Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

Parenting through a pandemic

This pandemic has affected all of us in some way, shape or form.

For some, it’s meant a halt to travelling overseas. Limited our ability to earn a wage or keep a business afloat. It has reduced social interaction and dating opportunities. Changed our retirement plans. For others it’s make it hard to visit loved ones in hospital or nursing homes, or say goodbye when the time comes.

For those of us with children, Covid has changed the way we parent. As a mum of three boys five and under, it has been a challenging time. We’ve felt stir crazy. I’ve missed my friends and know that my kids have missed theirs too.

For many young children, the world with Covid is all they know. It has been amusing to me, to sit back and watch their play. I can’t help smiling at the ways Covid has started to change this. To them, they are just living out their reality of living through a pandemic. They are trying to make sense of the world they are living in.

Here are some of the ways my two older boys aged 5 and 3, have incorporated Covid into their play.

Social distancing

While playing with a wooden treehouse, my eldest carefully placed little stepping stones along the fake grass. He had some gnomes balanced on top of these. “They’re social distancing mum. They can’t go any closer. They need to make sure they leave gaps in between.” Other times they have drawn crosses on the ground in chalk so their bikes can be spaced apart. They stick masking tape on the wood floor for them to social distance when playing games. Matchbox cars have to leave a gap between each other. Teddies can’t sit right next to each other for tea parties. Pictures in their sketchbooks show space in between people.

There is always a clear spot to stand on and a gap to keep apart. My children take it very seriously because they see us doing it in real life. They don’t always like the rules but understand they need to be followed. They don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing. My eldest reads signs and asks questions about what it all means. It’s a lot to take in for anyone.

Hand sanitiser

My boys are used to washing their hands regularly, or at least being reminded to, and using hand sanitiser when out. One time we went to the supermarket together and went to the automatic dispenser. It deposited a huge amount into my son’s hand. “Ugh!” he exclaimed. He proceeded to rub it all over my arm. “All better.”

One day at kindy pick up, my then two-year-old argued over having to do hand sanitiser. I eventually won the battle and he agreed to put it on. He then crawled around on his hands and knees, licking the ground. “I’m a puppy dog. Woof woof!” He spent the next ten minutes grabbing things off the ground with his mouth, licking everything, dropping his dummy for fun so he could pick it up with his teeth and just generally being disgusting, much to the dismay and worry of the staff and parents watching on. At least he had clean hands.

My then four-year-old ran out to greet one of our friends. He grabbed the hand sanitiser we keep by the door and held it out for our friend.  “You need to use this before you come inside.” We were mortified. We’d never modelled doing this or asked them to do it but our friend was a great sport. He agreed that it was important and proceeded to clean his hands thoroughly before he entered the house. He commented that we had our children well trained.  Despite our embarrassment, it was a funny moment and we were proud of our boy for taking steps to keep our family healthy and safe.

Covid Safe Check In

When we visit shopping centres, church, play cafes or have appointments, my boys are used to the routine of checking in. They want to do the right thing and follow the rules so like to remind me. “Mum, don’t forget to check in! Can I do it?” This translates to their play at home. When my boys play pretend cafes and shops, they always make sure that there’s a Covid Safe check in at the front. They draw one and sticky tape it wherever they are playing. “Don’t forget to do your check in. Ding! Can I see the tick?”

They have fun creating QR codes to put around the house. Barcodes of all shapes and sizes have appeared in the most random of places. They even made one for our front door so our guests adhere to the rules. People have a little chuckle when they visit and sometimes get out their phone to pretend which of course the boys love.

Covid Marshall

When assigning roles to play, along with the typical mum, dad, cat, baby, princess, policeman etc, they now include a Covid Marshall, naturally. “I’m the Covid Marshall.  I make sure that everyone follow the rules, checks in and social distances. I get to wear a lanyard so people know who I am.” They enjoy getting to be this role because they of course enjoy bossing others around.

My toddler is slightly addicted to tv (confession time). Whenever he hears talk of Covid Marshalls, he finds it all a bit confusing. “Like Marshall from Paw Patrol” he exclaims. “Paw Patrol Marshall!” He breaks into an uncontrollable giggle.  It’s a lot for a three-year-old to comprehend. Even some of us adults, let’s be honest.

Covid testing

One of the new games that our kids like to play is ‘Covid testing.’ It’s a fun game where the balance board is placed on its side to form a semi-circle and the boys sit behind it. I drive my pretend car past, after booking in online of course. We all put our masks on, then they ask for my details.

To save time, I have my printed form with a QR code ready to go. Once verifying my identity, they tell me what to expect. “Now this isn’t going to hurt. It will just tickle your tongue and tickle your nose. Be brave and you’ll get a sticker!” My test comes complete with a torch being shone down my throat so they can properly assess what they are dealing with. They are very thorough with their tickling.

One can’t be too careful with Covid testing. It’s a serious business. I must be a good patient because I am presented with stickers. Lots of stickers. I am also bandaged multiple times because apparently I’m very sick and need to rest. I am praised for my bravery and told to keep an eye out for my results. They will message me later.

I am told to come back and get tested right away, because it’s the game and otherwise it will be boring. I drive back into the waiting bay, and this time I go by a different name. This confuses my eldest, because I am still Mummy, but eventually he gets the idea that I’m just pretending to change my name.

I don’t have a printout with my new identity which bothers him. He quickly excuses himself so he can scribble a new one for me, I mean Cynthia Ashlee Harper Rosedale. My two big boys mask up and take turns looking down my throat and tickling my nose. It really is a wonderful experience. Off I go to await results. This involves lying on the carpet on my tummy.

I always hope that perhaps they might come and play cars on my back, play with my hair or give me a back massage. It looks more like being jumped on, stacked on top of, hair becoming a tangled mess or my back being karate chopped and wobbled. After a minute or two of fearing for my life and longevity of my back, I scramble to a different, somewhat safer position.

A few little random moments

  • Once we tested positive, my eldest put a sign on the front door. With my help he wrote, “we have Covid so please don’t come in.” He drew a self-portrait with a mask on.  He keeps saying to me, “I can’t believe I actually have Covid. Can you believe we have the Coronavirus Mum?” My three year old has been saying in a husky little voice, “I have Covid! I have Covid!”
  • When our boys play doctors, they now wear masks (sometimes two each), ask questions about their movement interstate and overseas, if they are vaccinated and if they are feeling well. They give each other pretend injections and booster shots. For some reason they particularly love giving their parents injections (clearly you can never have too many).
  • When they come to chat to me while I’m on the loo, they accompany me to the bathroom afterwards. “Mum, you need to sing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands! Two times!” Thanks Wiggles and Playschool I mumble under my breath as I agree that yes, I should wash my hands for longer and reluctantly join them in song.
  • During early 2020 when things were starting to get serious (but it was still far away from us in South Australia), my then three-year-old was trying to make sense of it all. He would cheekily say ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘cheese’ when posing for photos. This tended to be awkward out in public.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these moments are a nice reminder that it’s not all been bad. I knew I had to write them down or they’d get lost in the chaos of daily life. Our children can still find joy in the everyday as they navigate the world around them.

How has Covid affected the way your little one’s play?

I’d love to hear down below!

10 ways to save money at Christmas, so you don’t go into debt 🎄❄️⛄️

It’s the most wonderful time of year, right? For many of us, this season is far from that. We may feel lonely or isolated, grieving those who are no longer with us, struggling with health issues or dread the awkward family gatherings. For some, the added financial pressure is extremely stressful. We often place high expectations on ourselves to perform and impress others or create an unforgettable time for our family.

There are some things you can do earlier in the year to help set you up for a less stressful Christmas season. Here are ten tips.

1. Have a sinking fund. Start saving early for Christmas. Figure out how much you’ll need: presents, food, travel etc, then work backwards about how much per week or pay cycle this equates to. Open up a separate savings fund and nominate a figure to be transferred into on a regular basis (eg. $50 every fortnight). Christmas can feel like it comes faster every year but it isn’t an emergency. Don’t let it creep up on you and stress you out! Make a plan and stick to it. Little amounts throughout the year add up!

2. Kris Kringle. This is popular in many work places and families. Rather than everybody buying a present for everybody, do a simple draw to figure out the one person that each person buys for. Set a limit (we do $30 in our family) and create a wish list of ideas for that person to choose from. This is a great idea for buying for children too – they really don’t need that many presents!

3. Set limits. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend and what you actually want to. Have a conversation with family earlier on in the year and put your concerns on the table if you feel the spending is too high. It is ok to have boundaries for presents throughout the year too. We have $30 for close family, $20 for other family, $20 for kids and $10 for children’s parties. Write down your budget, figure out what you can buy with this money and keep a record of what you buy throughout the year. It’s easy to forget things that you may have bought, and then overspend when you purchase more things closer to Christmas.

4. Write gift ideas. This is especially important for children. Most relatives want to be generous and buy an exciting gift for their child, and want the wow factor. To help avoid excess in your home, try creating a wishlist of ideas. This can be on a website like Amazon or simply a list emailed out with prices and links to the shop. Include a mixture of toys (focusing on open ended or good quality), clothes, books and experiences (eg cinema, bowling or swimming vouchers). See my post on How to declutter your children’s toys for good for more tips.

5. Buy second hand. I love op shopping (or thrifting). Most of my children’s clothes, shoes, books and toys are bought this way. I always encourage relatives to buy things on marketplace or from op shop if they want (eg get a bulk set of Fireman Sam toys for $30 rather than one new truck). I only buy second hand for others with their permission (eg. would you prefer five gorgeous dresses second hand or one new one for your two year old?). This not only reduces cost for people, or gets more for their money, but it also reduces the environmental impact.

6. Limit wastage. Writing lists and doing Kris Kringle can help limit excess presents but how about food? Discuss and plan meals with family, organise who brings what, try not to go crazy at the grocery store before hand. Make salads to go with leftover cold meats, cook veggies in a creamy cheese sauce, make yiros, soups or platters. Use it as a chance to have a few days off cooking. Jamie Oliver has some fabulous ideas for this in his book, ‘Save with Jamie.’

7. Choose your favourites. Covid has certainly changed the way way we live recently and for many of us, has forced us to slow down (see Why adjusting to isolation was hard, but why I’m not ready to come out of it just yet …). As mothers, we often feel pressure to create a magical Christmas experience.

Sit down and figure out what is most important to you and ask your kids what they love the most. Is it Christmas carol events, Christmas lights, visiting markets, sitting on Santa’s lap (or the socially distanced version), snuggling up watching Christmas movies, baking honey biscuits or decorating gingerbread houses? Pick your favourites, schedule them in and create times of rest and togetherness at home. We don’t and can’t do it all. ( The art of saying no.. )

8. Everyone contribute. Discuss with family what you can all bring to ease pressure on the host. Divide up meat, veggies, salads, dessert, drinks and snacks (even bonbons, serviettes and declarations can be brought by someone else if they come early to help set up. It shouldn’t be organised and paid for by one household (in my opinion).

Two years ago, I had a baby on Christmas Eve. I went home that night and made it for Christmas lunch at my parents and Boxing Day at in-laws. Whilst I don’t recommend doing this (😂😂), they made it simple for us. I pre-bought and packed drinks and nibbles, and contributed some money towards food.

9. Limit alcohol. This is one area that can add up really fast. If you enjoy drinking, especially at this time of year, look out for specials the month or two leading up to Christmas. Put some boxes aside (and try not to drink them!) to reduce costs closer to the festive season. Mix up drinking alcohol with water, soft drink, juice, soda stream, flavoured milk or hot drinks if you can.

10. Return or regift excess. People love to give women hand creams or bath lotions. It’s a lovely gesture but how much can you actually use? I regift these items unless I really love the scent. If I take the time to create a wishlist with my child (or on behalf of young children), and the relative chooses to buy a noisy plastic toy that will not last (or clothing that is the wrong size), I don’t feel bad about exchanging this or regifting (unless your children really love it or are old enough to make their own decisions).

This may be seen as ungrateful, but isn’t it worse to open the package, let the kids play with it a week before it breaks or put the clothing in a drawer never to use? It might seem harsh at the time but if you do it quietly, and buy something else with the money for your child, surely that is a better solution.

Ultimately I choose what comes into our house and stays there, as I am the one to pick up and organise all the things. Last year, our boys got so many toys for birthday and Christmas. I took some to my local department store and asked if they sold it and whether they would let me return it. One shop took most and gave me $120 in credit notes. I used this to buy clothing they needed and some toys they’d wanted for ages.

In closing, despite the expensive season that Christmas can be, you can have a say in how prepared you are and how much you choose to spend. Take some time to plan ahead, set your budget and gently communicate with those around you about these plans. Brainstorm together about some changes you can make that will honour the family traditions whilst respecting your financial situation. It’s ok and healthy to have boundaries. We don’t have to do what we have always done.

I hope that Christmas for you this year will be special and with those that you love. ❤️

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