I am talking Skype or not specifically Skype but any video calls, such a mac's version or google hangouts. We Skype all the time and it has a made a HUGE difference for the relationships with Ebi-kun and family back in the UK. Google hangouts are much more fun and you can have up to 10 friends on at once BUT you need to have a high speed internet connection for it to work well.
We don't make it back to the UK that often and then when we do it is often just a day or two at most where we get to spend time with extended family. You wouldn't think that if you saw the cousins together, there is no shyness or awkward moments - they get straight in there.
When you first introduce video calls, it can often be quite awkward, no one knows what to say or how to interact. Here are a few tips which helped us to get the ball rolling as it were...
Prompts - Have an adult at each end with some questions to prompt the kids with, parents often know if there is some common ground that you can connect the kids with. M-chan on the picture above is a big Hello Kitty fan and we are in Japan, home of the mouthless cat so Ebi-kun was telling her some useless kitty facts. Her brother is Lego mad so the boys tend to talk about that and show off their different Lego models.
Singing - When M-chan was younger the only interaction we got out of her were songs, she wouldn't talk but was happy to sing, so we would sing songs together or she would teach Ebi-kun 'playground alternatives' to the songs he knew.
Games - guessing games are fun, charades or similar.
Quizzes - these could be pre-prepared, each child makes up 10 questions to ask the other one.
Show & tell - or show and brag as it seems to be with the Lego boys! We have friends in the US and when we chatted to them, the boys got super excited when they discovered they all liked Ninjago.
Once they have got going, you can step back and leave them to it.
One of the issues that arises when raising a bilingual/bicultural child is that, they don't always know the child language or child appropriate way of saying things. Purely because (in our case) most of his English is absorbed from adults.
The other thing is the introduction to different accents. The majority of our English speaking friends here, don't have a very strong local dialect but of course, back home the dialect changes every 20 miles or so. It is great for Ebi-kun to interact with friends and family back home so that he can get used to hearing all these different accents. M-chan lives in Wigan and has the sort of accent which wouldn't be out of place on a building site! Her older brother has a very mixed up accent because they moved around a lot when he was younger, so although he sometimes struggles with what M-chan is saying, it is good for them to communicate.
Now, over to you... do use Skype or similar and do your kids? Do you have a games or activity that works really well? Please share in the comments section below.
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