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Skyper's Secret

Lots of grandparents live a long distance from their grandchildren or spend the winter months in warmer climates. They try to use Skype to communicate. Some report that it's really hard to maintain little children's attention and conversations can sometimes turn out to be a short, disappointing call.

But there may be a secret solution to this that comes from the most unlikely place. If you haven't heard of "Unboxing" I'm not surprised. It's the craziest online pastime ever. But marketers may have figured out how to capture the attention of kids (and adults) ... and keep it!

Our grandson is obsessed with what he calls "toy videos." I don't know how he stumbled on the first one, but once he watched one he was totally intrigued and wanted to watch more. These are short Youtube videos, involving an adult or child who is opening up, assembling and showing you how to play with toys. Sounds silly, right? The problem is that people become enthralled because they love watching the BIG REVEAL- the moment they find out what the surprise inside looks like.

There's brain science to back up this phenomenon. Charlotte Keating, a child psychologist from Melbourne, Australia calls the appeal "mimetic desire." If other people see an object as desirable then they'll mimic this, release the hormone dopamine and anticipate more. In other words, if someone is opening up a gift or package or anything hidden and they hype or ramp up the experience, a child will get excited and want to continue to watch.

This particular article claims there may be no harm from watching these videos, but there aren't any studies to support this.

In the meantime, if you see a kid named Ryan unwrapping toys , or American Girl "blind bag" openings such as or Toys Unlimited and their Play Doh surprise eggs, you'll see what I mean.

I began thinking about how weird this is. Yet, maybe there's something we grandparents could use to our advantage and why not use brain science to our benefit? Next time you're having a Skype conversation, open up a package or uncover a secret. Consider a big reveal! If you have a story to tell or something to talk to your grandchild about make it visual.

For example, if you want to tell little Marc about how you went to visit cousin Lucy, have a photo of sweet Lucy and put it in a box. Make it like a game. Elaborate on Peek-a-boo! "Guess who I went to visit yesterday?" While talking, you could have a little Matchbox car on the table that you roll around a cool looking box. Keep talking. Then, Unbox cousin Lucy's photo and see how excited your grandchild gets.

I have no idea if this will work but I'd love to find out. It might be worth trying this little science experiment on your next Skype visit and letting us know if it turns into a marathon conversation.

And if you're not convinced yet, consider how his approach seems to be working with adults... another strange phenomenon. An intelligent adult with opinions unwraps technology gadgets like coffee machines, toasters or chain saws. A lot of folks tune in to watch. One guy has over 3 million subscribers. His youtube videos are called Unbox Therapy and they're touted to be, "where technology gets naked."

Go figure!

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