Young Children during COVID-19
A staying active Survival Guide for Parents of young children:
It takes a village to raise a child is a proverb that originated in Africa but resonates throughout every family across the globe. So how does this change with COVID-19. I am very lucky that me and my wife, along with our two wonderful daughters, have all our parents (their grandparents)within 10km of where we live. They are very involved in our girl's lives, doing more than their fair share of childminding while I and my wife go to work.
Now COVID 19 has changed our normal. Grandparents are self-isolating, Preschools are closed and working from home has all of a sudden taken all routine away from us. So I, just like everyone else are looking for ways to get by, keep the kids active and stimulated. We are still doing the normal games with normal toys but here are a few new ways in which we are getting on.
Cosmic Kids youtube channel. I have a 3-year-old and a 1 year old, screen time is kept to a minimum and we normally go the full week without the girls watching anything. However, I am happy to make an exception for cosmic kids. We got the recommendation from my 3yr old daughter's Playschool. The channel takes well-known stories and nursery rhymes and inserts Yoga movements to keep the kids active and entertained. Done in person to an animated background, “Jamie” tells the story and matches movements and poses to fit in with the story. The focus is on the story instead of technique and my 3-year old loves it. The sessions are approx 20mins that is just the right amount to get the dinner or lunch made if you need to. The age range is large enough as they have very basic nursery rhymes and all the way up to superhero styled stories. And yes if you are my neighbour you run the risk of spotting me and two little girls through the window balancing on one foot and pretending to be a tree in the wind. 20mins: Age 3yrs - 10yrs.
Playgrounds were never exclusively meant for your public park. Play by its very nature is supposed to be a way children learn about their environment, their own bodies and managing risk. The last part is very interesting and it goes against what we perceive parenting to be. How do you walk the line of keeping your child safe but at the same time allowing them to potentially get hurt? The goal is not to remove the risk but take measures to reduce the severity of the injury.
Start them early and explain the basics. It should be all about self-discovery and after all, play. So don’t set too many rules, apart from overall physical boundaries I wouldn’t go much more complicated than that. If your child is struggling, let them and watch. You are there to support. Yes, suggest alternatives, but try not to rush in. Finding things hard forces our brain to problem solve and this creative thinking can be the most powerful part of learning.
Try not to project your fears, yes they may fall, yes you normally hate creepy crawlies, but hold back as much as you can. Pick a safe place to start at and go slow, be patient and you will probably learn more than your child does.
So, what have we been doing? The basics of Balancing, jumping, running and climbing made even more basic. On our outside walks to get smally to sleep, my eldest is balancing along public fencing. Climbing on anything that looks interesting, bouldering (on the council boulders scattered to discourage long term parking**). And whenever I can I let her run just for the joy of it.
At first, I was doing my own risk assessments, and exemplary helicopter parenting. But little by little I backed off more and more. She has astonished me on how she is growing and how she sees things differently to me in the most inquisitive of ways. It is now an established and fun part of our day.
Nature in the garden:
Listen to noises of the birds/ stop to look at the strange and wonderful things going on. Barefoot is preferable and we haven't actively gone looking for nature but play our games and hide and seek until one of us spots something and we watch to see what happens. Spiders, bees and the odd ladybird for the most part. But again starting as simple as that has led my daughter to ask me what's the name of that bird etc. With that, I will usually say I don’t know, but we will save that inquiry for later and do a quick google image search to find out more. Nice if it rains later in the day or if I need a wind-down activity with a bit of reading.
Pick up rubbish:
This idea came straight from my daughter. We often are on a walk and she asks; why is that (rubbish) on the ground daddy? And I play the socially responsible card; that belongs in the bin and people shouldn’t be throwing it on the ground! and I am content with that. When one day, I was met with a response I didn’t expect. Will I pick it up, Daddy? Panic mode, the answer is obviously no. Where did that come from? How dirty is that? and presently what are the chances that touching that drinks bottle will make the whole household sick?
But of course, the right thing to do is undoubtedly, yes….. So in true parenting diplomacy, I said we could the next time and we will bring a bag to put it in. Perfect… time bought, I rested on my laurels. Until approx 9:30am the following morning, we were getting ready to set off again with coats, hats and the works. When the inevitable question reemerged, where is the rubbish bag daddy?
And so it began. At first, I had to shake my own hang-ups, about what others would think, as I put my child to work picking up other people's rubbish. But then I thought a little harder on it and came to a revelation; why wouldn’t I care about how the area and streets around where I live look like. So armed with gloves, plastic bag and high vis jacket I push the buggy with one hand while helping spot and pick up rubbish with the other. Children don’t have social hang-ups which is often refreshing. A simple one. It works and a part of me feels good for the day.
If it's raining:
Wear a raincoat. I’m not talking about sideways rain, but 90% of the time we say no to going outside is because we as parents don’t want to. Generally, my daughters aren’t bothered by the rain. Yes, of course, there are valid reasons not to go out in the rain. But I have really enjoyed needing to take my youngest on a walk to get her to nap throughout the day as it gets me and my eldest outdoors, no excuses. And with that, we always enjoy it, even if all we do is walk. Good coats, wellies, hats. We have the waterproof cover for the buggy if we get caught out in a very heavy shower while on the walk, under which my eldest can also fit while on her attached buggy board. No room for me, but all is good. As our Scandanavian friends say “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”. Not that catchy but gets to the point.
This all started with the An Post’s brilliant “Come together, write now” campaign. Writing on behalf of my girls, my wife and I with a little prompting wrote verbatim whatever story our eldest lead with. This has led to very cute if not randomly blunt statements and questions for their grandparents. The girls enjoyed seeing their words written down and having a go at leaving their mark and picture scrawl to end. And with an excited skip down to the postbox they were sent and I thought it would end at that.
But like every action has an equal but opposite reaction, a day or two later we had our response in the form of another letter. The postal chain has grown to include more relations and this simple old fashion hobbies has been thrust back into our 21st-century lives. We are collecting the responses as they are very special and will be a keepsake of the unusual times.
I don’t expect this new hobby to last beyond restrictions but there is something to be said for the flap of the letterbox to be a sound to relish as opposed to the mundane. Try it, a text is quicker but nowhere near as valuable as sending positivity straight through someone you care about door.
I’m sure there are numerous other fantastic suggestions out there. It does not always go to plan, we have tears, strops and I am often far from being as patient as I should. But it can come together and when it does it is a worthwhile approach.
Working less and having to work remotely is something a lot of people are getting used to. But extra time spent outdoors with your kids during their early years is a gift. And maybe the one silver lining in this strange time we live in. Keep well and look after your family, be it if it's just in your own back garden.
Survival advise from a father of two wonderful girls.
P.S. For that free 10 minutes you get in your day…….. (don’t worry you can watch it over several sittings). Here is a Ted talk worth watching, that has definitely given me a new perspective on my parenting style, the book is on my list that I intend to get around to: