B.C. child care professionals are finding creative ways to stay connected and support the children and families in their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a good example of why May is Child Care Month in B.C., honouring the work of thousands of child care professionals throughout the province.

When Coast Mountain Children’s Society in Terrace decided to stay open to care for the children of essential service workers, staff knew they also needed to find ways to care for the children at their centre who would be staying home with their parents during the pandemic.

“That’s how our busy bags began,” says Cindy Hall, manager and early childhood educator. Busy bags is a unique program where parents from across the community drop by to pick up free activity bags that are pinned to the fence each weekday.

“What started off as a project to help our children feel happy at home and connected to their friends and teachers has morphed into something pretty awesome,” says Hall.

With over 60 busy bags created every week, Hall and her small team of busy bees change the contents by combining simple ideas with supplies from a well-stocked art room, so children always have something new to make.

“So far, our bags have included beading activities; make-your-own book projects; create-your-own whiteboard with reusable activity sheets; colour-matching games made with popsicle sticks; and some birdseed and a pinecone to make bird feeders. We even made over 8,000 batches of playdough to go along with playdough tools. And we always include a little note to let children know we are thinking of them,” says Hall.

For Easter, the educators delivered over 200 special activity bags directly to the children who attend the centre. It gave them a chance to see the children in person, at a safe distance. “This is so fulfilling for us. We’re missing the kids just as much as they miss us and their friends,” says Hall.

The response from the community has been overwhelming. “This is a challenging time for everyone,” says Hall. “Parents have told us how stressed they’ve been with children who are bored and longing for their buddies. These busy bags have provided kids with hours of entertainment and joy knowing that we’re thinking of them. We’ve received a ton of positive feedback, with dozens of messages of appreciation and photos. It’s wonderful to see our students and how they are using their creativity with the supplies provided to them.”

It’s not just the centre’s child care professionals who are working to spread happiness and share community spirit. Inspired by their teachers, children from the centre are tapping into their own creativity to help brighten the days of those in a nearby seniors’ home. They’ve been busy decorating paper hearts and adding jokes, something they came up with by themselves, to provide a bit of laughter at a time of uncertainty.

The centre is now thinking of other ways to keep children connected. Hall says, “We’ve had parents call and ask, ‘What song is that my kid is singing?’ and, ‘How do we do this certain activity?’ We’re looking at new opportunities for children to virtually connect and set up livestreaming activities like circle time and science experiments.”