The thriving lockdown 

By a compulsively active parent, Miriam Walker 


When Covid-19 upended our lives my family was already anticipating a big transition. Mr five’s well-formed plans included a graduation disco, cake, and school visits. My child had actually asked for a holiday with just the parents between Playcentre and school. My midlife crisis plans included a play-based start-up, deep dive into qualitative evidence synthesis and more exercise (optimistically!). But very suddenly, all the plans changed. By upending all the rhythms, relationships, and play, Covid-19 has thrown my gratitude to Playcentre into sharper relief.

Preparing for lockdown play – no time for the mid-life crisis

My crisis response was pretty true to character. We all respond to a crisis in different ways. If the crisis doesn’t feel too close to home then this action-oriented Mumma gets a shine in my eyes and a bounce in my step. This time my response was very true to character – lots of action, some acts of service and a strong need for connection. A perfect opportunity to avoid the more personal midlife crisis with associated hard emotional work and uncertainty

While others stockpiled flour and rice, I joked about my start-up strategy. Instead of play ideas, kits and customised planning, could I make millions by stockpiling and price-gouging on pantry moth traps. Do you think everyone will have an explosion of pantry moths?

Instead I bought myself 20 litres of poster paint and wrote up play ideas. The two days before lockdown were spent decanting poster paint, then distributing paint, paper, wallpaper samples, and Onepoto Playcentre’s play equipment. 

My start-up plan is to meet the weekend play needs of parents with children in daycare. The lockdown announcement threw this into sharp relief – what were the needs of parents suddenly at home for four weeks, especially parents without the benefits of Playcentre experience. Wanting to help both Playcentre friends and parents more widely, I also wondered if Covid-19 provided a great opportunity to share Playcentre’s philosophy of child-led play throughout Aotearoa. As I started to share my play-sheets, the connections of Playcentre grew stronger. Port Ōhope Playcentre member Cherie Stevenson kindly offered her design skills to format and brand the sheets with Playcentre. 


Lives in lockdown

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Starting lockdown was quite a relief, less worry about spreading viruses, less frenetic action, emptier social calendars. 

I quickly formed a plan of more frenetic action!

  • Each morning my child would wake up with a mystery object in a pillowcase under the bed. 
  • Each night I would set up a play idea in the lounge for the next day.
  • I would remain confident that we had infinite play ideas and would never get bored.
  • We would playdate via video conference with our Playcentre friends
  • With his commute down to 30 seconds, my partner would be home for dinner each night and we would finally have lots of evenings relaxing. 

So far it’s been mostly positive but emotions are sometimes heightened by the missed opportunities and surreal circumstances. My child has been sad about postponed school and graduation. The grandparents have been using their copious extra time (no more commutes and reduced social outings there too) to read stories over the phone. We’ve had lots of fun painting encouraging messages on our fence, playing inside and out, and exploring new ideas.

I’m loving all the online catch-ups with friends and family. We have increased opportunities for carpentry, stained glass, cooking, and painting; ways my only child enjoys his parents.

I’ve definitely read the articles about routine but I’ve found that I’m more tuned in with my sister in law Kate Webber. She’s a play-based teacher and my personal parenting guru. She’s talking about the need for connection over correction and the message has hit home each day at about 4pm when we seem to get epic meltdowns. Dealing with my feelings at that time of day have put paid to romantic evenings. 

Maybe it’s time to plan less, just respond more and relax a bit? There is plenty of time in this lockdown to adjust gears, reflect on what’s working (or not), and especially be grateful for my family’s privileged life amongst the chaos. I’m especially grateful for the hands on parenting education journey of Playcentre. Which means I’m pretty relaxed when I tell my child that he’s getting that holiday with Mum and Dad (who is actually still working from home): “This is our special time, my darling!”

By Miriam Walker – [email protected]