The unthinkable has happened: Coronavirus is spreading throughout the country (see updates here) and all over the world. In the interest of public health, we have to keep our kids isolated from other humans, large and small, which can mean being with them 24/7. Schools and daycares have closed and we are stuck at home with our little monsters, and many of us have to attempt a full workload on top of childcare.
If we remain standing after all of this, we are made of very strong stuff. But remember, survival is all about being inventive when things get tough and planning in advance if you can. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Write out the day’s schedule and hang it someplace visible. The schedule might look a lot like the day before (hell, it might even BE the one from the day before) but it’s important for both you and your child to know what to expect from the day: playtime, screen time, book time, rest time, and eating time. Here is a sample that I created for my two-year-old.
7h Wake up and eat breakfast
7h30 Independent play
8h Hygiene routine: Wash hands and face, brush teeth and hair.
Tip: Use bath toys and silly songs to stretch it out.
9h Read books (3-4), and have a fruity snack, and play together
ex: build, pretend, do puzzles, use puppets, play dress-up
10h Screen time
12h Lunch followed by independent play
13h Creative and/or exercise activity
ex: arts and crafts, sing-along, fort building, stretching, aerobics, engaging with the outdoors*
14h Wind down with a few books or a kid-friendly podcast and take a nap
15h30 Independent play and have a salty snack
16h Exercise activity
ex: wrestling, chasing, hide and seek, dancing, stretching, aerobics, engaging with the outdoors*
19h Clean up play areas together and start your bedtime routine.
ex: drink warm milk, read three books, sing two lullabies, etc.
20h Eyes shut, lights out.
*Take advantage of the outside world. If you must, strolling around the block will be enough but walking in more remote places like Monsanto is obviously ideal if there’s no mandatory quarantine. However, we recommend staying inside. See below.
If you only have a balcony or window: try looking for birds, playing I spy, or inventing/using an available instrument to play for the neighbors. Let your kid water a plant or two. If you have the patience (and the soil), you can put some dirt in a pot and bury things in there for them to get out.
If you have a patio: You can make a full-on scavenger or treasure map hunt. Get the hose out on a nice day and get wet. Bring out the beach and/or camping stuff and put up the tent, or lay out the mat under an umbrella. Make paper airplanes and fly them. Kick and/or throw a ball around.
Keep in touch with those you love. Yes, it is important for both you and your kid to stay connected with family and friends. Try a having dinner over FaceTime with your favorite couple, or call Grandma and Grandpa on Google Hangouts. Try Skyping with great-grandma to ask about her favorite soap opera (if she can figure out how to stop talking into the camera) or just give your best friend a call on WhatsApp to see how he’s doing. There are plenty of platforms out there, and they’re going to come in handy in the upcoming months as we watch this thing unfold. We don’t have to go through it all alone. Making sure you and your kid remember faces and maintain social interactions is paramount (and kills half an hour when you’re out of ideas on what else to do).
Break out the tablet, but sparingly if possible. There are loads of apps out there that can help with motor skills, spatial recognition, memory, vocabulary, and more. But let’s be honest: most kids just want to watch Elmo or that fucking Panda. Let them do it and give yourself a break, but keep your eye on the clock and try not to rely on it as a babysitter. Desperate times do call for desperate measures, but that’s why you cover your couch with garbage bags and bust out the playdough and fingerpaint.
Get crafty. Get out rolls of wrapping paper, markers, crayons, cookie cutters, old newspapers, whatever you’ve got, and let them go nutty. If you’re a little too OCD, you can invent a directive like pipe cleaner toilet roll aliens (yes, that’s a thing), a hand-print turkey, or one of these many ideas, but don’t expect a Picasso. Whatever the outcome, hang it up someplace and make a big deal out of it.
Do something physical. Your downstairs neighbor won’t be too thrilled, but hey — you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Try doing things like jumping jacks, plank, or sit-ups with your little beast — they might get into it, and it will tire them out. You can also try yoga for a lower-intensity activity, though it’s a little boring. I’d opt for stretching with a sing-along. Let them climb up and down on the furniture as many times as they want. Toddlers like to play fetch, so that’s also an option if you’d rather just sit back and supervise from the sofa.
From one parent to another, godspeed.
Here are some other ideas if you’d like to find something more tailored to you and your family’s interests: