You can’t travel right now, across the country or down the road, but that doesn’t mean you’re without options. Tap or click here to try a Netflix Party with your kids and grandchildren. With today’s tech, you can have video conversations and play games with your loved ones, near and far. Not sure where to start? We’ve got a few tips you and the whole family can enjoy, starting with a few good video chatting apps.

Go beyond a phone call

There are tons of video chat apps, but if you have a smartphone or tablet, the native apps are reliable options with all the features you need. Let’s start with Apple’s offering, FaceTime, which features end-to-end encryption so your calls are safe and sound.


To activate FaceTime, simply open your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and go to the pre-installed FaceTime app. If you can’t find it, simply say, “Hey Siri, open FaceTime” or open Settings » FaceTime. To set it up, sign in with your Apple ID.

From an iPhone, go to FaceTime » Use your Apple ID for FaceTime, then sign in with your Apple ID.From your iPad or iPod touch, open Settings » FaceTime » Use your Apple ID for FaceTime, then sign in with your Apple ID.

To make a FaceTime call, open the app and tap the + icon on the top right of the screen. Enter a name from your Contacts list or manually enter a phone number or email address, then tap Video to make the call. If you want to have a little extra fun with the grandkids and you own an iPhone X or later, or an iPad with Face ID, use a Memoji during the FaceTime video call. This is a cute custom avatar you can set up. Tap or click here to set up your Memoji. To chat with a Memoji, open FaceTime and make a call. When the call begins, tap the effects button (it looks like a flower), then tap the Memoji you want to use. When you’re ready to show your face, just tap the X. All right, iPhone users, you’re ready to go. Now onto an option for Android.

Google Duo

If you own a first or second-generation Pixel, Google Duo is already installed. If not, you can get it here. Google Duo allows you to video chat through your phone, tablet, computer or even a smart display with end-to-end encryption. You can leave a video message if the person you’re calling doesn’t pick up, too. Ready to set up Google Duo?

Open the app, enter your phone number, then tap Get verification code. Enter the verification number. Then open Google DuoOpen Google Duo and choose Video Call. Select a contact and your phone will automatically start calling your contact. Easy, right?

Marco Polo

This free video messaging app is free for iOS and Android and offers extra features not available on either FaceTime or Google Duo. Instead of video calling, use Marco Polo to record and send videos. It’s perfect if you have trouble sending videos from an iPhone to an Android or vice versa. Add friends or family as contacts within the app and record messages for them. When they receive your message, they can respond with video messages of their own. Set up is simple.

Download the app and verify your phone number and email address. Sync your contacts or invite them during setup. Marco Polo will request permission to access your microphone and camera — both are required to record video messages with audio. After setup, press the + sign on the top right of the app to start a video message. For extra fun, choose from the available filters. It’s that easy.

But what about interacting with your grandkids? Let’s talk about online games. (Don’t worry, these are games anyone can play.)

Play games

Are you ready to go beyond video calls? Download some free games to play together. Here are a few apps to help you out.

Words with Friends

Words with Friends is a free app for iOS and Android. It’s like Scrabble, so it’s best played with older children. It’s also a great way to help them expand their vocabulary. There’s even a built-in messaging option so if you play a game over the course of several days, you can leave little notes for each other. You may also enjoy: 10 best video games for people over 55

Draw Something

This Pictionary-like game is available free for iOS and Android. Laugh at the hilarious drawings you each come up with in an attempt to describe anything from animals to movies to actions and objects.

Free flashcards

Want to help educate the younger grandkids? Print out these free flashcards from Turn to your preferred video chat options and help your grandchildren learn words, colors, numbers and more. Options span preschool age to fifth grade and cover a variety of subjects, including:

Fine artsForeign languageMathReading & writingScienceSocial studies

Bonus: Spend quality time

The best part about video chatting apps is you can do just about anything together. Color or draw together, dance, read a story or watch the same movie at the same time. The sky is the limit! Distance is tough, but with a little help from tech, you can enjoy time together even when you’re far away. The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.