Here's what Hamiltonians are doing when there's 'nothing' to do

Parents and non parents are all looking for ways to fill the time as they practice COVID -19 mandated social distance. Here are some examples of how and some ideas to borrow.

"Sidewalk chalk is worth its weight in gold right now," says one Hamilton parent

One of Christine Sandor's kids takes part in a fun activity around the house. (Supplied by Christine Sandor)

Hamilton resident Christine Sandor and her three young children went on a shamrock hunt Tuesday in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  

The activity is the start of many that Sandor hopes to have her kids take part in to keep "busy" during the next few weeks, with an extended school break and the closure of many facilities eliminating many expected options. 

All across the city, Hamilton residents are finding ways to occupy their time, including walking conservation trails, connecting with others via social media and tackling personal projects that they've long put aside. Locals are getting creative since cancellations and closures related to COVID-19 became tighter Tuesday after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province.

The declaration means that all restaurants and bars are prohibited from operating, though food delivery and takeout services are still available. 

Sandor, 36, said she created a Facebook group with close friends that would give them a space to share ideas on how to keep themselves and their families entertained. 

"I think feeling connected with other people who are in a similar situation as you are is certainly helpful to combat the feeling of isolation — for anybody," Sandor said. 

Shamrocks are hung up in the window of Christine Sandor's home for a St.Patrick's day neighbourhood hunt. (Supplied by Christine Sandor)

The St. Patrick's day activity requires community members to put photos of shamrocks in the windows of their homes so that families can stroll through the neighbourhood and "hunt" for them.

This was one of the ideas Sandor shared in the group, while other members have been posting about resources including free online school-related materials, photos of the whiteboard schedules they've created and links to children's book authors who are live-streaming readings of their books. 

"This is not the time to shine as a parent, this is the time to get through it with as much love and care and understanding as possible," said Emma Reilly-McKay, who is on maternity leave with three kids and invited to be part of Sandor's Facebook group. 

Reilly-McKay, 37, has decided to do a city park tour which has her kids visit playgrounds across Hamilton and rate them. 

"We're all just trying to make it as normal as possible for our kids and give them a sense of fun," Reilly-McKay said, adding that "sidewalk chalk is worth its weight in gold right now."

Emma Reilly-McKay posts on Instagram about her city park tour rating board. (Supplied by Emma Reilly-McKay )

While Sandor says she doesn't typically use Facebook, the platform has helped "(create this) feeling of we're in this together and lets have an opportunity to enjoy time with our families versus dread every day." 

Being proactive and planning ahead is something that parenting expert Ann Douglas said is helpful during this time — though it doesn't have to be all work and no play. 

"It doesn't have to be a military-style thing where you have the day broken up into 15-minute increments," said Douglas, who is also a parenting columnist for CBC Radio. "For kids, where they like things to be predictable, they find comfort in those routines...just put those basic building blocks into place." 

This includes scheduling meals, bedtime, time for physical activity and fun. 

For parents concerned with their kids having too much screen time, Douglas says it's not all bad, depending on the purpose it's serving — if it's for being social then it could be positive for their mental health. 

As for those parents who are working from home and taking care of their kids, Douglas says to expect interruptions but that getting kids engaged in an activity alongside them will help. 

A March break plan shared by Twitter user @donnastechey who says her kids came up with the ideas. (Supplied by Donna Stechey)

"This is going to be one of the defining memories of their childhood, how could it not, it's so dramatically different," Douglas says, adding that with this in mind parents should really think about how they want their kids to look back on this time. 

Stay-cationing in Hamilton 

Typically a stay-cation requires one to visit local attractions in their hometown. But given the circumstances, where nearly everything in the city is closed, including museums, malls, recreational facilities — the traditional stay-cation is looking a little different. Yet, people are still finding a way to enjoy their surroundings. 

CBC News reached out via Twitter to see what Hamiltonians were up to, here's some of what was shared: 

For some, the break means watching more Netflix.  

Hamilton-born Diane Smith, 69, said running and gardening will keep her busy and that this time allows "people to get back in touch with what they can do." She adds that this is an opportunity to get creative, especially for those who had to cancel March Break trips, she suggests attempting to recreate the vacation at home.  

"My approach always is when something gets cancelled or something changes, there's always something better coming." 

Twitter user, Donna Stechey, said she's started a 21-day competition with her 74-year-old mother to walk five kilometres daily. Stechey added that each walk has taken place in a different location across the city. 

In addition to exercising and being creative, Douglas said that people should "Look for a way to do something that will make life better for other people. 

"If we can get that sense of contribution and reach outward as opposed to pulling inward, I think that's really good for mental health." 

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and Hamilton Conservation Authority have both made their areas freely available for recreational activities such as hiking and bird-watching. The centres have stated that green space is important during this time and allows people to get out. 

On-site facilities like bathrooms, buildings, visitor centres and gatehouses. Niagara's Centre for Conservation at Ball's Falls and Welland head office and Hamilton's Campgrounds at Fifty Point and Valens Lake Conservation Area are closed.

If you're up to something interesting these next few weeks, let us know at hamilton@cbc.ca or send us a message on Twitter @CBCHamilton.


Jennifer La Grassa


Jennifer La Grassa is a reporter/editor for CBC Windsor. Email: jennifer.lagrassa@cbc.ca


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