Parenting During a Pandemic

by Nikke Soni

I moved to the Fox Cities three years ago from Columbus, Ohio with my husband and my son. After a year of renting and getting to know the Fox Cities, we purchased a house in Appleton to be close to all the amenities we enjoyed as a growing family and to be central to both Green Bay and Oshkosh. I never imagined we would be living housebound during a pandemic in our first house.  

The beginning of the pandemic was the hardest. The uncertainty of leaving the house combined with the cold and unpredictable late winter/early spring weather left us stuck indoors. I would bundle my one-year-old daughter and three-year-old son in their snowsuits and push my stroller over ice and puddles just to get out on a short walk to feel like I had some change of scenery to save my sanity. What I missed most was all the organizations and events we were used to going to multiple times a day that made living in Appleton with two young children so special. 

Many local organizations and businesses have found ways to connect to their patrons in new and innovative ways. The Building for Kids Children’s Museum stepped up to the plate with online programming and at-home activity kits. The Trout Museum of Art is offering at-home Zoom summer art camps for toddlers, which even include the art supplies you can take home.  

Our local libraries are not only working hard with curbside pickup and phased openings but are also offering free online story times and programming for both children and adults. The Appleton Public Library even offered their popular STREAM Team as a virtual summer camp which included a virtual story time, supplies, and instructions for activities in the fields of science, technology, reading, engineering, art, and math. The Paper Discovery Center is offering summer memberships inclusive of a science adventure pack, monthly science kits, digital downloads, and more.  

The City of Appleton has also reimagined their summer programming, providing many wonderful resources on their webpage, drive-in movies for families, and a scavenger hunt complete with a take-home kit.  

I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the outdoors, much like Wisconsin, is celebrated. The pandemic and social distancing has allowed me and my family to continue to explore our wonderful and accessible nature areas in the area. We are often found on the trails at Bubolz Nature Preserve in Appleton, Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha, 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna, and at many of our city and county parks. The extra time spent outside this year has led us to encounter two fawns asleep at Heckrodt, three owls flying from tree to tree at Plamann Park, and many other adventures. Many of these nature areas are offering social distancing outdoor programs such as online nature classes, story walks, self-exploring toddler classes, and take-and-make activities.   

Parenting during a pandemic has many unique challenges for every family. Planning anything is difficult to do with so much uncertainty. However, our wonderful community has many offerings that are free or low cost to assist with the difficulty of being stuck at home.