How Playtime Responded to COVID-19
As D.C. shut down schools and businesses in response to COVID-19 in March 2020, Playtime made the tough decision to close programs temporarily at our partner shelter sites. In the fall, we were pleased to begin outdoor, socially distanced play for small groups of children at two sites. We were especially thrilled to be partnered with the city’s Ward 8 short-term family shelter, The Rolark, allowing us to serve children with outdoor play in this Southeast facility. We kicked off the partnership with a socially distanced outdoor Step Afrika! event for children.
As the coronavirus raged on, the health and safety of our children and families, as well as our volunteers and staff, was (and still is) our highest priority. Playtime’s office staff worked remotely with limited office hours.
During the quarantine period in 2020, Playtime regularly distributed Playtime to Go kits to more than 125 children (with each mailing) living in our partner shelter sites; the kits included reusable toys, books, art activities, and more. Parents also received a "Parent Survival Guide" with online resources and activities that could be done in their rooms with few or no materials. We provided families with emergency supplies, including gift cards for food support, diapers, and wipes, as well as emergency referrals for online services, as needed. Staff and volunteers created Virtual Playtime by posting videos of guided play and read-alongs on our YouTube channel. In addition, staff frequently checked in with families to assess their immediate needs and challenges, so we could best advocate with D.C. government, community partners, and shelter providers.
One mom who had been homeschooling her three-year-old son—he didn't get the chance to start preschool before schools shut down—shared with us that she used the materials we sent. He got really good at writing his ABCs and sounding out the letters.
In April 2021, we were thrilled to relaunch in-person play at all our partner shelter sites, bringing the enormous health benefits of play back to the playrooms and playgrounds for children in shelter.
Thank you to all whose generous gifts allow us to continue supporting our children and families. You help create learning and play equity for children experiencing homelessness in our nation's capital.