When Playgrounds are off Limits, Early Care Providers Get Creative: Krystal Holmes Reveals Educational Activities for Toddlers During COVID-19

COVID-19. A few months before it was a name that occasionally echoed throughout media outlets, a virus from far, far away, a distant worry that was initially, amid all of hustle and bustle of everyday life, easy to brush aside.  

Now, the opposite is true. As an organization that is committed to creating positive change, we’ve compiled a series of ever-growing links to COVID-19 resources that can help both our early care providers and educators and greater community. Our heart goes out to everyone impacted by this pandemic.  

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation appreciates all that our early care and education providers have done to remain adaptable, resilient, and creative. We are empathetic to all of those who are dealing with impacts of COVID-19, and understand the symptoms and effects go beyond the physical.  

Early care providers and educators have remained at the forefront of this pandemic, and have undergone a series of ups and downs, experiencing everything from shifting their care to e-learning to creating packets to becoming creative while adhering to social-distancing best practices.  

For Krystal Holmes of Falls City, Nebraska, when COVID-19 struck she experienced a range of emotions, felt impacts, and found creative solutions. For the first two weeks, she suddenly had no children to care for other than her own. Then, she had one child show up; on another day, she had four.  

“It’s been a little challenging,” she said. “I haven’t yet felt the financial effects, but I will. It’s also hard to get my own children on a routine without having childcare kids, too.”  

Krystal explained that another way her life has changed has included that, as an in-home provider with three young children of her own, they’ve grown accustomed to adhering to the same daily structure as the children in her care.  

For Krystal, another difficulty she has encountered include the restrictions of outdoor activities. “We’re limited in where we can go. We have two amazing playgrounds and we can’t go. The kids don’t understand,” said Krystal.  

Krystal said that even taking walks around the neighborhood can be difficult because the children see the playgrounds and understandably want to pay them a visit.  

Once the children in her care became bored of solely remaining in her yard, Krystal decided to get creative very quickly.   

She said that her Sixpence CCP Child Care Partnership Coach had given her an educational bug-hunting activity for her toddlers. The original version of this exercise allowed children to inspect and play with plastic replications of insects. “It’s a science activity,” she said. Krystal explained that the game’s original intent was for indoor use at the table along with the bug replications. 

In need of a different way to engage her children, Krystal adapted this activity to the outdoors.  

“We just went outside and saw actual bugs!” she said. The set itself has containers, catchers, and jars, so prior to bringing her children outside, Krystal said they were able to practice using the equipment.  

But Krystal’s strategy hasn’t ended there. She’s committed to giving the children in her care the best possible experiences they can have. So, she’s continued to lead activities that blend her yard and elements of science.  

“We’ve done stuff with a weather chart and rain gauge – we’re trying to do more scientific experiments,” she said. Krystal said another activity that the kids loved consisted of pouring a glass of water, topping it with shaving cream, and putting colored droplets into the water. “It’s a storm cloud!” Krystal explained.  

She said her Sixpence Child Care Partnership Coach and Program Coordinator have been a tremendous source of support. She said the program has been extended to cover birth through three-year-olds, which she appreciates.  

“Everyone’s getting free breakfast and lunch. We get meals delivered. It’s taken so much stress off my location; our store was having trouble keeping up,” said Krystal. Krystal said that the children enjoy the lunch drop-off and always wave from a distance to the person running the errand.  

She said Zoom meetings have been another form of Sixpence CCP’s support. Krystal went on to say that during this meeting, she was introduced to Nebraska Child Care Provider Relief Funds, which the meeting host explained. She said that her Sixpence CCP coach also offered to drop off more supplies.  

When asked what she needed during these challenging times, Krystal’s response was both positive and honest; tangible and intangible.  

She said that toilet paper and arts supplies were both extremely hard to find, especially markers and sidewalk chalk. But she named an equally important need that couldn’t be purchased in stores.  

“I guess I need understanding,” she said. “A lot of people forget about us [providers]. We’re opening homes and exposing our families and we don’t have to – but we want to. We have this constant worry, are we doing the right thing? Just like any other day, we aren’t thought of when you think of essential workers in a wider stance.” 

Krystal said she needs this sense of understanding, now more so than ever, including the acknowledgment that she and her fellow early care providers and educators are also running a business.  

“Some people don’t want to pay for childcare. Some parents are upset by the cost, but that’s how we provide for our own families,” she said. “People still have old-school thoughts that we’re not doing activities, we’re just putting children in front of the T.V.” Krystal said that’s not the case, and in fact rather far from it.  

Krystal also said that part of understanding is empathy. “When I moved to Falls City from Lincoln, I was pregnant, so I opened my own childcare [center]. It was very hard to find childcare in this town; there were only a few [centers].”  

She said that although she was appreciative of early childhood programs while in Lincoln, once she experienced the scarcity in Falls City, she became even more compassionate for early care educators and providers.  

Overall, Krystal feels optimistic and says she and her children are doing well. She has another change on the horizon, and a welcome one. In late July, when her son begins preschool, she is excited to leverage her degree in psychology and transition into that workforce. Until then, her doors remain open.

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Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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