How to Help Your Kids Shelter in Place


Stay-at-Home Tips for Vancouver Parents of Toddlers, School-Agers, and Teens

Suffice it to say, a lot has changed over the last few weeks for our local and global communities. While we’ve collectively risen to the need to make conscious choices that support public health, most of us are also facing a loss of daily routine, canceled plans, and feelings of uncertainty as we shelter in place. We know because we’re right there with you!

Though we don’t yet know what the future holds, in this moment, we’re also inspired by the generosity, adaptability, and resiliency of our fellow human beings. So in that spirit, here’s our guide for our treasured Vancouver parents on how to help your kids shelter in place in a safe, fun, and meaningful way.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

From language skills to socializing, toddlers and preschoolers are quickly expanding into the world around them. While social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines may present some challenges to these developmental stages, here’s how you can creatively nurture your toddler and preschooler’s need for imagination, connection, and play right from home.

1. Have a family dance party.

Singing and dancing are rich with physical and mental health benefits for adults and kids alike, including cognitive function, a sense of social connection, stress relief, and simply expressing abundant energy! Along with nurturing play and self-expression, dancing also helps teach children how to pay attention to others and share space.

To create your own dance party, make a playlist or queue of YouTube videos that encourage you to dance and sing, clear out a space, and let yourself move freely.

2. Play and learn through make-believe.

Toddlers and preschoolers love engaging in make-believe (also known as imaginative play). Along with sparking your child’s creativity, make-believe play helps your child make sense of the world around them. You might brush up on current health practices (like hand-washing or social distancing) with stuffed animals or transform your living room into an imaginary treehouse or pirate ship. Draw inspiration from your child’s current interests as you creatively repurpose household items into fascinating people, places, and things.

3. Coordinate virtual playdates.

While it’s best to keep actual playdates on hold until further notice, you can still support your child’s need for peer interaction using video calls. Connect with the parents of your child’s playmates or cousins to set a date. Come mutually prepared to guide a few activities, like coloring, counting, the ABCs, or any other activities your children enjoy individually or side-by-side.

Even though their playtime will be virtual, you can still encourage your child to practice age-appropriate skills, like sharing. For example, you might try having your child set aside and “save” a crayon, toy, or snack for their friend during play.

School-Aged Kids

Unless your child was already homeschooled, school closures have likely upended your child’s daily rhythm and routine. Fortunately, you don’t have to become an expert in education to support your child’s continued growth, learning, and well-being.

1. Use school as a (loose) guide for routine.

From brushing teeth twice daily to going to school five days a week, routines provide a reliable structure that helps your child organize their thoughts, anticipate what’s coming next, and feel a sense of security.

To help your child stay connected to their school routine, draft a weekly schedule based on your child’s school routine (to the best of your ability and availability). For instance, you might dedicate certain times for each subject they’re learning, eat at the same time each day, and take fun and lighthearted recess breaks.

Many Vancouver Public Schools teachers are also encouraging optional learning resources and activities while the district evaluates how they may implement online education for all students after spring break.

2. Plant seeds.

Connecting with nature and spending time outside is so beneficial to our health as human beings. However, as we all do our part to stay home for the health of ourselves and our communities, your kids may now have fewer opportunities to get outside carefree.

For an educational experiment, collect, wash, and plant a few seeds from the produce you eat in egg cartons filled with soil. Dive into some age-appropriate research about plant biology and look into the type of care the fruits or vegetables will need to grow and fruit. As the plants grow, you may transfer them into a larger container, garden, or yard. Or, if getting into gardening isn’t a long-term fit, you may have your child compost their seedlings and research what composting is and how it works.

3. Create comics.

As they hold enormous potential for imagination, expression, and fun, comics are a treasured artform for the Must Love Kids family. Comics can support almost any subject and personal style, opening up endless possibilities for creative learning. For instance, to teach your child about the ecology of the Pacific Northwest, you might consider researching the life cycle of a Douglas Fir and writing a comic book called “The Secret Life of a Douglas Fir Tree.”

For an example of an educational comic, check out this coronavirus zine for kids by NPR.

Teens and Young Adults

In varying degrees, adolescents are often self-conscious about their social status and sense of individuality. As such, long days at home alone or with your family may be especially challenging for your teen or young adult. Furthermore, your teen may be experiencing a higher level of anxiety or grief, as they may be more aware of current events. Here’s how you can help them feel calm, empowered, and seen.

1. Work with them to create a schedule and set limits.

While your toddler or school-ager may not be ready to direct so much of their activity, your teen is likely ready to take some of the lead when it comes to making a plan for staying on top of their responsibilities while allowing time to connect with friends. Ask your teen about their ideas for thriving during shelter in place, calmly listen to their concerns and needs, and work together as a team to set expectations for studying, housework, and connecting digitally with friends. Give them space to adapt and follow-through while acknowledging that these plans and expectations may shift as you and your family adapt to a dynamic situation.

2. Engage them in household operations.

From creating games to play with younger siblings to helping out with meals and housework, your teen has so many meaningful ways to contribute to your family’s well-being. As making their own choices can be especially important for teens, give them options for what tasks they complete (when reasonable and possible). For instance, you might give your teen the choice of helping you prepare for dinner or washing dishes afterward. If (and when!) you encounter resistance, calmly hold your ground while equally acknowledging that their unique effort makes a meaningful difference.

3. Celebrate social responsibility—especially theirs.

The gravity of today’s current events can be overwhelming for adults of any age, let alone teens. They may be experiencing a spectrum of big feelings that range from frustration to boredom to grief, which are worth acknowledging without judgment or minimization. As you work to hold space for their emotions, look for ways to help your teen understand that they play a valuable role in the local and global community. Ask them about their ideas and concerns as you explain how their actions are helping to shape the world they live in. From frequent hand-washing to social distancing, celebrate them when they successfully do their part to flatten the curve of the virus. (And, while you’re at it, why not sit down with your teen and research what “flattening the curve” means and why it matters personally and collectively).

For more tips, check out this guide from Berkley on how to help teens shelter in place.

As we practice social distancing and follow shelter-in-place guidelines, one fact remains the same: We are all in this together. From our Must Love Kids family to yours, we send you and your children our wishes for good physical, mental, and oral health as we continue to adapt and learn to thrive during these changes.

To do our part to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, Must Love Kids is currently closed for regularly scheduled pediatric dentistry appointments; however, if your child is experiencing a dental emergency, contact our office as soon as possible to schedule an emergency appointment.