If you’re like me, you have found yourself locked inside with your children during the coronavirus pandemic. With two young kids, I often found myself working from home even before I was forced to, in order to juggle their care alongside my career. However, in the past week, I have found that working from home and working from quarantine are two very different things. Maintaining one’s workload while also stimulating young minds and curtailing WWIII: The Great Sibling War is no easy task – a sentiment I’m sure all my fellow parents and caretakers share. 

Photo courtesy of Tara Finley

Originally, I had written this list to include my household staples that encourage long, happy hours of individual play. Items like the coveted Nugget and my husband’s sworn enemy, the ball pit, were top on the top of my list – surefire playthings guaranteed to distract your brood while you tackle your email list. However, in the past week, our public health crisis has continued to develop, necessitating the shutdown of several businesses. With factories on standby and Amazon delaying shipping of all but the essentials, new toys are now hard to come by and my initial guide is no longer helpful. Instead, I have crowdsourced my query to my trusted online parenting groups – from Reddit to Facebook – to find out what parents are doing now to keep their kiddos entertained and safe. With their help, here are my suggestions to keep the family safe and entertained while staying home:

SAFE

AMASS Botanic Hand Wash

Joining national distillers in repurposing their knowledge and equipment for the health of our communities, AMASS has created a botanic hand wash to help address the alarming lack of sanitizing products available in-store and online. Formulated and produced in DTLA, AMASS Botanic Hand Wash is made with 70% medical-grade alcohol, which exceeds CDC standards. Inspired by the “four thieves recipe” – a blend of botanicals believed to prevent the spread of the plague in medieval Europe – it contains Aloe leaf juice combined with cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus and allspice. No water is needed to use it, all one has to do is apply liberally and rub briskly until the wash is evaporated. While we’re still washing our hands vigorously, I appreciate the extra sanitizing this product give us for the “in-between” times. Not having to use water is a major plus, as there are only so many times I can change all our clothes and wipe down the counters and mirrors without losing my mind. For a toddler, hand washing time = the wettest of splash zones. I’m thankful that this provides a safe solution to that constant cleanup.

AMASS’ Botanic Hand Wash makes it to the top of our list because not only is it made by an expectant mother – AMASS Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan – but because 10% of their sales go to the United States Bartenders Guild Emergency Grants Program. Proceeds from each hand wash go to funding emergency relief for the hundreds of thousands of beverage hospitality workers whose livelihoods have been compromised due to COVID-19 closures. 

KiwiCo COVID-19 Explanation For Kids

Struggling to explain the coronavirus and the importance of staying home to your kids? This video from kids’ STEAM subscription box-maker KiwiCo is easy to understand and informative for both young and old alike:

Check In With Yourself

As the saying goes: you can’t pour from an empty cup. As parents, we have a lot to worry about during this crisis. From our children to our jobs, rent and mortgages – it’s easy to forget that we exist amongst everything else. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) says, “a large part of anxiety comes from a sense of what we think we should be able to control, but can’t.” Their mental health professionals remind us that “it’s important to note that we are not helpless in light of current news events. We can always choose our response.” If you are struggling with anxiety or are having trouble with your mental health, check out their helpful post with tips on how to center yourself. Stay in the present and do what helps you feel a sense of safety

Shopping Services

The facts are clear, the more we stay home and avoid going out, the better chance we have at beating the coronavirus and flattening the curve. It’s simple: the less people out, the less the virus spreads. Vital gig and service workers are already on the front lines of the pandemic, keeping American families fed and our economy going. Let them do their job and you do yours by staying home. Services like Instacart bring goods to your door on the same day you order them, from Sprouts to CVS, all while using contact-free delivery. Download the app, find a coupon (full disclosure, we both benefit if you use my code T78916C195), order and you’re done! One less thing to worry about in times where relief is in short supply. 

Meals for Kids

While schools may be closed, IUSD is still there for our kids. Irvine schools will provide breakfast and lunch to any IUSD student in need. Though this service will not be available during the March 30-April 3 Spring Break, there are other resources available to fill the gap. For more information on when and where meals are available for students, click here

ENTERTAINED

@BusyToddler

Busy Toddler is an Instagram page run by Susie Allison, a former teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. Since its inception, her page has become a hit with parents and caregivers everywhere, amassing a dedicated following of just under a million. As you scroll through her feed, you’ll find pages and pages of posts with easy and creative activities to not only keep the kids busy, but keep them learning as well. Most activities can be easily executed by whatever you have laying around the house. A lot of the play is messy, so find your zen and maybe an old sheet or two before diving in. 

Blippi

In our house, Blippi is a member of the family – so much so that we all dressed up like him for my toddler’s second birthday. This Youtuber has had quite the rise, capturing the hearts of millions of children around the world. Now with his own musical stage show and product line, Blippi is more popular than ever. His videos can be found online or via his smart TV app, and are an absolute godsend for parents needing peace and quiet. While I originally felt dreaded mom-guilt for giving my two-year-old TV time, their newfound ability to count to 20, sing the ABCs, and identify colors has reassured me. This isn’t a mom brag, it’s a Blippi brag! 

Homemade Playdough

Homemade playdough is an especially great quarantine activity as it includes so many parts that you can really drag it out to cover an afternoon: set up, ingredient hunt, creation, clean up and play. There are tons of recipes online, but these two come highly recommend from local SoCal toddler mom Jeska Moriarty:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 1.2 Cups of Boiling Water

Hate the smell of traditional playdough? Jeska suggests the below altered recipe:

  • 1 Cup Hair Conditioner
  • 2 1/2 Cups Cornstarch 

Knead it all together and add food coloring to make different colors! Your homemade dough can be kept in plastic bags and kept for around six months, depending on how you store it. 

#ChalkYourWalk

From March 21-March 27 local kids are drawing chalk art and writing encouraging messages on their driveways and walkways to bring smiles to all those that pass by. We think this is a brilliant idea, even after the 27th! It allows for a great lesson in community fellowship while still advocating for staying home and keeping a social distance. Not only is it a fun activity, but it helps calm the nerves of kiddos who feel uncertain and not in control. Drawing for their neighbors allows them to be a part of a solution, which can aid in abating isolation anxieties. 

Virtual Library

While all Orange County Libraries are closed, you and your family can still enjoy online selections at ocpl.org. From fiction to nonfiction, magazines, movies and music, all the resources you enjoy in-person can now be found virtually! There is also a specific page for kids, full of at-home activities and projects. 

Live Feeds

Though we may not be able to spend Spring Break exploring, many family favorites are offering virtual tours and live feeds during the “Stay At Home” Order. We love to watch live exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and San Diego Zoo! A fun activity for kids is to plan their own “vacation,” visiting the live feeds of places they’d like to go to someday. Not only does this provide them with a sense of adventure, but planning for the future signals that there is hope to be had. 

FaceTime or Zoom

For my kids, one of the hardest parts of quarantine is missing their friends and family. We rely on daily video get-togethers with our loved ones, an activity that gives both mom and dad the time to work while the kiddos are entertained. Not just an endeavor to bring joy to the kids, watching your toddler babble on the phone to his friends is the kind of chicken soup every parent needs for their soul right now. 

Bathtub Activities

Rounding out our list is bathtub activities. These require supervision, and provide a ton of fun with little cleanup. They also help to get out the excess energy that being cooped up all day creates. Given the amount of joy they bring, they take surprisingly little effort. Legos? Throw them in the bathtub with some water. Paint? Tape a canvas to the tile and just spray down the area when they’re done. Popsicles? Nothing more fun than a cold popsicle in a hot bath! When I’m at a loss on how to entertain my boys, I find something waterproof (and safe) that isn’t typically a bath toy and throw it in the tub – all of the sudden I’m supermom.

During unprecedented and uncertain times such as these, it’s important to not only help each other, but to give ourselves a break. If you have found an effective way to juggle parenting and working from home while quarantined, be sure to share it with your community. You never know who you may help!