How to Navigate the Pandemic with Kids Under 5?

It is difficult to explain to a young mind about the pandemic. To be fair, the grown ups also don’t know what’s the new normal going to be during these ever changing COVID19 times. We are all learning and adapting to what’s best for us.

Children thrive on routines and like everyone else their routines are affected to some extent by the pandemic. My daughter used to go to nursery 4 days a week while I worked and I would spend my 3 non-working days completely with her. During the lockdown, the nursery was closed and my husband and I were working from home. She was really happy to see more of mummy and daddy but really missed seeing her friends.

It is difficult to keep the wee ones happy and engaged when you yourself have concerns about what’s happening. What worked for us was focusing on the positives rather than the negatives with her. I think doing the following made the lockdown an enjoyable experience:

  1. The most important thing is to spend more time as a family. Having all meals together and doing activities together is really nice.
  2. Have a routine even if they don’t have school or nursery. Having set sleep and meal times give a healthy structure to the day. Also dressing up some days (if not all) is exciting.
  3. Involve kids in cooking and baking. They are more likely to enjoy a meal they have helped to prepare.
  4. Tell kids that cleaning and tidying up are good habits. Let them do small tasks that they can easily do for e.g. help loading the washing machine. For us, the toy hoover and brush worked so well and my daughter would clean alongside me.
  5. Making the most of outdoor activities is such a delight. Get the kids to help you with gardening. I’m not too keen on kinetic sand and play dough due to the mess caused in the house so they became garden activities along with painting! Doing nature walks and collecting leaves, pine cones, stones and sea shells for arts and crafts is so exciting.
  6. Appreciate your kids for the little things they do like making tea for you in their toy tea set. This will encourage them to be more creative and imaginative.
  7. Relax the screen time restrictions a bit if you are trying to work from home but do monitor what they watch on TV. I find kids radio/songs are better than TV. This way they can play away with some music in the background.
  8. It’s okay if the kids regress a bit in their milestones. I’ve heard sometimes kids regress in potty training and speech milestones due to changing circumstances. More assurance and encouragement from parents can help them get back to their usual self. By the way, ‘Oh crap! Potty Training’ book is very useful. The best potty training suggestion I got was to get this book and we successfully completed potty training in few days.
  9. Reading books is really good for speech development. Kids follow your lead so if they see you read books instead of spending time on your mobile they will want to do the same.
  10. Telling stories and role play is brilliant as it helps build their imagination. One of my fondest childhood memories is my dad telling us stories before bedtime. I make up a story every night and encourage my daughter to add bits to it as well. After the story I do a quick recap of the day and mention the things my daughter enjoyed. I love seeing the smile on her face when she recalls what she loved. This builds gratitude from an early age.
  11. See what outdoor places you can safely visit. Zoo, safari, fruit & animal farms, beach and gardens are safe places to go to. Make sure you follow the national guidelines even if you are outdoors.
  12. The best thing is to spend more time with your kids. Enjoying their amazing milestones, new words and giving longer cuddles as they grow up in the blink of an eye.

The thing we missed the most during the lockdown was meeting other kids and mums. I had joined various playgroups since my daughter was 3 months old. I can’t forget her expressions at the first playgroup we went to. She was so excited to see babies her age. I love going to playgroups as I get to see other mums. Any problem you’re having, there will be a mum having a solution to that! It’s such a wonderful experience to see your baby play with other babies and develop social skills.

It’s not always a ‘happy’ scene. There can be fights over the most favourite toy but that’s when you can teach how to wait for your turn and share. I am so grateful to have attended so many local playgroups and see my daughter learn so many new things from other kids and different toys while I get to enjoy a nice cup of tea and much needed, non-judgemental mum chat. As the playgroups are not more than a couple of hours, I’d try to go to one every day in my 1 year maternity leave. It’d be the highlight of my day. When I went back to work I opted for compressed hours so I get at least one weekday free for playgroups and playdates. Here are some of the playgroups we’ve loved over the last few years:

Bumps and Babies with NCT at Blackhall Library
This was the first group we went to. It’s run by the lovely Kathy. This group is for pre crawlers. The babies play in a safe environment while mums can have a nice cuppa and a biscuit.

Sing and Sign
This has to be my daughter’s favourite playgroup. We loved Sine’s classes. Babies learn to sign before they can talk. It was so nice to see my daughter sign for milk and happily dance at the lovely songs. The love for Jessie cat is very real. I think Jessie is the reason my daughter absolutely loves cats.

Baby Sensory
I loved the themes of these classes. The props were so good. You’d really be transported to a different world. My daughter started crawling during a baby sensory class because her balloon drifted across the hall and she wanted it back 😀 As much as my daughter loved these classes I think I loved them more.

Song and Stories Toddler Group at Bristo Baptist Church
This playgroup had the best snacks. There is free play at the start followed by snack time, song time and then a Bible story for the kids to finish off the session. Teri and Christopher always make sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying the session.

Jo Jingles
This is the only group we tried to continue during the lockdown with online classes. My daughter loves Linzi and was so excited to see her in her living room on TV. These classes are really good dance and singing classes with such wonderful songs.

Toddler Group at Holy Cross Church
I have made such fabulous mum friends at this group. There is free play for an hour followed by snack time and then more free play. The session ends with singing nursery rhymes and ‘Bye Bye babies’ song which would get stuck in your head for the rest of the day 😀 We loved going to this group and miss it so much.

Thankfully the government has allowed the baby groups to continue having face to face sessions with some limited numbers but the toddler groups have not been given a go-ahead yet. These groups are so important for both mums and kids. I really hope we get the permission to restart them again with all the necessary protocols of course. For the time being, we’re relying on having outdoor playdates with one other household.

Hope you can find a local baby and toddler playgroup in your area or online classes. These are really important for child development and mum’s sanity. If there are no local groups maybe you can look into starting your own 🙂

Hope you are managing ok in these COVID times and this article gives you some ideas x

Note: This post is not sponsored at all. All recommendations are based on my personal experience.

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