In March, many of the things we take for granted went on pause. For my daughter, it was especially hard. The playground and pools closed. Playdates were canceled. And the big one, her daycare closed.
It was now three people—my wife, Stephanie; daughter, Daisy; and me—in a small townhouse during the day, each trying to find space and time.
But what began as a challenge has ended up being one of the more rewarding experiences our family has ever had. And through creative play and art, our family got to know one another in ways we likely never would have had the opportunity to do.
This blog post is a recollection of sorts, a reminder of what our family did to keep our daughter entertained, engaged and stimulated. I talked with my wife about what we did during that time.
“I panicked,” Stephanie starts.
But through our anxiety, we discovered something else: everyone else was as well. So, we connected with likeminded people.
“We had a WhatsApp group, a parent WhatsApp group within our friend group and also with our daycare,” Stephanie says. “And it was a place for people to share ideas, share books they’d been reading, share art activities, share sensory activities for the kids to engage themselves in, online resources. So, that was valuable.”
We also built a schedule to mirror Daisy’s daycare, with blocks for art and creative time as well as outdoors. And our time outdoors led to Stephanie’s great idea to occupy the time.
“I knew that our options were limited in what we could do outside. Playgrounds were out, playdates were out, and I wanted to find a way to engage her. So, I created this gigantic scavenger
hunt that took, I think, a month to complete. And at the end had this big prize for her.”
The scavenger hunt is something anyone can do. You know your neighbourhood and the unique things you see while you walk through it. Does your child? Your partner? Do they see the same world you do?
For us, it became an experience, a chance to explore our neighbourhood and those around us.
“Every time we would go out, we would take the scavenger hunt with us, and we would search for these different things,” Stephanie says. “It was kind of cool because with the playground not being open and no playdates and just the three of us, we actually started to explore more of the neighbourhood, which was really, really interesting."
Because it took so much time, we also got to see how spring turned into summer. We watched cherry blossoms bloom and fall before the leaves came out. We walked by gardens where every day, there were more and more flowers. We noticed which cars tended to park on certain streets.
“It became an adventure,” Stephanie says.
In addition to the scavenger hunt, we also had artistic activities that took much less time.
“I went to the dollar store and I scooped up just a boatload of artistic supplies to keep her occupied,” my wife says.
Daisy loves to paint and draw. We end up buying new markers every few months because she wears them out so quickly.
But we also bought different things to create into art: foil paper, buttons, felt, pipe cleaners and more.
“I cut sparkly paper into different shapes and put them into a bucket. And every day, we’d take the different pieces out and lay them out on a big white piece of paper and she could make a picture with them. We’d glue them into what she made.”
This activity was also repeated with found objects from outside. We collected fallen cherry blossoms and took them home. We drew trees and then glued the cherry blossoms we collected on them to make our own.
Even Daisy got into the spirit of finding new and creative ways to occupy her time.
“She had an idea, because so many of her friends were so isolated and a lot of them struggling because they miss their friends, and she had the fabulous idea to send letters, pen pal letters and colouring sheets. She’d include a colouring sheet and she’d send a letter to her friends. And then she got letters back from, I think, almost everybody. And that was her idea to do that.”
Our spring and summer was filled with creativity and art because we needed something to ensure we didn’t drive each other crazy. But it did so much more.
“This is a time to connect with your family.”
And Stephanie is right.
“I get to spend so little time with her. Little bits in the evening and on the weekends. So, having her home was actually frustrating, but it was also a great gift because I got to see her and get to know her and that was special.”
Ditto for me.
By Nathan Durec