Since the start of the pandemic, our household has felt crowded with three teenagers and an elementary-school-age kid stuck indoors. Now with school wrapped up, extra-curricular activities still on hold, and social visits still mostly at the end of the driveway, the sense of disconnection has been real.
With no end in sight right now, as parents, we’ve found it crucial to shift the focus from what our kids can’t do to what they can do, to help them feel like they still have a valuable role to play in our community and that they can do things that are meaningful, while staying safe.
Here are some ideas to keep kids active in their community and remind them we’re all in this together.
Tackle hunger and food insecurity
There are families in every community struggling to pay for their groceries, some for the first time, and that is increasing the demand for resources. Kids of all ages can help tackle hunger.
- Older teens, who can follow safe distancing measures, can volunteer to sort and prepare donations at a neighbourhood food bank.
- Younger children can make lists of items needed, at a local food bank or shelter, which a parent can add to the family grocery list. Later the kids can help unload the car for drop offs.
- If your family has cash to spare, consider supporting one of the organizations providing hot meals to people in need. Kids with good online search skills can get involved by looking up local options, then you can decide together where to donate.
- Build a little free pantry (or convert your little free library into one), so that people can donate non-perishable foods or pick them up, in your neighbourhood.
Support local businesses
Amazon and other online retail giants will come out of this pandemic just fine, but being closed until very recently and seeing a dramatic drop in sales even now has hit small community businesses hard. We got the whole family onboard to help.
- Join movements like #eatlocal and to find restaurants and services in your community that are offering safe curbside pick-up and delivery or socially distanced dining.
- If the budget permits, participate in #TakeoutDay and let the kids take turns choosing a favourite local restaurant to order dinner from on Wednesdays.
- Look into local businesses to find items like craft supplies, board games, gardening kits and outdoors toys to keep the kids busy this summer.
- Register for a farmers’ market box or community supported agriculture (CSA) box, to get your fresh fruit and veg ― and maybe even meat, eggs and dairy ― from local farmers.
Reach out to friends and neighbours
We’ve talked to our kids a lot about how lucky they are to have each other. Social isolation can be especially hard for only children or adults who live alone. Providing social connection is free and enjoyable for everyone.
- Remind your kids that some of their friends may be struggling, even with a house full of family members. Kids can make it part of their routine to check in with their own friends (via text, online gaming, game apps, FaceTime), particularly if they are vulnerable.
- Deliver notes to neighbours to say hi or share contact details, should they need help or appreciate a socially distanced chat.
- Drop off care packages of baked goods on the front steps of neighbours.
- Arrange driveway visits or window visits with neighbours who are seniors. This can be particularly sweet with young kids and brighten up everyone’s day.
Tap into creativity
The community around your home may look and feel a lot different than it used to, and that can be hard for younger children especially. But if anyone can do something about it, kids can!
- Look for local initiatives like painting rocks with messages to leave on walking trails or even urban streets.
- Decorate the front windows of your home or the sidewalk with art work and messages of support to create a sense of solidarity and positivity within communities.
- Join a neighbourhood initiative, such as a green area clean-ups or mask sewing project.
- Create drawings to send to isolated seniors and hospitals and long-term care facilities, along with a personalized note.
Talk and learn about other communities
Home school’s out for summer (finally!), but we can still take this time to learn about how Covid-19 is impacting people outside of our own bubble.
- Look for stories in the media about how individuals in different lines of work, from different cultural communities, and in other parts of the world are being affected, both by COVID-19 and by social justice issues that have been making headlines.
- Watch age-appropriate news segments that explore current issues on platforms like CBC Kids News, KidsPost (from Washington Post), or BBC Learning English (for older kids or ESL learners).
- Listen to kid-friendly podcasts that can provided a great jumping off point for discussing everything from how your family can be part of making positive changes to how you make purchases to how you care for the environment, as we all move forward.
Being at home most of the time can make the world feel small. But with some encouragement, our kids can still safely open doors to the outside world this summer.