With a large map weighted at the corners spread out before her, our youngest is charting future adventures with an erasable marker. I have to get in quick for a photo before her first odyssey is wiped clear.
A few years ago this was a recurring activity on a map affixed to her bedroom wall. It coincided with a head over heels embrace of Dora The Explorer. Oh the places our then 6-year-old would go!
This brand spanking new map had been tucked away in a closet waiting to be found on a proverbial rainy day. No better time for maman to break it out as we’re well into the coronavirus deluge now – uncharted territory for families, neighbourhoods, communities and governments.
I can almost taste the resilience of this mapping play, imaginative, forward looking, new worlds creativity. The activity is a nimble pivot from news shared with the kids earlier in the afternoon – no longer would friends be allowed to come to our house to play indoors or outside in the yard.
Our newly self-imposed isolation and social distancing followed a series of disruptions impacting primarily the kids – cancellations of spring basketball, Cubs and Scouts, cinemas, an overseas vacation and the big grandaddy of them all, school – the learning, playing and socializing space.
We are not alone of course. This is happening across vast areas of the globe. UNESCO estimates that on March 18 more than 861 million students in over 100 countries would be out of school for varying lengths of time. It seems that the world is grinding to a halt as the virus tries to overtake us.
Public health professionals and journalists are working zealously to inform citizens of important life saving actions that can help to curb the virus’ spread. People still have so many questions and not all have a ready answer. Sometimes once you think you’ve got one, you hear a different response and have to assess which is most likely to be accurate.
Two days ago I couldn’t find anything authoritative related to the risk associated with outdoor neighbourhood play. Should we have the kids out playing in a pandemic? One public health expert indicated that the risk would be low if the place in question was not experiencing community spread.
This was my doctrine for a day until I heard from a city councillor and then a design and build playground company, both from other parts of Canada. Their comments on PlayGroundology’s Facebook page nudged our family into limiting outdoor play to the backyard with our kids only, no friends.
From there it was an almost effortless drift into significantly reducing our in-person social interactions at an earlier date than we might have otherwise considered. This may ease the transition to full self-isolation when public health authorities call for it. If you are weighing what action to take, you may find this piece from the BBC helpful, Coronavirus: Should you let your children play with other children?
Before we know it the maelstrom will be upon us here on Canada’s eastern edge. Our merry little nuclear family is fortunate to be part of a community with plenty of conscientious neighbours. On a more macro scale, as citizens of a high income country, we are beneficiaries of a relatively robust public health infrastructure, educational system and government leadership. We know that this is not the case for many throughout the world.
Just seven days ago we were wrestling with whether we should be cancelling an overseas vacation. We had been wavering for a couple of weeks and then the Canadian government decided for us when one week ago they issued travel advisories recommending against non-essential international travel.
I have no idea where we will be seven days from now. Do any of us? As we seek to understand, cope and vanquish this virus, let’s be responsible in our personal actions and think of others.
In these times of uncertainty it’s important to celebrate kindness and giving, to keep our eyes on decency, bravery, beauty and hope. There are great things going on, small gestures that touch many people. Here are a few stories we’ve come across. Do you have any you would like to share? If so, drop a line through the ‘Contact’ tab.
- A Canadian doctor is helping promote good hand washing hygiene with a version of a well-loved nursery rhyme. I saw Dr. Nisha Thampi’s story on CBC’s The National earlier in the week.
- In Brooklyn, New York, “neighborhood kiddos are going on walks but no longer can see their friends or go to playgrounds. Some of us are putting rainbows 🌈 up in our windows for them to spot as many as they can on a walk. Like a giant neighborhood wide I spy game. If you are wondering what you can do in this time – put a rainbow in your window to spread some joy!”
- Tim Gill (Rethinking Childhood) and Penny Wilson (The Playwork Primer) reached out to their considerable networks for some ideas on kid’s play in these difficult times. Play in the time of cornavirus was published earlier this week. Ludicology another group of fine play folk have just published Playing through the Coronavvirus Pandemic.
- Nixon Modz was sad that he wouldn’t be able to see his mates at school or have a party to celebrate his 7th birthday. A tweet by his dad inviting people to send birthday wishes started trending and Nixon was flooded with reading material. Canadian political cartoonist Michael de Adder sent a one of a kind card….
- And thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta who we have watched for so many evenings on CNN. His empathy, quiet compassion and unflagging pursuit of answers are inspirational.
Since this coronavirus has started its assault in our small corner of the world, our oldest girl has changed up her bedtime routine. She’s asked us to sing her goodnight song again. It’s back on the playlist after an absence of many months. There’s nothing like familiarity and a little comfort to warm hearts.
We hope you will find opportunities to play over the coming weeks and months. We’ll do our best and share good news about play with you. No new local coronavirus cases in China was by far the best news we heard yesterday….
And now for a five-step roadmap of how we can engage through this infographic from the UK’s Eden Project Communities.
Many thanks to all the frontline and essential workers. Without you, we can’t imagine where we would be. Stay safe friends.