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Pandemic play dates: Creating bubbles for socialization

Parents are looking to other quarantined families to find safe play for their little ones

ST. LOUIS — Much of a young child’s development comes from play and learning to share with others. That’s tough to do during a pandemic. So, some moms are hoping to create their own bubbles, or pods, of people they can trust.

Ellen Jones has a 1-year-old and almost 4-year-old at home. She lives in the Parkway School District.

“I'm trying to take over role of mom, grandparent, friend, teacher. You know every single thing and of course, I’m failing because how can you possibly be all of those things at once?

Jones is thankful she has a flexible job working as a per diem occupational therapist, but she's also exhausted trying to entertain two little ones.

“What is she supposed to be learning right now in preschool? She's supposed to be learning how to play and interact with people and take turns and be creative. So, it's not stuff you can just teach from a workbook at home,” she explained.

So, Jones did what so many other parents have, she reached out on social media. She posted in a mom group looking for other kids her daughter's age for pandemic play dates.

“Basically just looking for people who have a similar comfort level. Obviously, there's going to be some risk involved if I have people who are more or less joining our little bubble. But I figure if we can make it an acceptable risk level then we can make it work,” Jones explained.

Outside of the pandemic, Jones’ daughter Amelia attends preschool, but with the numbers trending in the wrong direction, she wants to have options.

“This is not going anywhere. So, I want to have a Plan A and Plan B. There’s very little we have control over and so just trying to focus on the things that I can control,” Jones said.

When she starts to feel overwhelmed, she does her best to look at the big picture.

“I think the most useful thing to me whenever I start getting really anxious or frustrated is just to like think about the gratitude piece. In the big scheme of what everybody's going through right now, these are small issues and to not let it blow up too much in my mind. But that's not always easy."