Self-Isolation with Kids: A Survival Guide

Written By: Kristen Varley, BPHE, RECE, St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club Preschool teacher

Okay, so I have a question…

What is actually happening?

The year 2020 has been anything but shy with throwing curveballs our way. So much so, I am frequently catching myself wondering, “Is this actually happening?” Turns out it is. The transition into our latest reality has proven to be nothing short of perplexing and challenging, and while there is a hefty population celebrating that staying indoors and binge watching Netflix is their new civic duty, there is another population trying to wrap their heads around the idea of working a full-time job at home with…. kids. Being only a couple days into this transition myself, I am already laughing at the sad attempts I have made to get anything productive done while simultaneously entertaining a (very busy) tiny human. I may be a preschool teacher, but in no way do I qualify for a “Pinterest Mom” status, so I really had to dig deep on how I was going to get through this while holding onto any bit of sanity that I have left. The good news? While staring bewildered at my toddler-run-disaster of an apartment and brainstorming with some of my awesome mom and teacher friends, I did manage to come up with some simple, free and engaging activities to keep the kids happy over the next few weeks while allowing you to still get your work in on time. So, pour yourself another cup of coffee and let’s do this.

Make an Obstacle Course

mage result for indoor obstacle course for kids

The aftermath of living with kids may make your home appear like obstacle courses are a daily routine, but having the kids intentionally build one can actually be loads of fun. First, send them on a hunt to find materials (pillows, furniture, yarn, tape, literally ANYTHING) then set them to work. Extra bonus if you have multiple children because in addition to keeping imaginations active, this can also turn into an activity supporting cooperation and problem solving skills.

Future Rock Stars

mage result for kids rock band

If your kids are anything like mine, there is a good chance they are obsessed with filming themselves and watching it a hundred times over afterward. Narcissistic? Meh, maybe. Fun, educational and awesome time spender? Definitely. Have your kids re-enact their favourite story or musical (or better yet, have them write one of their own!) then record them. If you have extra materials for dress-up throw those in there, let their creativity flow while you get to sit back and wait for the magic to happen.

Make Your Own Board Game

mage result for kids playing board games

Title says it all, but if your kids are a little bit older, a fun DIY game (that merely requires paper and pencils) is a “Family Trivia” game. Have the kiddos brainstorm fun facts about family members and write down the clues. This could also be a ton of fun (and slightly hilarious) to play together as a family once you have some free time!

Create a Scavenger Hunt

mage result for kids making a map

The kids can hand select their treasure and then you can hide it on them (sounds like a normal day in my house whenever I try to clean our beloved “Elsa” doll) and then make clues or a map so they can find it. Again, if you have multiple children, encourage them to take turns hiding the “treasure” and they can create the maps themselves.

Painter’s Tape for the Win!

mage result for painters tape race track

Do you have any painter’s tape hanging around in a junk drawer just begging to be used? Well this is the time to let it shine. Painter’s tape can be used to make countless activities – race tracks, shapes, indoor hopscotch, homes for toys – and leaves behind zero sticky mess!

Go on a Virtual Field Trip

mage result for aquarium

Did you know many zoos, aquariums and farms offer online virtual tours of their spaces? Hello, indoor field trip! Some of these include (but are not limited to): the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park Virtual Field Trip, Mars (SO COOL) and Animal Cameras (live cams at San Diego Zoo, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Houston Zoo, Georgia Aquarium). Reheat that coffee and enjoy!

Make a Fort and Chill

mage result for family indoor fort

This one I encourage the adults to take part of as well. These last few weeks have been nothing short of chaotic and uncertain, and while I know we are all putting on brave face for our kiddos, there is no doubt the anxiety about “What’s next?” hasn’t crossed our minds. Get out the blankets and cushions, collect your favourite snacks, put on a good movie (fun fact: “Frozen 2” is now on Disney+) and enjoy the time with your family. We all deserve some downtime together through all of this.

From One Parent to Another

If I can leave you with anything, let it be this:

At the end of the day, our children will look back on the COVID-19 situation and not remember any of the facts. They won’t remember the specifics or the statistics or who it hurt the most. What they WILL remember is how they felt during it. They will remember our calmness, our love and the time spent together (and of course, these awesome activities!) Go easy on yourself, you’re doing an amazing job and at the end of the day, humanity will always come out on top.

You got this.

Much love,

Miss K.

COVID-19 Updates

5:45 March 13 2020

All programs, services and facilities are closed until further notice.

After today’s announcement from City Manager Chris Murray in response to the recommendation by Toronto’s medical officer of health, we are closing all our programs and services until further notice.

This decision is unfortunate, but necessary to help slow the rate of COVID-19 infection in Toronto and protect vulnerable populations.

We will update our website and social media with news as we receive it.

Thank you for your understanding. Stay healthy and safe.

March 13 2020

We have received confirmation from TDSB that our school based March Break camps in Jane and Finch and Weston Mount Dennis/Lawrence Heights have been cancelled. March Break programs are running at: Main Clubhouse (843 Palmerston Avenue), Jane and Finch locations (Youth Centre, Grandravine Children’s Centre and Driftwood), and Weston-Mount Dennis and Lawrence Heights location (121 Humber).
March Break programs will not be running at Oakdale Middle School, George Harvey C.I. and Dante Aligheiri.

We will not go on field trips or use TTC during March Break.

St. Alban’s preschool program will remain open until further notice. Letter to preschool parents.

To clarify yesterday’s notice regarding programs after March Break: In all likelihood, our school age programs and services will close while the schools are closed from March 23 – April 3.

March 12 2020

In response to today’s announcement that all publicly funded Ontario schools will be closed for two weeks following March Break:

March Break programs:

At this time, we will still be open for March Break programs at our main Clubhouse (843 Palmerston Avenue), our main Weston-Mount Dennis location at 121 Humber Boulevard, and our Jane and Finch Youth Centre.    We have not received information on March Break programs at school locations in the Weston-Mount Dennis, Lawrence Heights and Jane and Finch communities being cancelled by the school board.

Programs after March Break, while schools are closed:

It is our general practice to follow the protocol of the TDSB and Toronto Public Health. In all likelihood, our school age programs and services will close while the schools are closed.  We will base this decision on evidence based, credible sources of information about this ever changing situation.  We will update our website and social media as new facts are confirmed.

March 12 2020

Notice to all St. Alban’s staff and volunteers:

St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club is continuing to monitor the developing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The health and safety of our staff, volunteers and members at all our sites remains our top priority

The Club takes its lead from Toronto Public Health, other public health agencies, and the TDSB.

 You can reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, flu and respiratory illnesses by:

  • Stay home if you are sick.  (Fever, coughing, sneezing, respiratory illness). Do not return to work until you are symptom free for at least 24 hours. Notify your manager if you are ill.
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  •  If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
  • Get an annual flu vaccination, available from clinics and pharmacies.
  •  If you have travel plans:
    • Consult Government of Canada website for travel advice (some countries have entry and exit restrictions)
    • monitor your respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing;
    • seek medical care immediately if these respiratory symptoms develop within 14 days after returning to Canada; and                                                    
    • inform your doctor or local public health department about symptoms and travel history before seeking medical care

In your role as a leader at our Club:

  • Do not spread misinformation – refer concerned parents or community members to our website and official communication regarding our preparedness procedures.
  • Be a role model for children in your care – remember, the best teacher leads by example – Don’t just tell the kids to wash their hands – wash your hands with them and let them see that you consider it an important task.
  • Reinforce no sharing policies (food, water bottles, whistles, lip balm)
  • Provide support and reassurance. Remember, children are often listening when you talk about COVID-19. Listen to and acknowledge feelings of concern and fear from children. Help identify sources of misinformation.  Maintain familiar routines and activities to reinforce a sense of security.
  • If you hear of a confirmed case of COVID-19 affecting any of our members or community members, please inform your manager so that we may respond accordingly.
  • If a child or staff member shows symptoms of COVID-19, they should be separated from others in a supervised area until they are able to go home.

We understand that you and many of our families have questions and concerns. Please ask your supervisor or the management team should you have any questions or concerns. At the Club, we are doing all we can to keep our staff and participants safe and healthy.

For more information, please refer to the following links:

Toronto Public Health – COVID-19 information 

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for School Administrators: Kindergarten – Grade 12 (Toronto Public Health)

Toronto Public Health – letter regarding travel over March Break

Ontario Ministry of Health 

PHAC – Public Health Agency of Canada

Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisory

March 12 2020

Toronto Public Health – letter regarding travel over March Break

March 4 2020

With the recent outbreak of Coronavirus, parents, staff, volunteers and community members may be feeling anxious as the issue continues to emerge. However, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer has advised that risk to Ontarians remains low at this time. Toronto Public Health regularly update their site about how Torontonians are being affected. We at St. Alban’s are following Public Health guidelines and are doing all we can to keep everyone safe while also continuing to serve our communities with dignity.

For more information, please refer to Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)’s document on the prevention and management of coronavirus (COVID-19) in schools and childcare settings.