When states, oceans and even a government lockdown separates families, it can be challenging to find ways to connect, beyond a boring FaceTime call from the living room couch. While video chat is an essential tool for many of our suggestions, we’ve come up with ways to really spend time with parents, siblings and other loved ones, despite not being together in person. It’s surprising the creative things that can turn a phone call into an event or celebration. It’s time to tighten those bonds.
Watch the Game Together (don't forget the classics)
Set up a Zoom chat, pop open a beer and enjoy some good ole fashioned football talk while watching the game with those who can’t be there. Maybe your son or daughter lives far away, and you are really missing commentating with them, this is a solid solution. Turn on a classic game since most sports are cancelled in 2020.
Tackle a Project
Working on pieces of a project that will later come together is a way to tap into a deeper connecting experience, rather than just chatting through FaceTime alone. It could be as simple as pulling old family photos together from everyone’s personal collection, to later place in a big communal album. If the kids have been begging for a playhouse, have one person working on interior decorations, and another cutting pieces of wood and figuring out construction when it’s time to get together.
We all are nestled under the same night sky, and if somewhat away from the city, families can see some of the same constellations. Lay a blanket out, connect via speakerphone, and sync up with the same constellation finder book. A reasonably decent telescope can help offer a clearer, more accurate view of various starry sites.
Create Art Together
Art is a universal language—it can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, performed by anyone, and most importantly, shared. Have a painting party (wine optional), with canvas and paint kits from Amazon. Designate a person to each painter, for who they are painting their picture for. Maybe it will be an exchange, or everyone could send finished pieces to a local nursing home or care facility.
Master Family Recipes
Food can be shared even if far apart. Mom and daughter can work on mastering traditional pasta together, but in separate kitchens. Maybe you finally have the time to let dad show you how to make his famous smoked salmon. Share your tips and tricks, talk about the results and successes, while enjoying the experience in each other’s virtual company. A special way to commemorate the baking or cooking event would be to send along a must-have tool or ingredient. If you want a challenge, try an online cooking class like Cozymeal. The classes are led by world-class chefs and are fully interactive, where students can chat and get feedback from the chefs in real time. The best part: you can invite friends and family to join in on the class so you’re all taking part in the fun — it will almost feel like you’re in the kitchen together.
Party in a Box
Birthdays are among the most sorrowfully missed events of families who are far away from each other. But the void could be partially filled by sending a loved one a party in a box! Pinterest is loaded with inspiration—candles, cookies, goody bags, gift cards and festive accents can fill the box to be shipped to the birthday boy or girl. If trying to simplify, make it an Amazon birthday, sending gift wrapped presents and decorations. Be sure to send a cake!
Meet Fitness Goals
A workout buddy can often be that extra push to help get you off the couch and over to that dusty work out bike in the corner of the bedroom. And you don’t have to have them there in person to coach each other through a tough cardio session. Investing in a solid piece of equipment with a great functional use, like a Peloton bike, is a good place to start. With Peloton’s bike, treadmill or app, you can stream fitness classes together, no matter where you live. But if there’s a good, open place to walk or run, that works too. Use a FitBit to track your steps and stay motivated by competing with friends or family with FibtBit challenges. These unique adventures are just one way you can help each other reach your fitness goals.
Everyone grab some snacks, and your iPhones, and connect for a family game night. While Monopoly, Clue and other board games could present challenges when playing long distance, a wealth of other activities and options are easily played over a video chat. Simple answer and guessing games can be altered to fit the circumstances, like Cards Against Humanity, Taboo or Pictionary. There’s also the option of online video games.
It may not be Christmas time, but we can’t think of a better time to send each other a little happiness in a box. With a bit of reconfiguring, the classic gifting game is something that will bring a little extra brightness to everyone. Pick a “host”, who will do all the name drawing, letting each person know who their recipient will be. Since the host is kind of getting the short straw, everyone can send them a little something, while they try to guess who each item is from. Make it interesting! Perhaps a burrito blanket for those missing taco Tuesday.
Put on a Show
Missing plays and monumental performances can be somewhat resolved by getting the kids involved in a performance night. Bring out the flutes and trumpets for a solo concert, put together a homemade version of the latest school play, or encourage a night of singing and guitar playing. Even a puppet show can break the monotony, while melting hearts everywhere.