Around a month ago, I was planning an article of insider tips on the toddler scene in Ludlow. I was going to write about the playgroups and nature group, music class, zero to three-year old friendly cafes, daytime spots for feeding the ducks and collecting sticks and generally how to entertain your tiny person in our lovely town. My little family and I moved to Ludlow a year ago and until two weeks ago, my three-year-old boy had a better social life than me.
He went to nursery two and half days a week and spent the other half of the week with me – a lovely, predictable social whirl. Between Playbox at the Methodist Church on Wednesday, Music Tots on Thursday followed by a coffee and milk date with his friends (and mine), Friday was either a morning spent in the woods with Little Grubs Stay and Play or the St Lawrence’s Church playgroup. All happily mix and matched with afternoons at Croft Castle, lunch with Grandma, a play at the Linney, a visit to the dragon who lives in Ludlow Castle or a bit of throwing rocks in the river at Millennium Green occasionally followed by a rowdy lunch of pasta under the very patient eye of CSons staff – it was cosy, it was routine and then it just stopped.
The magic key to keeping your kids occupied
Of course it did, for you, for me, for everyone reading this and I’m still trying to get my head around this abrupt change to the everyday. So, the article I was planning will have to wait for another day. I then thought to write about how to get through toddler-based lockdown in Ludlow, or at least give some helpful tips on dealing with it but that would imply I have some magic key to this crazy situation. While I don’t have that, I do have an ever-growing list of ‘ways-to-keep-the-kids-occupied’ web links and ideas that I’ve gathered myself or from friends and family – often in overwhelming duplicate. Did anyone else find the helpful links useful at first and then just too much?!
The first week of lockdown was heavy going and now my focus has been on keeping things fun, upbeat and as normal as possible for my little boy – without wrecking my own sanity in the process. For most mornings of week one, he asked me, ‘Where do we go today Mummy?’. Expectant of, the usual, ‘it’s Thursday, it’s Music Tots!’ I explained that we would be playing at home today. We’ve kept it coronavirus-truth light for him and said that we can’t go to all the things we normally do.
He’s stopped the daily ask of where we’re going and has seemingly taken it in his stride that life is now just Mummy, Daddy and home, or a wander nearby. He talks about his friends at nursery and asks me to write their names down so he can see their letters. He comes out with little facts about the children he usually sees every week which is new, and very sweet. Every time he asked about our normal routine it slightly breaks my heart, and now that he’s stopping those questions, it’s breaking it a little more.
Mixed success with digital means
What’s become clear is that in every household across the country, the impact is different. For single people, solo parents, key workers, families of school age children, people living in flats, people living in the sticks; the sick and the healthy – it’s all different and we’re all scrambling to work it out.
If, like me, you have very little ones at home you might be finding it a struggle to navigate this new reality for reasons completely different to other people in your life. We’re all in this together, but our experiences are as wild and varied as can be. So far when it comes to my son, I’ve found that technology helps and hinders. We tried a video call play date with his little best mate but apart from poking their tongues out and talking in their own mad little language they got bored and moved on to something else after a few minutes.
We have had about the same level of success with Skyping and WhatsApping video calls with both sets of Grandparents. The very excellent live stream of Music Tots started off well, but unfortunately he’s lost interest in that and Joe Wicks PE class on YouTube. Mind, he’s still sticking with Cosmic Kids Yoga, the story telling side is a big plus. Our regular TV programmes remain just as popular as they were before too.
Otherwise, we go for walks most days and it’s lovely to see Spring starting to pop up in the grassy verges and hedgerows near us and I point out the changes. Our new normal now includes our own daily inhouse coffee date. At around 11am, you’ll find us at the kitchen table or (fingers crossed) in good weather perched in the garden for coffee or milk with homemade biscuits. It’s these little routines that will keep me sane and help to keep us all on track for the day that we can go back to real life, whenever that might be.
Don’t get me wrong, I am winging it as much as the next person and there are days that the news is just too heavy, and the fear for loved ones is just too great. I miss all the normal days, I miss people and I miss great coffee, I miss having time to myself and I miss seeing my son out in the world, hanging out with his pals and his grandparents. So far, I’m finding my way along, seeing what works for him, for us and keeping life reassuringly predictable, active and engaging with hefty doses of love, robots and story times. With luck, he’ll remember little about this time, the things he does will hopefully be lots of happy time hanging out with Mummy and Daddy.
Life with a toddler means every second of your attention is in demand. So, even though my husband and I are tag teaming parenting, to try to get our work done. it’s hard to get a moment to yourself. Those articles about using this unexpected time to learn a new language, or build your business don’t apply to us. Activities are now geared to what we can feasibly do with our toddler. For us, this includes gardening and baking, but more likely it is dressing up, building dens, doing puzzles, drawing, playing and reading. On the plus side, I can’t spend much time worrying about what’s going on in the world right now when I’m building Batman a bat cave out of Duplo.
I look forward to coming out the other side. I hope we can pick up all the best bits of his social scene and get back into the swing of life; the one where you can go outside and hug your best mate, shoot imaginary cannon balls from the canon at Ludlow Castle and have a complete public meltdown about why your mother has to buy coffee before Playgroup. And the unfettered joy and abandon every three year old is hardwired to feel in every cell, locked down or otherwise! Whatever your situation is right now, take it easy on yourself and give yourself a break. There is no perfect way to do mass global quarantine. There is no rule book so stick to things that keep you active and your brain ticking, and if you are at home with a toddler – I feel you.
Here is a list of online resources I’ve found useful. My approach has been to pick and mix – see what works, if it doesn’t, move on.
Local Facebook group ‘Ludlow Mums’ has 2,400 members with lots of ideas and Ludlow-based info.
Another Facebook group with tonnes of isolation friendly ideas for families is ‘Family lockdown, tips and ideas’. Something to dip in and out of if you’re in need of inspiration for the kids!
Music Tots is a lovely weekly music class which takes place in Ludlow every Thursday. Gersom Engels runs two sweet classes a week, splitting the age groups between 0-2 and 2-4 year olds. He’s gone online during the corona pandemic singing and playing a mix of original and fun kids songs. Homemade instruments in our house have included a pasta shaker and banging a pot with a wooden spoon. The details for the classes, and how to donate can be found on its Facebook page (link above).
I have been amazed at how much of a hit Cosmic Kids has been in this house. Nice short stories told with yoga moves that kids can follow easily – be prepared to be impressed with your kid’s flexibility!
I can see a rainbow!
Finally – when life gives you lockdown, draw a rainbow! It was so lovely on our walk yesterday when we spotted five pictures of rainbows on people’s windows. Whatever age you are, if you have crayons, or pens, coloured pencils or paints – draw a brightly coloured rainbow and stick it up in your window. Kids across the country are doing it and it was lovely to see that Ludlow was getting in on the act. It made our son’s day when he spotted them while out.