a wonderful way to get to know your grandchild from a distance.

Using the Five Love Languages to Connect Remotely

Each love language can be used to connect with young children remotely. See our tips and explanation for each of the five love languages below. 

Physical Touch

Is your little one a big fan of hugs and kisses? Do they ask you to hold them or like back rubs when they need comforting?  Asking for high fives can also be a sign.

This might seem like a barrier if you live far away from the little one and physically cannot touch them! However, with teddy bears and a little bit of magic, you can overcome this.  Tell your little one that your teddy bear is magic and can send your hug to them! All they have to do is hug their own teddy bear at home. Refer to the teddy and say: ‘I’m giving Bear a really big hug for you right now!’. In turn, they can hug their teddy to send a hug back. This also works in a pre-recorded video. You can even ask your grandchild – ‘Did Bear give you Grandad’s hug?’.

Quality Time

Receiving your undivided attention might be how your child feels the most loved. Kids who respond best to quality time like to be focused on. Eye contact is important. Making sure you take the time to ask them questions about themselves.

Quality time does not have to mean a special outing. You can give your child quality time remotely. This can work in a live video or even a pre-recorded one. Make it clear that you are dedicating this time to sit down and address them. It might be as simple as watching them play with a toy.

Receiving Gifts

Lots of people like to receive gifts, especially children! But for some, it can be the ultimate message of love. To be clear, this is a freely given gift that the child did not have to ‘earn’. Gift giving is not the same as a ‘reward’ for completing a chore or behaving well. This can send mixed messages. The child should feel worthy of love even if they aren’t excelling in a certain area of behaviour. The idea is for the child to feel loved unconditionally.

Gifts do not need to be of great monetary value. You do not need to constantly buy expensive things for your grandchild. Gifts can be anything you find that makes you think of them. A nice leaf you saw when you were out for a walk. Their favourite food or snack of choice. When you communicate with your child from a distance, you can show them the gift in the video. ‘Look at this beautiful shell I found for you when I went to the beach!’. If your relationship is very long distance, you can collect the gifts in a box for the next time you see them. This can serve as a nice time capsule, punctuating your relationship with memories and milestones.

Acts of Service

Some people feel most loved when certain things are taken care of for them. With adults, this can be small acts like making a cup of tea or completing chores around the house.  Completing these acts can have a very positive, love affirming impact on the receiver. For children, this can be a little more complex as it is important to encourage them to complete simple tasks themselves. You can still find acts of service to do for them, such as brushing their hair and styling it the way they like. Or repairing a broken toy or piece of clothing they are fond of.

Acts of Service works nicely from a distance. You can listen to the interests of your little one and learn more about them in your own time. You can research the things they like to tell them useful tips, or finding solutions to problems they have. ‘I heard you’re making cakes to take to school! I’ve found a lovely recipe I think your class will enjoy’.  Alternatively, you can mend or replace an item they are fond of. ‘I heard your favourite teddy needed some help. Mummy sent him to me in the post and I have fixed him up for you! He’ll come back home on Wednesday.’

Words of Affirmation

If your child’s love language is words of affirmation, they will respond well to kind words, compliments, and praise. Your grandchild will simply enjoy being told they are loved.

This one is particularly easy to achieve remotely. In your videos or messages to them, make sure to include praise on a recent thing they did or even an aspect of their character. ‘I love how kind you are to your friends!’. Simply tell them how important they are to you and they are sure to feel loved and worthy.

You've Got This!

Discovering your grandchild’s love language can be a useful tool for bonding remotely. With a bit of creativity, you can build a meaningful connection and support the child in their development and growth. The creator of the 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman) describes each child as having an ‘empty tank’ ready to be filled with love. Bad behaviour can be the result of an empty tank! You can help support the parents of your loved one by filling this tank with them. What a wonderful contribution to their life that everyone can feel good about.

About the author

Dr. Alyea Sandovar is a gamification and child development expert. She is currently the COO at Peekabond.

She was inspired to get into games through games she played with her Abuelita Lela in Colombia. Later as a psychotherapist she saw the power of play and games to transform the lives of her clients which led her to her studies in video games.

She believes creating playful products should not be a headache. As a Kingdom woman, she aims to bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and determination, to every client project. She loves God, cocoa drinks, traveling, dancing and is a bit obsessed with UFOs and Sci-Fi. Her super power is prayer!

Join us at Peekabond by downloading the app here

senior couple happy tablet computer love together

Showing Love – 5 Activities to do when Babysitting at a distance

Growing your Love and Affection With Family at a distance

Last month my sister, who lives in Australia, was in a difficult situation: her husband had covid, so had to self isolate in their house whilst she had to stay in the other side of the house with their two year old daughter. My sister just started a new job, had to cook, take care of her daughter ánd try not to catch covid. You can imagine this was quite a stressful situation. Normally grandparents, friends or family would be able to come to the rescue, however given her husband had covid they also had to self-isolate plus my sister’s in-laws live about 4 hours away of their home, and our family is mostly in the Netherlands. Raising children with family at a distance (especially for expats) is even more challenging during times of a pandemic. I guess there are many parents out there who can relate to this, and that’s why I thought it would be relevant to write this blog. 

Helping my sister

I asked my sister: “Is there’s anything I can do to help you”? We thought for a bit and quickly came up with the idea of me babysitting her daughter remotely through video calling through her tablet and my laptop. My sister was in the other room trying to get some work done. And we had a backup plan: if my little niece would hang up on me (because the big red button is so attractive to push!), or if I could see her doing something dangerous or naughty, I would have my sister on speed dial in the other room. I was pretty nervous before babysitting through video call; I thought “what if something would go wrong on my clock whilst remote babysitting”? She is only 2.5 years old after all. How long could I possibly engage her for so long given her young age and limited attention span? But, I prepared well, and guess what?! I was able to have an amazing fun time with her for about ninety minutes. Sure, she wasn’t engaged fully all the time, but, we made it work. It was actually the first time I had a one-on-one time with her for that long and even though it wasn’t a deep connection, it felt so natural and was so happy I could help my sister with this small act of service.  I always love showing my love and affection by doing something for the person I love, and not being able to babysit and take care of my niece in person can sometimes be painful. I’ve spoken to many grandparents who feel exactly the same: they want to contribute and babysit their grandchild but they feel separated by distance. Babysitting at a distance would not even come to their mind, which is why I thought this might be a nice inspiration for them as well. 
Preparing to Babysit for Parents Remotely
Let me tell you how I prepared for this and maybe it can help you or inspire you as well. There are a couple of Practical tips, Do’s and Don’ts that I listed down here: 

The Babysitter (aka you!)

  1. Charge your devices: This might sound like a no brainer but make sure your devices are fully charged. I recommend to charge your laptop or tablet (with which you’re going to videocall)  in combination with a phone (which should be next to you in case of emergency call to the parent in the other room).  
  2. Make sure to have some props next to your video calling device so you don’t have to go and look for them during the call. I’ll explain more about what props to bring in the Activities section below.
  3. Schedule the babysitting session at a time the child is typically in a good mood. I video called in my late evening (11 PM) so it was early morning in Australia, which is a time that my niece is usually in a great mood. It was not the best time for me personally as it was very late, however it was more important for me that she would be comfortable than the other way around.

The Parent (aka the person that needs help):    

  1. Child-prep the play room: Ask the parent if the room that the child is in whilst video calling is child-proof. That means no sharp objects, electrical outlets covered up, no stairs they can fall from and child-safe furniture. My sister put the tablet (on which my niece was calling) on a table with a comfy pouf in front of the camera.  
  2. Stay close (in the room nextdoor) to the play room.  
  3. Unmute their phone’s sound in case of an emergency call
  4. Give the child a snack that they can munch on whilst video calling. Beware it’s not something like a lolly that they can potentially choke on. My sister gave for example gave my niece a sandwich.  
Activities for Babysitting Remotely
  1. Pictionary & how many do you see?! Pictionary is a very suitable game to play with children whilst videocalling. I had a whiteboard and was drawing all sorts of images on the whiteboard: flowers, a sun, a bee, hearts, shapes, a dog. I asked her if she could guess what I was drawing. My niece is just learning how to count, so with every picture I drew I asked her if she could count for example the number of flowers or flower leafs. This also just works with normal paper and a pen, although a marker is better visible when showing it in the camera. 

This screenshot of me babysitting shows my niece sitting comfortably on a big cushion, whilst eating a sandwich she was pointing and loving the things I was drawing.

2. Sing songs or watch movies together

Another great activity for remote babysitting is singing, dancing or watching a movie together. I prepared a playlist on Spotify specially for my little niece with songs that I know she would love (including famous childrens’ songs like Twinkle twinkle little star, some Disney songs like Jungle Book, and Let it Go from the Frozen movie). I played the songs and we both sang and danced along behind the camera.

Pro tip: with some video calling solutions it’s possible to share the sound on your computer, which works best, but you don’t really need a playlist if you know a couple of songs by heart.

Note: In the print screen above you can see in the blue pop-up that it’s possible to even watch videos and movies together. I didn’t do this because I really liked being more engaged but would love to watch some of my favorite children’s movies with her in the future. 

Ps. I forgot to take a screenshot because I was too busy dancing and singing 🎶 

3. Reading a story with special effects. 

Another great activity for remote babysitting is reading a story. This works best if you both have the same version of the book, but I didn’t have the specific book my niece wanted to read and it still works fine if you don’t have the same book. 

My niece had an animal picture book that she loves with all sorts of animals. I always ask her to guess the animal and she knows what sounds the animals make and I asked her with each animal to make the sound together creating some special effects together. 

In this screenshot you can see me pretending to be a lion, one of the animals she pointed out in her book.

4. Tell a story with some stuffed animals

Another activity that works well for remote babysitting is telling a story with stuffed animals. I for example had two cuddly bears in my house that I could use as props and I pretended to drink a cup of tea with them. Using funny voices and sounds and letting the animals have all sorts of emotions works really well with engaging with young children whilst baby sitting. You can pretend to give some tea to the camera to your child at a distance but remember to keep it simple. I asked my niece a couple of questions to let her play along with the stuffed animals but she was so mesmorized with the bears that she didn’t really answer. 

 

This screenshot shows I’m having a good time, however my eyes are getting smaller as it was almost midnight in the Netherlands.

5. Show your love by explicitly saying you’re giving a cuddle 

The best part of my video calls with my little niece is always the end when she gives the phone a hug and a kiss goodbye. For children it is really important to make explicit that you would rather give them a hug in real life, however that you’ll use a cuddly bear as a “stand-in” who can magically transfer the hugs. 

 

This blurry picture is personally my favorite part as I know she’s pretending to give me a hug and kiss goodbye after babysitting at a distance through video calling.  

Do you want more inspiration? At Peekabond we have tons of creative play suggestions for playing with young children at a distance. We created a mobile app that uses video messaging to share playful videos to each other at any time. You can also use many of those play suggestions when you’re online at the same time to babysit remote.  Interested? Download it here.

Feel Together with your family, even from a distance #2

Article posted in Delft MaMa blog 

The holiday season is a time we all look forward to being together. It is a time to reconnect, spend some time enjoying each other’s company, and perhaps forget about the realities of the world. For many families in the Delft MaMa community, 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.

I am Anieke Lamers, the founder of Peekabond. I was inspired to create Peekabond after I became a long-distance auntie myself. Previously, 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, for me and all those other families.

So, if your family keeps asking, “What should we give your little one(s) as a present this year?” Then, look no further because I have some great tips for you!

Read the full article here:
Feel together with your family, even from a distance

The challenges of remote bonding with young children

Let’s face it: Remote bonding with young children is hard. A little over two years ago, I became an aunt of a little niece in Australia (far away from where I live in The Netherlands), and, since then, I have been searching desperately for solutions to help with remote bonding with young children. I couldn’t find a proper solution, so, I made it my personal mission to create the best digital solution possible so beautiful bonds can be built across generations, continents, and cultures.

This blog summarizes findings from interviews with hundreds of families across the world. I’ve spoken to grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, children, and other loved ones, and here are some quotes, because I believe that pain shared is pain lessened.

Pain shared is pain lessened

So for anyone who reads this blog: from long-distance grandparents to divorced parents, uncles, or aunts who live/work internationally as expats and have to spend time away from a child they love very dearly, I want you to understand that: You are not alone.  Many share your pain of missing young children in their families. 

Some of the pains experienced by family members trying to connect with young children at a distance include:

“I feel it’s very difficult to establish an actual real contact”

It’s already hard to keep in touch with grown-ups – let alone with young children, who have a limited attention span and to whom you might be a “vague concept” from a distance. Young kids cannot hold their attention for a longer period of time and family video calls often end up being a conversation between adults with everyone involved being frustrated. One mother mentioned: “The conversation is literally happening above my daughter’s head”. Young children might become frustrated because they want attention.

I don’t know how to engage my child behind a screen”

It’s also difficult to engage with children if you don’t see them often because you just don’t know what they like. The truth is: As grown-ups, we often forget how to be playful and especially don’t know how to be playful when you’re not together. WhatsApp/Zoom calls often end up being a conversation because us grown-ups are only used to having serious conference calls that way.

‘I just can’t find the time’

Some (grand)parents I’ve spoken to indicated that planning is also very hard with young children. Depending on the culture – for example, Hofstede’s theory states that Western cultures are more individualized – the grandparents don’t want to impose on the lives of the parent/primary caretakers. Some families have to bridge a huge time zone difference which makes it challenging to “catch” each other in a moment that neither of the parties feels tired because it’s either too early in the morning or too late in the evening. There are so many responsibilities a parent or caretaker needs to take care of first, and connecting to family members at a distance might feel like a chore rather than fun family time.

I just want to hold their little hand and hug them”

Believe me, I know how heartbreaking it is to be away from the ones you love; you just want to hug them and give them a kiss. For some people, not being able to physically touch the ones you love can be even more painful, if this is one of your “languages of love”. The Dutch have a word called “huidhonger”, which literally translates to “skin hunger,”: the feeling people develop when they are touch deprived and feel disconnected from one another.

“Family video calls feel like forced conversations”

Quality time (another one of the love languages) is also hard to get when you’re at a distance. You just want to be with them and hang out, maybe not do anything. One interviewee answered: “Bonding, to me, means to just enjoy the silence together”.

“I wish there was something I could do for them to show them how much I care”

 The so-called “Acts of Service” are doing something for your loved one that you know they would like, such as cooking them a meal, taking the kids to school, or cleaning the house. Doing an act of service for someone can feel difficult at a distance. For example, grandparents at a distance would love to babysit (to help the parents), but that can be practically challenging (or impossible) if you cannot be physically there. Grandparents feel like they have so much to offer, but the distance is getting in the way. They want to do more but you just don’t know-how.

“I feel like I’m missing out, they are growing so fast”

One day they are just a tiny baby making gugu-gaga sounds, and the next they are walking around using full sentences and you’re like: “how did that happen?” and “how did I miss that?”. You want to be a part of their special moments such as their first smile and their first steps, but you also want to have “normal” moments together like simply brushing your teeth together. Plus, you see their faces changing so fast.

“I know I won’t be around forever (grandparent) and I want to leave a legacy”

When it comes to aging, many people want to experience the satisfaction of “giving back”, contributing to, and being of service to others. Some of the grandparents (and parents) I’ve spoken to want to leave memories and a legacy for their children to enjoy after they have passed away but forget to do that before it’s too late.

“I want to invest time to bond, but I also love my life and hobbies and sometimes life just gets in the way”

Many (grand)parents have busy social lives and it’s easy to forget to invest the time to spend on (grand)children if it’s not a habit. Out of sight, out of mind. People find it difficult to build a family ritual if you’re not together.

“I see a lot of pictures, and on the one hand they make me happy but on the other hand they make me sad because I’m not a part of it and I feel like I’m just watching their life through the sidelines”

Sure there’s Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, WeChat, or other photo-sharing solutions, but there’s no two-way street and interaction with the child(ren). You feel like you’re watching their life from a sideline rather than being a part of it. You receive a lot of nice pictures from their lives, but you don’t feel like you’re a part of that. Plus, when you share pictures it’s usually to the family app, where only the adults see your updates.

“I’m not good at technology”

Some people might be a bit “scared” of technology. Either because they are too old for it and don’t feel “tech-savvy enough” or because they don’t think it’s right for children. Sometimes, they feel the combination of warm bonds and technology just doesn’t rhyme. Some parents are opposed to any screen time at all for children.

A little bit scared

Finally, it might be that you’re also a little scared to fully open your heart to a little loved one at a distance because it can be scary to love someone. It might be easier not to do that because of the fear of missing out (#FOMO). I devoted a blog/vlog on this here: https://peekabond.com/2021/10/13/being-a-long-distance-auntie/

Try Peekabond

Do you recognize these pains and would you like to find a way to bond remotely with young children? We have a solution to soften the pain of being away from a child at a distance: 

Peekabond is a simple way to share playful moments and have fun together. We give: 

  • Inspiration of fun, playful activities (ranging from games, stories, songs etc)
  • Responsible content that is based on child-development science 
  • A way to communicate directly with young children
  • To share moments in a two-way street (not just pictures from babies to family but actual shared experiences)
  • A safe place to store everything 

We have a growing library of over 50 activities that you can use to build a bond with your loved ones. It’s available for iOS and Android. 

Download our app today for instant access to fun and playful activities to do when you’re at a distance.

Try Peekabond