5 Fun Ways to Help Your Child Thrive During COVID-19 from a New Mexico Mom
The past year has been hard, and it has changed a lot about our moments together, especially as families. While we’ve been staying at home due to COVID-19, we’ve had to find new ways to go about our days while also helping our children grow. Fortunately, supporting our little ones' growth while at home can be fun!
Over the last months we’ve shared seven playful ways (proven to work through lots of brain research and early childhood education best practices) for you to help your children grow. But we wondered: how do these caregiving moves fit into a real person’s day (especially in a global pandemic)?
We asked a New Mexico mom about the five caregiving moves she has used the most during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hailey Heinz is a mom of two, and (we think this part is cool) she is also an early childhood researcher at the University of New Mexico who has been working from home over the last year while raising two young children. Check out her list below for some tips—and most importantly, give yourself credit for all the special moments you’re already creating for the young children in your life!
1. Sing Your Feelings
2. Visit a Little Free Library
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us new appreciation for taking walks in our neighborhood. With fewer places open for family activities, one of our go-to walking destinations has been the Little Free Library cabinet in our neighborhood. The take-a-book, leave-a-book system is a great way to say goodbye to books we are done with, and find new books to explore. I love that we never know what we’ll find. Sometimes we find classics (we once found Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and I about jumped out of my skin in excitement).
But more often we find books we probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Our most recent find, Pelican’s Catch, is a simple story about a young pelican learning how to fish. The story is set on and around the ocean, and sharing it with my New Mexican kids makes their world a little bigger and lets me share the smell of salt and the sound of gulls with them. This feels especially precious this year when physical travel was limited for most of us. The act of spending moments together reading also creates space for quality time, and helps their growing brains make new connections between my voice, the words on the page, and the pictures in the book.
3. Grow Your Own Conversation Buddy
As an extrovert suddenly practicing social distancing, talking with my kids this past year has been as good for me as it is for them. There are studies that show how give-and-take conversations help children build strong communication and social skills. Even when they are too young to form words yet, they are always learning, and can understand so much!
I also have my own motives. I can talk to them about things that interest me (and don’t interest my partner) like the extended Harry Potter universe, or the movies nominated for the Oscars this year. My kids don’t always talk back, but over time these conversations start to build interests we share. My oldest kid closely followed the Oscar race for best animated feature this year, and had his first experience being let down by the Academy (“Trolls World Tour wasn’t nominated for anything??”). Talking about culture or your interests with kids of all ages is fun and joyful, as this dad showed us all:
4. Celebrate Snuggles
COVID-19 has forced many of us to cut back on physical touch. With fewer hugs, handshakes, or high fives, the snuggles we share with the people in our households have become even more precious. Snuggles and hugs help young children develop secure bonds with their caregivers (us!), and those secure bonds help lay the foundation for self-confidence and empathy later in life. Snuggles can be especially powerful during times of stress or uncertainty (read: all of the past year) and your warm embrace helps your child feel safe and taken care of.
Lucky for us grownups, snuggling with babies and young children is the best. For many of us, nuzzling the warmth and softness of a baby’s head connects us to a deep well of love in ourselves—even during a 2 a.m. feeding. And sharing snuggly giggles with a toddler is the perfect way to spend a break between Zoom meetings, reconnecting with the physical presence of another person. One of the great pains of the COVID-19 pandemic for many grandparents and other family members has been physical separation from the young children in their lives. Just as we have grieved for the loss of that touch, though, we can celebrate as it becomes possible again.