If you’re currently safe at home with a toddler, you might be at a loss for how to fill your days (and not lose your marbles) when the MO is to social distance. Here are five ways to stay sane and safe while social distancing with a toddler.
If you’re currently safe at home with a toddler, you might be at a loss for how to fill your days (and not lose your marbles) when the MO is to social distance—from friends, neighbors, grandparents (especially grandparents!), teachers and, well, everyone.
Life is different right now.
Because you’re home. Because it’s boring. It’s tedious. If you’re not used to being with your kids all day, and you’re still lucky to have a job you’re trying to do remotely, yes, it’s frustrating and it’s hard. Or you’re applying for loans or unemployment or worrying about late checks or rent or getting groceries or protecting yourself before stepping out into the world.
And yet . . . this little person continues to demand your attention the same as before. Maybe even more so—because they may be little, but they can tell something is “off.” They’re not seeing their friends, going to daycare or doing their normal activities. They’ve heard the words “toilet paper” more times in one week than in their entire lifetime.
You are doing your part, you are saving lives, by staying home. By keeping your children at home. But as a mom of a three-year-old, I hear you. You’re quarantine parenting and each day you’d like to land somewhere between watching 12 straight hours of TV and having an hour-by-hour lesson plan, right?
Here are 5 ways to stay sane and safe while social distancing with a toddler.
1. Slooooow Down
Unless you’re on the frontlines (as a healthcare or other essential worker) or working from home, your social and business obligations are near zero. You don’t need to get your toddler to school on time, pack a bag with backup diapers for a park playdate or struggle to get your kid’s shoes on so you can fly out the door.
I’ve been sitting back while my son puts on his own shoes, pulls down his own pants to use the potty and uses a big boy fork to eat his eggs. All of this takes forever and most of the time makes a mess. But we don’t have anywhere to be and there’s no need to rush. He’s learning to do things we “never had time” for before. So enjoy slowing down. Enjoy the messes and cuddles and snuggles and reading and staying in bed and in your pj’s and making blanket forts (and remaking said forts when they’re inevitably destroyed).
Other articles I’ve read about social distancing with a toddler stressed maintaining a routine, but I’ve personally found this to be unrealistic for my family and hard to keep up. But if a routine works for you and your kids, stick with it! Just try to be patient and kind to yourself if things get off track.
2. Be Active
Moving your body in some way for just 10 minutes a day can reduce depression and anxiety and make you happier—a boost big and little people need right now. On social media I’ve watched my amazing friends do squats and go for runs while wearing their kids, and partners taking turns exercising and entertaining their toddler during a workout. Dancing, yoga, stretching, deep breathing, gymnastics and running circles in the living room count too.
If you don’t have a private outdoor space for being active, exercise caution when going outside (or really, avoid it entirely—yes, it stinks. Yes, it’s temporary. Yes, you will survive). Take along hand sanitizer, a mask and gloves, avoid touching surfaces, use the stairs over the elevator if possible and keep at least six feet between you and anyone else. Wash your hands and your child’s immediately upon returning home. If you or your family members are wearing PPE, be a good example to your kids and dispose of used PPE properly (i.e., not on the sidewalk!).
3. Let Them Help
Ah, chores. Something we still have to do even during a global pandemic. Find tasks for your littles to do so they feel included and helpful. Ask them to put away their own toys or get all their crayons back into the box. If you have plants, let them help you water them. If you’re cooking, give them a toddler-friendly task (like stirring something). If you’re folding laundry, they can hand you all the socks. And so on.
4. Use Technology
We all have different “rules” when it comes to screen time, but currently every parent I know is going over their children’s screen time allotment. And it’s OKAY. Screens can be a lifesaver right now. You can stream story times from book publishers and music classes from your local studio, have virtual playdates with friends and video chat with your older relatives who are probably lonely (and scared). You can watch movies as a family or listen to/watch nursery rhyme videos. Many daycares are providing circle time vids and lessons, or doing live sessions on Zoom so your child can see their teachers and friends. Children’s book artists are doing virtual doodle sessions and you can watch scientists do kid-friendly experiments on YouTube.
Just remember: one screen time habit you might want to kick is watching the news with your toddler in the room. If looking at images of makeshift morgues gives you anxiety, just imagine what it does for your little one.
5. Be Kind
Your toddler won’t understand your donations to frontline workers or your gift card purchases for your favorite local businesses and restaurants (please consider all of the above, if you are able), but they can color notes for delivery persons, postal workers and other essential workers who are helping you stay at home, and they can help make thank-yous or care packages for healthcare workers (to be dropped off via contactless delivery). They can help you pick out a toy for littles ones who are struggling right now—Hazel Baby has organized a way for us to send toys to kids in need at Jersey City’s York Street Project. Stay up-to-date on what’s going on in your community and use local influencers (like Chic Pea and Jersey City Mamas) and your circle of friends to collaborate and see what local people need and how your children can help.
We don’t have a curriculum for this chaos. But if I had to pick one, I’d go with this mantra, attributed to one of my wise mama friends: “No rules. Just help others and seek joy.”
All toddler-friendly safe-at-home items below are available at the Hazel Baby & Kids online store (shop small, shop local!):