Tips to entertain your little ones when you have to stay at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, or any reason!
By Marcella Bonanno — Italy
Due to the spread of COVID-19, Italy has been on lockdown since March 11. Almost two months locked in our homes, without social contacts or the usual daily routine is a rather long time for everyone, especially for children.
How can we, during this difficult time, meet the needs of the whole family? This question pops into my head almost every day. Benedetta, my 2-year-old daughter, wants to be carried and breastfed almost all day and Luigi, my 5-year-old son, a hurricane of energy, constantly asks for my attention.
La Leche League Philosophy, found at https://www.llli.org/about/philosophy/, states that “Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.” Keeping this in mind has often saved my day.
Changing my perspective
Thinking about being safe at home instead of locked indoors has often helped my family face the COVID-19 lockdown in a positive way. Together at home, we can focus more easily on everyone’s needs. What are the main needs of a child, newborn and toddler? Being with their mother, feeling safe and secure. Breastfeeding meets many of these needs: food, drink, and the need for closeness.
During this time period, Benedetta has been asking to breastfeed more often. Sometimes out of boredom, other times out of reassurance, and still other times out of hunger. We have learned to face and accept this new situation, and it is working very well. In our activities I always try to “match” one child’s needs to those of the other one.
Finding a new balance
The days seem endless and all the same, so every day we try to invent something to pass the time. My children love to read books and travel with their great imaginations to wonderful places. Luigi always says that with imagination we can do anything. So, we create a story, learn script lines, make a stage, line up all the teddy bears to comprise an audience, and finally —perform on stage. We have a lot of fun. Benedetta often needs to be breastfed a little to find the courage to go on stage.
What better way to pass the time than playing together, baking cookies or kneading pizza dough while listening to children’s songs? Lately, we also like to color and create handmade spring-themed objects, or paint pasta butterflies.
Luigi and Benedetta also like taking care of plants: planting seeds, giving them water every day, and seeing how they grow. This provides my children with a sense of satisfaction, while also teaching them the joys of waiting.
Surviving the “no” days
These past few months, we’ve also had a few “No Days”. I like to call them this because on those days nearly every question is answered with a quick retort: “NO!” On such days I’ve tried to accept their frustration and to understand their needs. Breastfeeding during these trying moments has been helpful with Benedetta, because that is what she knows best and it reassures her.
It is more difficult to find a moment of connection with Luigi, even though we have a strong bond that has matured, in large part due to breastfeeding. Luigi is a high-needs child. Since the day he was born, I’ve learned how to handle many different situations. It is not my job to prevent frustrations in his life, but rather to help him learn how to deal with them. What works best for us is when I talk to him about these moments and try to read what he is feeling by closely observing his eyes. Although challenging, these moments can also be rewarding and bring us together even more. The oxytocin that is produced during breastfeeding certainly makes me feel calmer, and helps me deal with these situations more easily.
Enjoying quality family time
This period of time is giving us extra time to spend with family. During more ordinary, hectic pre-COVID-19 precaution days, I think many of us lacked the time to listen so thoroughly and to connect as deeply and consistently with our children. Now we may have enough time to do so. During our online La Leche League (LLL) meetings that I host as a volunteer LLL Leader, many mothers share that they are breastfeeding more. Some mothers who previously worked outside the home now have the opportunity to stay with their babies all day again as they did during their maternity leave, and it has strengthened that mother-baby bond all the more.
I’m sure every family is trying to find its own balance in this challenging time of great changes. Each family in their own way.
Picturing a rainbow of hope
In Italy, at the beginning of the lockdown, children started drawing rainbows with the words “everything will be fine” as a sign of hope. We did the same. These messages of hope hang in our living room to remind us every day that after a storm, there is always the sun. In our family, we have all decided that when everything is over, we will take down our children’s drawings together.
Normally children’s drawings change quickly on our walls. Just as they make new ones, the “old” ones are taken down and stored in a folder. Only these two drawings of hope have been left there for three months now. It is the first time that I have ever looked forward to removing drawings done by my children!