COVID-19 Shelter in Place with Kids: What to Do & Where to Go - 510 Families

COVID-19 Shelter in Place with Kids: What to Do & Where to Go

In most of the Bay Area there is a new shelter in place order in effect Monday December 7, 2020 through January 4, 2021.

With the surge of COVID19, local health officials are ordering us to stay home. With so many closures and cancellations, parents are juggling extra variables to keep the kids happy and healthy. While not a comprehensive list, we’ve gathered resources and tips to help East Bay families. In some cases, we have linked to our affiliates for your convenience.

Health Expert Information | Where to Play in Nature | Stuff to Do at Home | How to Talk to Kids about Coronavirus | Partial List of Closings and Cancellations

Please add more helpful tips in the comments!

If you’re able, get out into nature and spread out. Crissy Field in SF | Photo: Julia Gidwani


Local information resources during planned COVID-19 emergency

Local health officials are asking for “social distancing” strategies that include cancelling large gatherings. We’re seeing many pre-planned activities canceled and rescheduled: concerts, festivals, playtime, sports events, storytimes, and other gatherings.

Find the most current information through the City and County departments of health:

Where to play and what to do with kids during social distancing

Outside places to play

If the weather is pleasant, playing outside is a terrific option when you need to get out of the house. The more natural and distant from one another, the better! We have many suggestions about where to play outside with kids locally; you will have to take some of those suggestions with a grain of salt (and a packet of sanitizing wipes).


Stay home with your family

We have baking projects and silly activities to do in the house. Not to mention all that TV! Here’s more to do when you’re stuck at home with kids >

Time to give our stuffies a good bath (and water play time to keep kids busy) | Photo: Kat Choi

Homeschooling tips for novice parents

If you’re managing life at home with a K-12 student, here is a wonderful resource about how to prepare for extended school closings—and not lose your mind by giving students some space and some structure. Speaking as a work-from-home parent, I will refer to this article over and over again.

8 fantastic educational resources for online learning, just in case you need them, parents. Tons more free distance learning programs to search and find.

Plan a week of winter fun for your kids with the help of Khan Academy.

Above all, please lower your expectations. This is temporary, long but temporary. Hopefully this is the last shut-down, so let’s order some take-out and try to enjoy the outside in a safe, socially distanced way.

How to talk to your kids about Coronavirus & COVID-19

Resources for Children We Love

NPR put out a comic book for talking to kids about Coronavirus. Depending on your children’s ages, you may want to check it out online together or print it out as a booklet or poster.

exploring coronavirus kids comic from npr
Exploring Coronavirus kids comic from NPR >

I also really loved this article by the Greater Good Foundation about How to Keep the Greater Good in Mind During the Coronavirus Outbreak (In the midst of our panic around COVID-19, we must look to each other to help us get through it). You may find that the article helps you reframe some of your worries into calm action so you can be more present with your family.

Additional Resources for Children

Habitot put together this list of resources and articles that we wanted to share, too.

A partial list of closings and cancellations

Scooting in Richmond | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Restrictions under the new stay-at-home order provided by health officials

The following must close:

  • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks

East Bay Regional Parks also have closures to note:

All campgrounds, outdoor museums (visitor centers), and children’s playgrounds at East Bay Regional Park District locations will be closed until further notice as mandated by the six Bay Area county regional health officers’ order.

Facility Closures Include:

  • Ardenwood Historic Farm
  • Regional Parks Botanic Garden
  • Regional Park visitor centers remain closed, including Black Diamond, Big Break, Coyote Hills, Crab Cove, Sunol and Tilden

Campgrounds Closures Include:

  • Del Valle Regional Park (Livermore)
  • Anthony Chabot Regional Park (Oakland)
  • Robert Sibley Regional Preserve Backpack Campground (Oakland)

Future camp reservations made through January 4 will be cancelled, including for the Sibley backpack camp, and customers will receive full refunds.

Lots of wonderful businesses are temporarily closed to prevent additional community spread of the Coronavirus. Many pre-planned events are being cancelled or rescheduled: concerts, festivals, playtime, sports events, storytimes, and other gatherings. Here’s a list of temporary building closures and recurring program cancellations, as well as openings and online-offerings. When in doubt, check with the venue!

  • Albany Berkeley Soccer Club (ABSC) 2020 Holiday Mini Season Cancelled. 2021 Winter Season Registration is open. More info here.
  • AMC Movie Theatres are closed. Hopefully the private auditorium rentals will be available again soon.
  • Athletic Playground Online classes are available. More info here.
  • Aquatech is open! Swimming lessons are deemed essential. Classes and more info here. 
  • BAMPFA Temporary closed, but you can rent from a curated collection of independent films and help support the museum.
  • Bay Area Children’s Theater shows and events are cancelled, but they’re offering a new Imaginate Club for online engagement.
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum Closed starting Tuesday December 8th until further notice. More info about Bay Area Discovery Museum here.
  • Berkeley Public Libraries You can now check out books for outside pickup at any of the five libraries. More info here.
  • Canyon Swim School They’re planning to reopen in March, 2021. Check for updates here.
  • Chabot Space & Science Center is currently closed through June 2021, though they have many online offerings available.
  • Cinemark Movie Theatres are closed. So no private watch parties.
  • Contra Costa Public Libraries Front Door Service is available now at 25 library locations. See how it works here.
  • The Crucible is enrolling for classes in January. More program info here.
  • Habitot is closed until further notice.
  • Jack London Square has suspended all public events until further notice.
  • Junior Center of Art and Science is closed but is offering online after school classes, JCAS Playdates, Virtual Birthdays, and more.
  • Kindergym with Dawn Classes cancelled until further notice.
  • The Lawrence Hall of Science is closed through June 2021. Plenty of online resources for upping your at-home science game.
  • Lindsay Wildlife Experience is closed until further notice. Check out their Learning with Lindsay for fun online animal activities.
  • The MADE is closed until further notice.
  • Michaels Crafts has cancelled in-person kid classes and events, but they have a ton of online offerings here.
  • Monkey Business Camp will go ahead with Winter Camps, which are allowed under the current health order. Winter, February and Spring camp info here. 
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium opening postponed for now. Live cams, online courses, and family friendly curriculum available.
  • NOLL/SOLL Little League suspended all games until further notice.
  • Oakland Aviation Museum. Museums are closed under the new stay at home order.
  • Oakland Public Library Ten (10) OPL locations are offering sidewalk pickup service during limited hours.
  • OMCA, Oakland Museum of California is closed until further notice. Enjoy online learning resources and activities.
  • Oakland Zoo is closed until further notice.
  • Rock N Roll Playhouse at the UC Theatre is closed for now. In the meantime check out their Live from the Playroom livestream.
  • Traverse Fitness is closed for regular hours, but is open for children’s day camps/distance learning pods.
  • Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society will be closed to the public until further notice.
  • Youth Musical Theater Company has no current shows on offer.

Special thanks to Whitney Moss, Carol Burton, and Kat Choi for sharing their experiences and advice. Share your tips, too!

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10 thoughts on “COVID-19 Shelter in Place with Kids: What to Do & Where to Go”

  1. Bilaliyah Sabir

    Hi do you have any suggestions on how to talk to a child that is on the spectrum about the corona virus. My little one has Aspergers and he is very stressed about all the talk on the corona virus. I dont watch tv in my house so he is not getting it from home but in public and school it is a problem. Thank you

    1. My daughter is also autistic. I think it depends on your kid’s interests. Anatomy is a special interest of my daughter’s so she loved the NPR comic above. For kids who might need a simpler approach, I’ve seen this picture book style series of infographics that is well done:

      News-o-Matic is a daily news app for kids that my daughter loves. They have a few articles about covid19 and one of them is a series of questions from kids that a pediatrician and a child psychologist answer beautifully. Highly recommend.

      My kid responds so well to facts and science and history. So she liked it when I explained to her the “flattening the curve” concept and how the cities of Philadelphia and St Louis had different approaches to the 1918 flu epidemic–especially considering her ancestors were in both of those cities at that time. We chatted about how all of America is trying to be St Louis and that’s why we’re rescheduling everything. (When I say “cancel” she gets so upset. When I say “reschedule” she’s totally fine.) I also showed her the “cattening the curve” infographic which she adored.

      Of course giving information can sometimes cause more anxiety rather than less and often that just depends on your particular child. Again, focusing on rescheduling rather than canceling is a good practice. I found an article about rabbis in New Jersey who determined that going in groups to synagogue is now “forbidden” to prevent spread of illness and that prompted a discussion about how every rule might have a situation in which the moral and just thing is to break said rule. We’re making a silly list of rules and when they might need to be broken to help work a bit on flexibility. We also focus a lot on the helpers, like that old Mr Rodgers quote, instead of the dangers and worries. That’s the whole point of distancing–to save people and explain that it’s already working (I hope) and that when the virus has no one to jump to it disappears.

      Also, I suggest jumping headfirst in your child’s special interests no matter how uninteresting or boring they may be to you. You can explicitly say that practicing social distancing right now has a big silver lining: loads of extra time for your child’s special interest. I ordered some activity books on anatomy and art to help my daughter focus on her special interests more right now. And maybe even discuss other silver linings.

      Lastly, I suggest making a new weekly visual schedule and a daily visual schedule and post them on the wall. It’s amazing how much anxiety vanishes when we know what we’re supposed to be doing. Our schedule is very vague to allow for variety.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Please unlink your outdoor activities pages. Although many outdoor activities in nature are safe, the links connects to pages that include many activities that wouldn’t be considered safe in this climate (merry-go-round, play grounds, and other activists that do not create social distance). Maybe a revised page with hikes, beaches, etc.? I know you had to write this in a hurry, and outdoor activity are generally a great suggestion, but these are not appropriate with covid-19 around.

      1. I just came across the same link and I’m deeply concerned that you are actively promoting playgrounds as outdoor activity areas during this period. School districts across the Bay Area have taken the extraordinary measure of closing down for the foreseeable future at immeasureable social cost.
        By not removing these links immediately you are contributing to the spread of an epidemic. Please act now. Thank you.

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