We recently discovered Sesame Street’s Story Visit. It was the perfect way for the toddler to engage with her aunt who is studying abroad for the next few years. At the tender age of 3, the toddler who has known my sister her entire life, affectionately considers her the alternative version of me was devastated.
When my sister decided to move half way around the globe a few months ago, it was difficult explaining to a 3 year old why she’d no longer get to see her favorite aunt. The first few weeks were the roughest as my sister, who then lived far away in New Jersey, had often spent the weekend sleeping over to spend time with her niece and nephew. There would be no more sleep overs and the concept of far away no longer made sense to her as her aunt lived far away in New Jersey and came every weekend, so why couldn’t she come now. How far was this far away? When her aunt left, there was many promises of skyping and phone calls and while we had those moments, it simply wasn’t the same.
The toddler wanted her Aunt to come over and play with her. She wanted her Aunt to read her a book. She wanted her Aunt to tuck her into bed. She wanted to show her Aunt her new toys. She didn’t understand why her Aunt just couldn’t come over. While the phone calls were okay, she didn’t understand why she couldn’t just call her Aunt anytime she wanted. When her Aunt was stateside, the toddler would hand me my cellphone and tell me to dial her Aunt and we’d call her anytime the toddler wanted. She was very confused by this move around the globe and trying to explain time zones to a 3 year old just wasn’t going to happen. Believe me, I tried.
“Your Aunt is sleeping.” “Why?” “It’s nighttime there.” “No it’s not.” “Yes it is, over there.” “Far away?” “Yes, far away” “No, it’s not. Call Auntie!” “Fine, we can leave a voice message.” –skype vm — “Hi Auntie! It’s Ava. Can you read me a story? I love you! Bye-bye!” — hang up, hands me my cell phone — “Text Auntie Mommy! Tell her to call Ava” — and we’d go on and on until she got tired…
When I discovered Story Visit designed by the people at Nokia Research Center, I thought the idea was brilliant! They initially pitched it to me for grandparents living across the country to converse with their grandkids but all I could think about was how close this was to having Auntie reading the toddler a story. It was part video conferencing and part connected story reading.
Navigating the site is rather intuitive. It involves initial account and camera set up for both sides but after that it’s easy as pie. The library currently has 7 books for you to read with your favorite little one (Ages 2 – 5). It’s a very interactive reading approach. Both parties can control the environment with both sides seeing exactly what the other is seeing on the same page. If the child clicks on a balloon in the story, the adult on the other screen will see a click on the balloon if on the same page. There were a few glitches, mostly due to my sister’s poor internet connection. There sometimes was a voice relay delay, othertime it would time out, but when it went smoothly, it was loads of fun for both the toddler and her Aunt.
Story Visit is available for a limited time during their research period for a free 4 week trial, but I hope they continue this offering as this is such a wonderful way for the toddler to connect in play with her Aunt around the globe.