Life on the inside: 10 ways to make family video chats more entertaining

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Video calls are helping millions of families stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic – but with daily life deep in Groundhog Day mode for many of us, it’s easy to run out of things to talk about.

Switching it up with some good, old-fashioned organised challenges can boost the amusement factor – and give you all something to talk about that isn’t just what you had for lunch.

Want some new family video call challenges to try? Here are 10 ideas…

A group of women use the Zoom video conferencing application to have a group chat from their separate homes, during the UK coronavirus lockdown (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

They usually descend into bickering and someone always cheats but that’s half the fun of a family games night – and being miles apart doesn’t have to mean play goes on pause.

Depending how tech-savvy your relatives are, there are loads of options for games to play on video platforms like Zoom, with online versions inspired by everything from Cards Against Humanity ( has a similar concept) to bingo doing the rounds.

If you want to keep the tech side as simple as possible, family favourites like charades and Pictionary work well – just use real pens and paper and hold your artwork up to the camera.

2. Family bake off

Coronavirus – Sun Apr 19, 2020
Riah Totten, 8, from Belfast, has been baking hundreds of scones for the elderly and vulnerable in local communities (Family handout/PA)

All families love a bit of healthy competitive fun, so why not set some bake off challenges for your video calls? You can each show off your masterpieces (or mishaps) and then enjoy a slice with a cuppa as you chat.

3. Quizzes

Continuing the competition theme (does sibling rivalry ever run out of steam?), quizzes are an easy way to inject some organised fun into those group catch-ups too. You could make it a weekly event, taking turns to be question master.

There are loads of ready-made and interactive downloads online (try a trivia generator), or simply create your own. It’s good brain training for anyone missing work too.

4. Memory lane

You could even use prompts to get into the flow of it, one week everyone could share a favourite Christmas or birthday memory.

Or it could be a chance to learn more about each other, by sharing memories that aren’t from shared family occasions, such as stories from your schooldays.

5. Create a playlist

Everyone thinks of a song and then chats about why they picked it or why it’s special to them. You can take turns to play them and create a longer family playlist as the weeks go by.

6. Dinner date

Evening meal terminology
Dinner is a handy reason to reach out to family for a video call and share a meal together, remotely (Edward Smith/PA)

This is where some crafty multitasking comes in handy. How about having a video call over dinner? That way, you’re eating together (sort of) and you can chat and feel connected but in a relaxed, informal way.

7. Story time

A great one for aunties, uncles and grandparents – reading a story via video call is a lovely way to keep up those connections with the little ones in your family.

If it’s a picture book, their mum or dad can take snaps of the text beforehand and message it to the reader, so the youngster can sit and turn the pages while listening.

8. Mix up the backgrounds

If you’re using Zoom for your video calls, you can change the background with any photo you like – cue endless fun and games.

You could set challenges to see who comes up with the most outrageous or silly themes, or just dig out some embarrassing snaps of your brother from the early ’80s.

9. Dressing up

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I wouldn’t get dressed up during lock down for anyone, except @howtoglitteraturd I’ve been a patron of @coppafeelpeople for years and know how important the work they do is. Like so many charities Coppafeel has and will suffer due to the pandemic so I’ll do what I can to help them rebuild after all of this is over. Kris, the founder (and my dear mate) has initiated a #formalfriday to inspire us to dress up today and also donate £5 to @coppafeelpeople I’m currently editing my book whilst dressed like Diana Ross. Me and Jesse are tag teaming working from home at the moment. I’m maxing out my editing hour in heels whilst he deals with shouting children. ( @beyondskin ) I nominate @bryonygordon @poornabell @angelascanlon @therealgokwan @hotpatooties Do your own #formalfriday and nominate five people #coppafeel

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Rummaging through the house for props and makeshift costumes is half the joy. Or simply dig out your finest garb and dress up for the occasion.

10. Arty party

If baking is a flop, make it an art challenge instead. Start with family portraits – you can flip coins to see who does who or rotate until you have a full family set each.

If nothing else, it’ll be a laugh, and you can frame your works of art as a funny keepsake.

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