What if there were an app that let you spend true quality time with your grandchildren who live far away? A way to engage during video calls with grandchildren that you enjoyed as much as they did, that let you watch them learn and play, and allowed you to deepen your long-distance relationship with your grandchildren? Would you believe me if I told you there is?
I’ve tried a lot of apps designed to connect long distance grandparents with their grandchildren. If you look, however, you won’t see much about them on this blog. That’s because the apps with long distance activities for grandparents and grandchildren that I’ve tested have fallen short for me, and I won’t recommend something that isn’t going to add value to video chats with the grandkids.
Recently, I was invited to test out Kinoo, a new twist on games during video calls with grandchildren ages 3-7. Their website promises that “Kinoo takes video chat to the next level with engaging activities designed for grandparents and grandkids.” I agreed to try it, and they kindly sent my grandchildren a Kinoo Controller wand (more about that in a minute) so we could take advantage of all the activities that are offered.
Kinoo’s Technology is Seamless
The wand arrived just a day before the other grandparents did, so it took a couple of weeks before we had a chance to try it out. I wasn’t in a big hurry, because I expected an experience much like the other ones I’ve had: the kids get frustrated by the technology and I get bored by the activities.
I was wrong about the technology. The set-up was simple and streamlined. The look of the platform is cheerful and friendly, and the characters that guide you through activities are cute without being annoying. It’s easy to navigate for both grandparent and grandchild. Kinoo worked flawlessly from start to finish each time we played. (To download the Kinoo app, you need a US-based Apple App Store account. Use of Kinoo requires an iPhone or iPad, 2017 or newer, running iOS 13 or later.)
Kinoo’s Activities: Video Chat Games for Grandkids That You’ll Enjoy
I was wrong about the activities, too. They were fun! Some are versions of well-known games, like matching and memory games. Most have different levels of difficulty and layers of depth. For example, I played a sock matching game with my four-year-old granddaughter. After taking turns to successfully match all the colorful pairs of socks, two laundry baskets appeared and we had to sort them into stripes and dots. It extended the fun—and the learning. Other activities, like a trip to the moon, are developed just for the app by Kinoo's team of experts in social-emotional learning.
Throughout the games, you can see your grandchild’s face well (even on my tiny iPhone Mini screen!). The best part of the sock matching game was seeing her lean back, smile and say “Your turn!” each time she put two socks together. Was it as good as being there? Of course not. Was it almost as good? Yes.
The games we’ve played have all been collaborative rather than competitive, something else Kinoo gets right. Working towards a common goal is a powerful relationship builder, even if that goal is just matching animated snowmen or making a digital pizza. Pops and the grandson decorated a cake together, and they made each other laugh as they tried to one-up each other with lavish and outlandish additions to the cake. “I had a lot of fun playing,” Pops reported. Jim Marggraff, founder of Kinoo, told me that this is one of the things they are finding: Kinoo is drawing grandfathers into new relationships.
So, What’s the Kinoo Controller Wand?
The Kinoo Controller wand is a clever addition to the video chat experience. Depending on the game, it can be a fishing pole, a chisel for sculpting, or a spoon for stirring cookie dough. It adds a physical dimension to the games, which helps young children stay engaged—and uses some motor skills, too! While it’s possible to play most of the games without it right now, it definitely raises the fun factor and I recommend making the investment (read on for a discount for my readers!).
You CAN Make Memories on Video Chat
Though going on an actual outing with your grandchild is a superior way to make memories, I am pretty sure my grandchildren will remember our trips to the moon on Kinoo. My grandson (not quite six years old) loved the whole experience, from making funny faces to the moment when our spaceship was hit by a toilet. (When making the same journey with my granddaughter, we hit a rubber duck. Maybe it was just random, but I like to think that Kinoo targeted their ages with the item that would most appeal.) He looked as if he was truly delighted when he saw he was “holding the flag” in our final photo op, and he wanted to make sure I took a picture. Kinoo makes it easy to capture screenshots, which you can then share from within the app.
The Best Part: Connection Prompts that Build Relationships
What really set Kinoo apart for me was the connection prompts. The first time we played, my grandson and I were playing a snowman match game. From time to time, a prompt would pop up on my screen. Some were suggestions to enrich the activity, like "point out the features of the snowman you are looking for". Others were conversation starters, like "talk about a time you played in the snow".
Many grandparents don’t know what to say during a video chat—we are out of practice talking to small children! The prompts in Kinoo were clearly developed by experts who know how to spark conversation and connection. If you are ever lost for words, there’s always a suggestion waiting to help you out.
Kinoo is Worth the Price (Plus a discount for you!)
At the time of this review, Kinoo can be played for free for a limited number of minutes each month. You can get unlimited time for $9.99 a month inside the app, or purchase a Kinoo Controller and get two months of unlimited time for $99. Right now, readers of More Than Grand can get 20% off with code 20GRAND. If you think about what you would spend on an outing with your grandchildren, Kinoo seems like a bargain!
How Long Does the Fun Last?
According to Marggraff, long-distance grandparents are finding that their average video chat lasts longer with Kinoo. I can attest to that: when we’ve tested other apps, ten minutes is our limit. With Kinoo, I had to ask for more time because we’ve been having so much fun! The makers of Kinoo know how hard it can be to say goodbye, and they’ve built in a way for grandparents to help the child know an activity is coming to an end. They also created a very special way to end your calls—one that will fill your screen with love.
If you are looking for ways to connect with your long-distance grandchildren, you will definitely want to try Kinoo for yourself. Visit their website and use code 20GRAND to get 20% off.
Although I received a Kinoo Controller as a gift, this review contains my honest, unbiased experience and opinion.