Many of us will be spending more time at home during the outbreak of COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus), and for those with young children, you may have to get a bit creative to keep them entertained during this time.
To try to help, we sat down with the Child and Family Services team at Gillette Children’s to get some tips on ways you can practice proper social distancing, stay home and safe without going completely stir-crazy in the coming weeks.
First things first, talk to your children about what’s going on
“Even young children have a great capacity to pick up on the social cues of those around them. Just because you haven’t explained what’s going on, doesn’t mean that they haven’t noticed that something’s up,” says Shannon Wier, a Child Life Specialist at Gillette. “If your child is old enough for you to talk to them about COVID-19, you should. How explicitly you want to get into the details is up to you, but the most important thing is to involve them in this process. Give them tasks to help prevent the spread of the disease. Whether it’s making sure to wash their hands for 20 seconds or wiping down surfaces after they’ve used them, giving them agency and some semblance of control during this process will make them feel more secure.”
Ideas for activities
“This could go on for a while, so it’s likely that you’ll exhaust your typical “go-to’s” for activities at some point,” says Wier. “Since trips to the store should be limited to only when necessary, try to take a look around, see what you can make use of in your own home and brainstorm with your child about fun activities they’d like to do.”
Our team had some ideas and in no particular order, here they are:
- Cover a small table with a blanket and use paper lunch bags or craft sticks to make puppets and put on your own show
- Build a reading nook or fort with blankets, pillows and favorite books
- Fill a tub or bin with water and build a bath for your child’s toys
- Do a family puzzle
- If you have a pet, extra play, training and most importantly, snuggles, are a must
- Play hide and seek
- Coloring books
- Build an exercise circuit
- Play with blocks, clay or Legos
- Bake and decorate cookies
- Build a sensory bin in a household container that your child can play with. A sensory bin can be filled with a large variety of different materials such as shredded paper, water beads, water, sand, and more
- Have a dance party
- Collect rocks to paint
- Try yoga and stretching
- Build an obstacle course
Here are some additional resources with more ideas:
Stay in contact with the outside world
“Humans are social beings by nature, so we’re all going to struggle with the lack of contact with other people and the outside world,” says Wier. “Try to look for ways that you can bring the world to your child. If it’s video chatting with relatives and their friends, playing collaborative video games, or utilizing other online resources, do your best to remind them that there’s a big world out there and that this time will pass.”
Here are some additional resources to check out:
Screen time: Give yourself grace
“Children getting too much screen time is already something that parents worry about, and those concerns will likely only be exacerbated during this time,” says Karla Schaitberger, another child life specialist at Gillette. “We’d advise parents to cut themselves a bit of slack about this while waiting things out. Yes, certainly your children should doing more than just staring at a screen for the next few weeks, but technology is also what’s going to keep them connected to their peers, so it’s really a judgement call. Try to encourage screen time that is educational when possible.”
Take care of yourself
“People are feeling fairly anxious right now,” says Schaitberger. “It’s completely normal and responsible to be taking steps to ensure that your family is as safe as you can be, but please remember that you need to take time for yourself too. How you are feeling will play a large role in how your children are feeling, so if you start feeling overwhelmed, take time for self-care.”
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