Social distancing with babies and small children

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the advice on how to keep your family well, you are not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has left many parents confused and unsure. One thing is certain, staying home and social distancing is an important way to reduce the risk of catching the virus. Here is how to survive this time with your baby or small child.

Part of being a parent is getting up close and personal with your little one. It is impossible to maintain the 1.5-meter rule when caring for babies and small children. Social distancing cannot apply to every member of a household living under one roof, so cuddle your own kids!

When self-isolating or social distancing at home, try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Changing out of pajamas into day clothes, brushing teeth and keeping regular mealtimes will all help babies and small children to feel a sense of security. And it will help you feel more in control.

Consider writing up a flexible plan for the week. Divide the day into morning and afternoon activities. Aim to do something new each day. If your child usually goes to childcare, do some same activities they might do when they are in care.

Play-time tips and activities:

  • Ration toys so your kids do not have everything out at once. Every couple of days, take some away and bring out what’s new and exciting.
  • Read to your baby and/or children daily. It is normal for small people to want the same stories over and over.
  • Keep screen time for when it is really needed and when you need a break as well. Pick something suitable and limit the time it is used.
  • Babies and children learn by playing and having fun. This is important to their development and you can help encourage their learning and imagination with everyday items you find around the home.
  • Spend time in the garden. Plant flower and vegetable seeds that bring quick results, such as sunflowers, cherry tomatoes and peas.
  • Have tea parties, picnics on the deck or lawn and bring the teddies with you. Remember that when using items around the house, to make sure they are safe and age appropriate.
  • Avoid managing every moment of your child’s day. Keep your distance if they are busy by themselves, are safe and entertained. Entertaining themselves is a valuable skill.

Try to view social distancing at home positively. Aim to enjoy this time and remember it will eventually pass. Limit outings to short, essential trips. If possible, leave your children at home to be cared for if you are going grocery shopping.

Be very careful about hygiene. It is important to wash hands often, not share eating utensils or towels, and to wipe down surfaces regularly. Teach your children how to wash their hands really well. Make sure they can access the taps by standing on a footstool. Make sure they can reach the towel easily.

Give yourself and your family time to adjust to the ‘new normal’. Babies and small children follow their parents’ lead. Stay calm and confident, even if you are feeling uncertain.

Take time for yourself. Maintain your own connections to your family and friends through social media, video call apps and phone calls. No one of us knows how long the COVID-19 social restrictions will apply. Try to pace yourself so you do not run out of patience too early. Try to keep your mood, and the way you talk to your kids, consistent.