Cool Play At Long Distance

Even the most sociable kids can sometimes find it tricky to keep interacting socially through technology. We’ve all been on a video call where our usually chatty kids seem to forget how to talk and just don’t know what to say!

For seriously sick kids, the thought of getting on the phone ‘just to chat’ can be particularly tough when their life feels so different to their friends’.


“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

– Fred Rogers


This week, we share some ideas for encouraging play and social engagement through technology. These might be useful for a recess or lunch time, or a quiet period at school where there’s a chance for the student to have some social time with their friends. Or, they could be fun to try with friends and family on the weekend.

Play is a vital element in helping kids of all ages grow, learn, and relax, and school is one of the most important places for allowing play to happen. Here are five ideas for digital play, some with a telepresence robot, and some with other devices!



Social Activities That Can Be Played at A Distance


1. Online Games

Screen-sharing capability on any digital device (laptop, iPad, tablet or some telepresence robots) makes for a great medium for shared online games – be they classics like Chessor Checkersor visual games like, a free online multiplayer drawing and guessing Pictionary game.

2. Co-op Games

Best on laptop-laptop connections, co-op games are also online but are cooperative in nature. The players (two, or more!) play the same game and work towards a shared goal. A fun example is Overcooked where players run a restaurant and manage customers’ orders while running around, making soup and stopping things from catching fire! There are many excellent co-op games available, and kids who may struggle to get through a five-minute conversation might happily spend hours playing games and chatting online.

3. Social Deduction

Social Deduction games like Werewolf are popular offerings which can get everyone engaged and interacting and build social confidence. They also tend to be fast, dramatic, and funny, and good candidates for teacher oversight, which makes them great to introduce to classrooms.

4. Obstacle Course

If the student is using a telepresence robot in the classroom, chairs or desks can be rearranged at recess or lunch to create a maze for the robot to be piloted around, with objectives or goals such as toys or ‘treasures’ in different corners of the maze. This sort of approach also provides the opportunity for games such as hide-and-seek, where the student piloting the robot hunts around the room for hidden people or objects.

5. Spicing Up Conversations

Beyond games, simple conversations can be spiced up using fun camera filters, sharing a news item or exchanging gifts, cards or e-cards for a special occasion.


Alongside these suggestions, of course, we recommend any games be ability- and age-appropriate and supervised for any risks.

If you have ideas for encouraging play and social engagement at a distance, feel free to reply and let us know! We love to hear and share suggestions that have worked with other families and schools.

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