kids social distancing

Parenting in a Time of Social Distancing

Parents everywhere begin a new normal as we start social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. During this unprecedented time, many will go from a life centered around a structured day with over-filled schedules to an isolated time of unstructured chaos. How do we handle parenting in a time of social distancing?

As a teacher and stay-at-home mom during the summer, I am familiar with spending time with kids for long stretches. I would love to say that those days always fun, but oftentimes it is exhausting. Planning, cooking three meals a day, constantly picking up after little humans and keeping structure and routine while still having fun is overwhelming. But without that structure and routine, it’s even harder. My daughter is a sensitive and spirited kid and when we are out of our routine her anxiety takes over.

I have a feeling that many parents will experience their child’s fears and anxiety in the next few months. I would like to share a few things I have learned along the way.

A child’s feelings and emotions don’t always come out in ways that you would expect.

sad child

It took me a while to realize that when my daughter struggled to pick an outfit or was overwhelmed by choosing what to eat for breakfast, it was actually her anxiety. Her tantrums had nothing to do with the current situation but really it was an underlying worry or unsolved problem.

There’s a lot of scary information that our kids are being exposed to through the media and through conversations they overhear. They might not tell you how scared they really are, but they will definitely show you through their behaviors. If you notice that your child is more irritable, clingy, can’t seem to find anything to do, or just seems a bit off, they might be worried and unsure about how to talk to you. They are struggling as they try to deal with things on their own.

What Can You Do?
  • This article from the Child Mind Institute is a great resource to learn how you can help children cope during this difficult time.
  • Find time to have one-on-one time with your child. Kids will open up when they are engaged in an activity that is unstructured and they have your undivided attention. This is a daily practice in our house now. Each kid gets 5 minutes of one-on-one time and it really helps us stay connected.
    • Legos
    • Drawing
    • Building with Blocks
    • Playdough
social distancing with children

Provide Structure and Routine to Your Day

When the novelty of summer wears off (usually after the second week) I start to structure our day. The first week or two at home will be fun for the kids, but for their sanity and yours, you will want to create some sort of schedule.

Below is a schedule that I loosely follow. I’m not a morning person, so I make sure to give myself enough time to wake before I have direct human contact. That’s where online learning activities are essential!

daily schedule

Print your daily schedule here

Make the Most of this Special (Crazy) Time With Your Kids

Take advantage of this time at home and get the kids involved in making decisions and helping around the house.

Girl planting flowers
Chores for elementary age kids:

Staying at home 24/7 means the house will need to be cleaned and organized more often. I love this chore chart for scheduling daily/weekly chores. Enlist there help with some of these chores and cooking activities.

  • Wiping down tables, chairs and cabinets
  • Dusting
  • Folding laundry and putting clothes away
  • Taking out the trash
  • Emptying the dishwasher
  • Picking up sticks in the yard
  • Pulling weeds
  • Washing and drying dishes
  • Sweeping
  • Vacuuming
Cooking activities for kids:
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Stir ingredients together
  • Cut with child-safe knives
  • Add ingredients to dishes you are making
  • Make simple recipes like banana peanut butter roll-ups
Get Kid’s Involved In Their Learning

This is a perfect time to let your child lead. Set a positive tone for the day by asking your child to list the top three things they would like to do. Make a list of all of the topics that pique their interest and use that as your guide. I always find the day is way more enjoyable if we have a theme!

Here are a few theme ideas my girls love:


  • Learn about the arctic
  • Build an ice castle with marshmallows
  • Make your own ice cream
  • Paint with ice


  • Springtime activities and printable bucket list
  • Take a walk and search for signs of spring
  • Spring Science Ideas – weather, worms, plants
  • Springtime tally chart – download your tally chart here
spring tally chart

Learning Around the World

Take a trip around the world from the comfort of your couch!

Paris Inspired Activities

Get Moving & Get Outside

kids outside

We are lucky to have weather on our side during this time of social distancing. Take the learning outside and encourage more outdoor playtime. Playing outside is good for the body and mind, so make sure it is part of your schedule.

Outdoor Learning Activities
  • Nature scavenger hunt
  • Go on a letter hunt around your neighborhood
  • Build or do art with natural materials
  • Collect and sort objects based on size, color, shape

Use Electronics Wisely

Too much screen time isn’t great for kids. Although it is a great distraction and the best babysitter ever invented, too much screen time negatively impacts our children.

Tips on How to Limit Screen Time During Social Isolation
  • Schedule when your kids have screentime – I like to schedule screen time during times when I need to get stuff done.
  • Teach your kids the importance of downtime – put down your own electronics and read or take up a new hobby.
  • Schedule time for unstructured play – unstructured playtime is a time for kids to play independently and is important for a child’s development. Read my tips about how to implement open-ended play and the many benefits.

Isolate But Still Communicate

Social isolation for extended periods of time can affect our mental health. Research shows that children who have been socially isolated experienced greater mental health difficulties. Other studies suggest that social isolation leads to disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems (not a great time for a compromised immune system), and higher levels of stress hormones. The research is pretty scary, so it is important for us to continue to reach out to people during this time of isolation.

What Can We Do To Fight Loneliness During Social Distancing?
  • Schedule virtual playdates – Facetime with friends and cousins every day to expand the world beyond the four walls of your home.
  • Pick up the phone. Giving your kids time to laugh with their friends and talk to their peers is a great way for kids to relieve stress and work through their feelings. I remember talking on the phone with my friends for hours even though I had just spent the entire day with them. This is something kids don’t really do anymore. That kind of interaction during adolescents is important because it helps kids develop their social identity.
  • Write a letter or a postcard – This one is great because it is a learning opportunity and kids love to get mail!

Take Care of Yourself

This is a time of a lot of uncertainty which is scary and stressful. Children pick up on everything and the effects of exposure to parental stress can be significant.

Tips for Self Care
  • Exercise – Yoga, walking, online workout videos
  • Practice Mindfulness – Being in the present moment and taking time to quiet our minds is important right now. We can’t predict what will happen tomorrow but we can decide how we live today.
  • Talk to People – Feeling socially isolated is lonely so we need a community more than ever.
    • Make a date to Facetime over coffee with friends.
    • Call people and open up about how you’re feeling. We are in this together!
  • Share activities and helpful resources to friends and family
  • Get help when you need it – mental health is a serious issue. Talk to your doctor if you are finding it difficult to cope.

A New Normal – How to benefit from this time of social distancing

This is our opportunity to create a new normal. Slow down, unplug, and find happiness through a simpler way of life.

There’s more to come! Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I will post resources, learning activities and updates from This Little Nugget.

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