Pandemic Parenting

Side view of preschool age girl with mask on cuddling masked stuffed animal
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Masked Stuffies & Jokes About Muting: 20 Families Share How Kids Brought The Pandemic Into Their Play Worlds

“Any time we watch a show and they don’t have on masks, my kids are like, ‘Is this live?!’”

From homeschooling to social distancing, we’ve asked a lot of our children lately. The pandemic has touched every facet of our lives, to the point that many kids have been incorporating Covid into their playtime, either by expertly applying the proper protocols or mimicking a version of their own reality with their toys. It’s sort of adorable... and, also, sort of depressing.

The past year has been hard and, moreover, very weird. Humans are social creatures: all this distance isn’t necessarily “normal” for us. But for kids, in many cases, it’s all they know. Or all they remember. I mean, my daughter is almost 7 and the pandemic has taken up approximately 15% of her life at this point. There has been lots of speculation about what the academic, emotional, developmental, and social fallout of the pandemic will be on our children. But I’m an optimist at heart, and I truly believe children are far more resilient than we give them credit for. The fact that they incorporate elements of the pandemic into playtime – processing what they’re going through – is a testament to that. (Experts agree, according the reporting from The Washington Post.)

A global pandemic isn’t what any of us would have wanted as a foundational memory for our kids. Fortunately they’ve adapted and, in the process, have occasionally made us laugh (if a bit wistfully)...

Heather R., Illinois

“My daughter has put various dolls into ‘quarantine,’ separating them from all the other dolls because they’re not feeling well.”

Brooke F., California

“My fourth grade son had to design a snowman for remote school in December. They had us pick up supplies and sent out a picture of what it should look like (unmasked, regular snowman). When my son made his, he added a mask immediately.”

Claire G., New York

“I had an argument with my 10-year-old about brushing teeth before school, and his argument was ‘Mom. No one smells my breath. Masks? Social distancing?’ It was a hard argument to rebut.”

Magda A., Maine

“My daughter was telling me that her stuffed dog was excited to get his COVID shot. She also refers to [the pandemic] as ‘six feet,’ as in ‘When six feet is over, can we do X?’”

Laura A., Pennsylvania

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“Our grocery has a robot named Marty with giant googly eyes and a mask. The other day his mask fell off and [my child] lost her sh*t because Marty was going to get COVID.”

Becky L., Connecticut

“At the start of the pandemic [my middle child] had a physical and they asked him to draw a picture of a person and he detailed everything .....except leaving out a nose and mouth. The doctor said ‘Well, where the nose and mouth?’ [My child] said ‘It’s under his coronavirus mask so you cant see it!’”

Britt K., Texas

“Any time we watch a show and they don’t have on masks, my kids are like, ‘Is this live?!’”

Vanessa D., New Jersey

“My daughter wants to make masks now that she got a kid’s sewing machine. She puts masks on her dolls, and she always criticizing lack of mask wearing at the playground and when she hears of her friends doing things like sky zone, get air, bowling, birthday parties...”

Kim I., New York

“Mine has definitely put on masks in the house when we’re just playing that we’re going out to the store. Ride-On Unicorn Rocking Horse has also been masked at times.”

Tracy H., Indiana

“My daughter made up a song about missing her teacher and friends after being on lockdown for a few weeks.”

Cindy D., Pennsylvania

“When my kids play ‘school,’ their American girl dolls are masked at their pretend computers, and there is a lot of talk about muting.”

Emily K., California

“They have become hand sanitizer connoisseurs, ‘Oh, they’ve added lemon scent to this one; I like that better than the chemical scent from ballet.’”

Ashli M., Texas

My daughter (5) and nephew (6) pretend play going to Disney Land all the time. They always travel around the house in their masks. They never forget them if they are "traveling" outside of the house. It’s part of their normal now.

Laura D., Pennsylvania

“My daughters, 8 and 6, were playing school together. The ‘teacher’ (my 8-year-old) made sure to incorporate the imaginary students who were joining the classroom virtually.”

Stephanie B., Michigan

Vladimir Godnik/fStop/Getty Images

“My 5-year-old has stuffies wearing masks.”

Lisa Z., Connecticut

“Whenever I say we can’t do something, my kids always ask, ‘Is it because we're quarantined?’”

Shannon H., New Hampshire

“Before heading to fourth grade, my daughter says ‘Mom, my mask needs to match my outfit!’”

Erin L., Texas

“My 2-year-old can now expertly apply hand sanitizer.”

Meaghan M., New Hampshire

“My stepson plays Adventure Academy; he put a mask on his avatar and said when he’s around others. He has to have it on.”

Christy M., Massachusetts

Waridsara Pitakpon / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

“My 6-year-old has been remote this entire year and is making calculations of risk in her own head outside and at the playground. If someone walks down the street, she crosses. If there are are more than five kids on the merry-go-round spinner she doesn't hop on. If she is on there and a sixth person gets on, she jumps off. If someone without a mask runs through the playground she automatically moves to what she feels is 6 feet away, even if it means jumping off a high structure. She has started to just do this automatically so it will be interesting to see if she will have to re-learn to be near people when this is over.”

It will be interesting to see how long these trends might continue. I, for one, look forward to masksless playtime with lots of hugs ASAP.