I never thought I'd say this but...I'm really enjoying quarantine. We are halfway through MIQ and I feel more relaxed than I have in months. The routine of the days suits our kids. We're all getting plenty of sleep. Everyone is pretty happy. I guess it helps to have low expectations – I thought this would be awful. Turns out, it's pretty nice to clear your social calendar and have someone else cook for you and do your laundry for two weeks! Proper preparation has helped a lot too. I read a lot of advice online from other families who had completed MIQ and took tips from them as we packed.
In an effort to help future families who are headed to MIQ, here is a list of the top things helping us thrive in quarantine.
1. A huge duffel bag of toys and books
Isaac kept telling me we were bringing too many toys and books, but it's been worth it. My mom gave me the idea of theming each day (farm day, dinosaur day, construction day, alphabet day), and I have been getting out toys and books from home for the day's theme. I collected some new books, temporary tattoos, or small toys that went with each theme so in addition to the familiar items from home we have something new and exciting to reveal. So far the kids love it, and it's really fun to focus on and look forward to something each day.
2. A vacuum cleaner
I didn't actually bring this, but ordered a small one from The Warehouse (the equivalent of Walmart in the US) here in Auckland, and it arrived on Day 3. They don't give you much to keep your room clean, and staff cannot enter your room at all. We use it multiple times a day. What can I say, kids are really messy. Crumbs. Everywhere.
Not only have these been a fun toy, but we blew up 14 of them and taped them to the wall. We pop one a day to count down our time here. It made our room look festive and fun, but is also keeping us sane by helping us remember what day it is (they are all starting to run together for me).
4. Masking tape
So many uses, including to tape balloons to the wall for our countdown, as well as to tape menus, hotel instructions, artwork, and other pieces of paper to the walls. (I tried taping our kids to the wall, they didn't think it was that fun.)
5. Kids plates and cutlery from home
Kids just don't eat well out of take-out containers or with awkward compostable silverware. I am so glad I threw in a kids plate and spoon for each of our kids.
6. Bedding from home
It took a lot of space in our baggage, but is totally worth it to have blankets, pillows, and stuffies from home for both the kids so they sleep well.
7. The SlumberPod (and Privacy Pop!)
We would not be as happy as we are without the Slumber Pod. It's a blackout tent that goes over our youngest's travel crib. He feels cozy and safe in it, and we can even turn the lights on and (quietly) move around the room while he is sleeping in there. It's changed our life. Our toddler uses the Privacy Pop, which is a lightweight tent that goes over a toddler sized mattress. He calls it his cave, and it is his preferred hang out spot during the day when he needs to wind down. We brought a travel mattress for it, and set it up on a bad in the corner of the room.
8. Noise machines
A life-saver for living in small spaces. They help block out the random knocks on the door that we get during nap times. And during the day we turn them to the bird song setting to pretend we can hear some nature.
9. Sago Mini boxes
A friend told me about these play kits, so I subscribed months ago and saved them up for quarantine. Each box is about $15 and has 3+ activities in it, all based around a theme. They are mostly cardboard, so the whole thing can be played with and then recycled when you're done. One of them was a tea party kit, which I though Jude wouldn't like, but he loved it! We served tea all day to each other.
10. Storage boxes that fold flat
You probably wouldn't be able to walk through our hotel room if we didn't have these. I brought a few sets of the IKEA SCUBB boxes and use them to hold toys, art supplies, and snacks. We also made a diaper tote for each of the kids (yes, we have two kids in diapers) near their beds to make changing them easier.
11. A travel clothesline
We're allowed 20 items of laundry per person for the whole time we are here. Socks and other little things all need to be handwashed. Enough said.
12. The iPad
Don't know what we'd do without streaming episodes of Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, and Gecko's Garage. We've found that it actually calms our toddler down, and he needs this down-time in the morning and evening to chill out. The other day we all hit a wall and just gave up and turned on the Olympics for us and the iPad for the toddler. Thank god for screen time.
13. A timer
This toddler timer is the only thing I've found that helps our spirited toddler manage transitions (like turning off the iPad or getting in the bath). We use it most for screen time, and when it goes off he usually calmly turns off the iPad himself and asks when he can watch it next. We've done more screen time in quarantine than we do at home, and the timer helps us and our kid set some limits. It's also great for helping the kids understand things like "we get to go outside in 45 minutes."
14. A routine
Our kids love routine, and so do I. After we got over our jetlag, we settled into the routine below. The kids know what to expect so they've stopped asking for things they know we don't have here (like unlimited outside time, foods we used to eat at home, or a playground). We've even had fewer tantrums than we did back at home!
6:30am – Everyone wakes up, we make coffee and dig up some breakfast snacks from our food stash. I reveal the surprises I have stored away for the day, usually some toys and books from home along with something new that goes with the day's theme.
9:00am – Knock knock, breakfast is here! More coffee and tea for Mom and Dad.
9:30am – Our littlest one has his first nap. Isaac and I take turns playing with our toddler in the other room. 11:00am – Nap's over, we put on shoes and go outside for an hour of parking lot time!
12:00pm – Back inside, we scrounge up some lunch snack for the kids, then our toddler gets ready for his nap.
1:30pm – Littlest one goes down for his nap. If we are lucky, both kids are napping for an hour or so. Meanwhile...lunch is delivered (terrible timing). Isaac and I eat silently so as not to wake the kids, watching the Olympics on mute.
3:00pm – Everyone is up. The kids eat their lunches, which have been sitting there for an hour and a half and are cold by now. Oh well, turns out kids don't mind cold french fries.
4:00pm – More outside time! We get an assigned part of the parking lot and play games. 5:00pm – Back inside, trying to kill time while we wait for the kids' dinners to arrive. 6:15pm – If we're lucky, the kids food is here. Yay! Otherwise it's crackers and fruit for dinner.
7:00pm – Bedtime for the littlest one – whichever of us puts him to bed gets the rest of the night off. Our toddler gets iPad time to watch a show.
8:30pm – Lights out for our toddler, and usually Isaac and I too. (And we pop a balloon before bed – one day less in our countdown!)
It goes without saying that we have also really needed: patience, a good attitude, and a bit of wine. We've had good days and bad ones. Kinda like back at home. Turns out parenting is both delightful and frustrating no matter where you are in the world.