Winter Break During the Pandemic: Play it Safe

December 18, 2020

mother and children playing in the snow

Winter break is right around the corner! 2020’s winter break (like most things) is impacted by COVID-19. The  pandemic continues to sweep the nation. As the weather has turned colder and people have retreated indoors, virus transmission rates are soaring to levels not yet seen since the pandemic began. We all must do our part to reduce community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. That means that this year’s winter break may look and feel a little different for children and their families. 

This year, play it safe by adhering to COVID-19 precautions we’ve all heard so much about which include (but are not limited to):  

  • Wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth in public places and when you’re with people from different households. 
  • Limiting interactions with people outside of your household and wash your hands often.  
  • If you do gather with others, do it outdoors or gather in a well-ventilated setting
  • Keeping your distance as best you can to reduce the possibility of sharing the same air.  

Encourage the children in your care to do the same.  

Play It Safe TOGETHER! 

The very real feelings of safety and security children feel are achieved, in large part, through strong relationships with the adult caregivers in their lives. The experience of a secure foundation in early childhood is key to early social-emotional development, physical and mental health and overall well-being.  

It may seem that the pandemic mostly has been about togetherness, especially during times of stay-at-home orders, quarantine and small and static groups that have become the norm in early learning settings. However, this winter break, try to tune in to the distress signals children in your care may be expressing. Connect with children on an emotional level and be as intentional as you can about sharing quality time. One of the best gifts parents and caregivers can provide this winter season may just be focused attention on children during the pandemic winter months. And the great thing is that you don’t have to go to great lengths to engage meaningfully with children when you are together.   

Playing It Safe with Children of All Ages 

Here are some simple and fun winter break ideas to do with school-age children:  

Have some fun together in the snow!  

  • Bundle up, go outside and make a snow person, snow fort and snow angels. 
  • Have a snowball showdown! (build a wall of snow for each team to hide behind, place small snow people on top of the wall, then take turns throwing snowballs to knock down the opposing team’s snow people). 
  • Find a hill and go sledding. 
  • Get a child-sized snow shovel and call on your youthful helper(s) to clear the doorstep or front walk or to help clear a neighbor’s snow.  
  • Fill a watering can or spray bottle with colored water (food coloring will do) and paint the snow! 
  • Make snow ice cream

No Snow? No Problem! 

  • Build a fort, teepee or lean-to using materials supplied by mother nature (sticks, rocks and branches). 
  • Roast marshmallows or hot dogs over an open fire and tell stories. 
  • Build a backyard obstacle course. 
  • Hold a “snowball” challenge using rolled up socks. 
  • Have a picnic. 
  • Head out for a hike. 
  • Creative fun and festive scenes on sidewalks and cement walls with sidewalk chalk. 
  • Flatten out a large cardboard box and go cardboard box sledding! 
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt

Embrace the season together! 

  • Decorate a gingerbread house. 
  • Plan a group video chat with other family members – play virtual games together. 
  • Make some hot cocoa to sip on as you tour holiday light displays – either in person or virtually

Playing It Safe with Infants and Toddlers 

For infants and toddlers, look to Vroom for fun ways to engage very young children in your everyday tasks. Even the simplest interactions are exercises in brain building. Anyone may access Vroom tips online, by text or through a phone app.  

Playing It Safe During Holiday Celebrations 

Families and child care providers, including family, friend and neighbor caregivers, can do a lot to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Before you make plans for winter celebrations like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, look at CCAoA’s Tips to Keep the Holidays Healthy. This resource contains a list of questions for families and child care providers to ask each other about their plans for staying safe and healthy as they consider holiday gatherings. 

Whatever you do, enjoy winter break! 

Topics: Family & Community Engagement, Best Practices, Health & Safety, Coronavirus

Kim Engelman

Written by Kim Engelman

In 2015, Dr. Engelman joined Child Care Aware® of America’s staff team where she uses her expertise and knowledge from preventive medicine and public health, health and human service systems, child development, research and data, clinical psychology and early childhood care and education to advance Child Care Aware® of America’s mission.