Sometimes life throws curveballs. They come in many forms, from winter storms that shut down large portions of the city to global pandemics that call for quarantines and extra precautions for the sake of public health.
We’re in the midst of the latter at the moment, with school closures and work-from-home policies being implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. If you’re a parent, all this diversion from normal might seem overwhelming. We’re learning new terms like “flatten the curve” and “social distancing” and working to understand how to carry out these important recommendations in our personal lives. We’re receiving emails about coronavirus precautions from all corners—family physicians are weighing in alongside Bed Bath and Beyond! And to top it off, we’re working to control our own anxieties about the pandemic while caring for the people we love.
With widespread closure of schools throughout the US, one thing is becoming crystal clear: we’re all going to be stuck inside for a while. We’ve compiled a list of ideas for how to stay busy and helpful (and not go insane!) during the next few weeks.
If you have concerns about COVID-19 and need help, you can find details at CDC.gov or your state public health department.
This won’t last forever
If there’s one thing we all love about city life, it’s the ability to live among diversity, to attend events with our neighbors, and to see our city full of people. Social distancing will make life feel a lot different for a while—but only for a while! We’ve got a serious task ahead of us to beat the coronavirus, but when it’s all over, you’d better believe our block parties are going to be so good! It’s helpful to think about life after coronavirus. This won’t last forever.
Be a good neighbor
Do you have elderly neighbors or live near people who might need assistance? This is a good time to set urban anonymity aside and reach out to those around us. It can be as simple as posting a note in your apartment entryway offering your help to signing up for mutual aid volunteer opportunities. Don’t know your neighbors? This is a fantastic time to change that.
Do stock up, don’t hoard.
Remember, stocking up on essentials is very different than hoarding. Buy what you need at the grocery store and keep in mind there are probably people in your city who have needs greater than yours. If you’re tempted to stockpile, it’s probably an indication that you have the means to do so (extra cash, enough space, a second fridge). If that’s you, consider donating to your city’s food banks and pantries so those with less can still find what they need. If grocery stores are wiped clean, donations to food banks will decrease; let’s help fill in the gaps.
Support your local small businesses
It’s easy to look at charts and graphs of the global economic effects of this pandemic. But talk to any small business owner and they’ll tell you what it actually feels like—frightening. We can’t imagine life in the neighborhood without our bookstores and toy stores and restaurants and independent theaters and flower shops and coffee shops. Social distancing might mean life looks a bit different, but we can work creatively to continue supporting our communities!
If you’re working from home and foregoing your daily stop for morning coffee, pick up a bag or two from your local coffee shop or roaster. Buy some new books and games for your time spent indoors from your neighborhood toy store or book shop. Many are offering local delivery or drive-by pick up to accommodate social distancing while still doing business (Amazon doesn’t need us, but these local small businesses do). Call and ask your local grocery if they can shop for you and set a time to pay and pick up. Purchase flowers from your florist and deliver to front steps of friends or neighbors who are quarantined. Order takeout or delivery from independent restaurants in your ‘hood—especially Asian ones to show solidarity against heartless outbursts of xenophobia surrounding the source of COVID-19.
Stories Bookshop in Brooklyn is getting creative and offering drive-by pick ups of book orders and a roundup of screen-free games and activities on their webshop. Play, a toy store in Chicago, is also offering curbside pickup and encourages parents to call ahead to their local businesses to ask if they’ll make the option available (and be patient while they work out the details!). Tutu School in San Francisco is streaming all ballet classes online for students while their studio is closed. Canlis, an upscale restaurant in Seattle is closing their dining room and launching a drive through and delivery service. It’s remarkable to watch this creativity and solidarity grow among our cities!
It’s not rocket science, it’s just a bit of creative forethought about supporting our beloved small businesses during a time when they really need it.
Stay busy, don’t go insane
When it comes down to the daily grind of school closures, cancelled events, working from home, and anxiety about a highly contagious virus threatening our personal and public health, it’s easy to feel concerned. Let’s remember to take care of ourselves, maintain as much normalcy as possible, stay busy, help where we are able, and hold tightly to hope and optimism.
We’ve compiled a list of activities to help you stay busy with your kids. It includes everything from STEM projects with play doh to indoor obstacle courses to yoga courses to audiobook recommendations to home theater setups to art projects to make with your stacks of egg cartons from Costco.
If your playdates have to be are cancelled, consider setting up virtual story times where each kid reads a story to the others via FaceTime or Zoom. Grab some stamps and envelopes and mail letters to classmates or rally friends to send mail to troops overseas. Start a virtual bazaar: help your kids bake cookies to deliver to doorsteps or make crafts that can be shared with friends and family via email to raise money for your local food pantry.
Don’t forget to go outside! Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay in your home 24/7, it means that you should avoid any opportunities where you are in close enough contact with another person for the virus to be transmitted. Go for a bike ride! Let the kids ride scooters around the block a few times. Go for a run to get some sunshine and fresh air in an area where there aren’t many people. If you’ve tested positive for the virus and have been asked to self-isolate or self-quarantine that’s different—stay at home and away from public spaces entirely.
We’re not epidemiologists at the Sidewalk Club, so we’ll leave the health advice and recommendations to the experts. But our goal has always been to offer support and encouragement to parents raising kids in the city, and that’s exactly what we hope to do with these ideas. There’s no denying that the next few weeks are going to be tough. Our cities will look and feel a lot different, but with a little creativity we can continue to feel connected to our cities, our neighborhoods, and each other.
Solidarity, fellow parents. *Elbow bump.*