COVID-19 Guide

covid 19 Guide for des moines kids and parents

COVID-19 Guide for Des Moines Kids and Parents

At dsm4kids, our purpose has always been to help local families find fun ways to connect and grow together. Due to the impact of COVID-19 many families are shifting from “let’s go!” to “let’s stay in.” We’ve gathered up some fun stay-at-home activities, outdoor activities and simple meal ideas from the website.  We also rounded up a few resources to assist families in need and how to talk to your kids about the pandemic.

We’ll be updating information here regularly, so please check back often.

Important information & helpful links about the spread of COVID-19, including resources for talking to kids about COVID-19:

Iowa Department of Public Health
Polk County Health Department – COVID 19 Information
CDC Household Preparation Guide
CDC’s Advice on Travel Within the US
United Way 211 Central Iowa Website
Global Information from the World Health Organization
Kid-friendly video explaining viruses and the new coronavirus.
NPR’s – Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
PBS – How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus

Prevention Tips

Adapted from: – “Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day” by Ariadne Labs

1. We need to push our local, state, and national leaders for a statewide, nationwide approach.

A local, town by town response won’t have the adequate needed effect. We need a statewide, nationwide approach in these trying times. Contact your representative and your governor to urge them to enact statewide closures and maintain them as long as needed. Also urge leaders to increase funds for emergency preparedness and make widening coronavirus testing capacity an immediate and top priority. We also need legislators to enact better paid sick leave and unemployment benefits to help nudge people to make the right call to stay at home right now.

2. No kid playdates, parties, sleepovers, or families/friends visiting each other’s houses and apartments.

This sounds extreme because it is. We are trying to create distance between family units and between individuals. It may be particularly uncomfortable for families with small children, kids with differential abilities or challenges, and for kids who simply love to play with their friends. But even if you choose only one friend to have over, you are creating new links and possibilities for the type of transmission that all of our school/work/public event closures are trying to prevent. The symptoms of coronavirus take 1-14 days, most commonly around five days to manifest themselves. Someone who comes over looking well can transmit the virus.

We have already taken extreme social measures to address this serious disease — let’s not actively co-opt our efforts by having high levels of social interaction at people’s houses instead of at schools or workplaces. Again — the wisdom of early and aggressive social distancing is that it can flatten the curve above, give our health system a chance to not be overwhelmed, and eventually may reduce the length and need for longer periods of extreme social distancing later (see what has transpired in Italy and Wuhan). We need to all do our part during these times, even if it means some discomfort for a while.

3. Take care of yourself and your family, but maintain social distance.

Exercise, take walks/runs outside, and stay connected through phone, video, and other social media. But when you go outside, do your best to maintain at least six feet between you and non-family members. If you have kids, try not to use public facilities like playground structures, as coronavirus can live on plastic and metal for up to nine days, and these structures aren’t getting regularly cleaned.

Going outside will be important during these strange times, and the weather is improving. Go outside every day if you are able, but stay physically away from people outside your family or roommates. If you have kids, try playing a family soccer game instead of having your kids play with other kids, since sports often mean direct physical contact with others. And though we may wish to visit elders in our community in person, I would not visit nursing homes or other areas where large numbers of the elderly reside, as they are at highest risk for complications and mortality from coronavirus.

Social distancing can take a toll (after all, most of us are social creatures). The CDC offers tips and resources to reduce this burden, and other resources offer strategies to cope with the added stress during this time.

We need to find alternate ways to reduce social isolation within our communities through virtual means instead of in-person visits.

4. Reduce the frequency of going to stores, restaurants, and coffee shops for social distancing purposes, but know our food supply is safe.

Of course trips to the grocery store will be necessary, but try to limit them and go at times when they are less busy. Consider asking grocery stores to queue people at the door in order to limit the number of people inside a store at any one time. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after your trip. And leave the medical masks and gloves for the medical professionals — we need them to care for those who are sick. Maintain distance from others while shopping — and remember that hoarding supplies negatively impacts others so buy what you need and leave some for everyone else.

According to the CDC

“Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”

PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic by Dr. Jeffreay VanWingen.  The video also reviews how to handle takeout food from a restaurant.

5. If you are sick, isolate yourself, stay home, and contact a medical professional.

If you are sick, you should try to isolate yourself from the rest of your family within your residence as best as you can. If you have questions about whether you qualify or should get a coronavirus test, you should call 2-1-1 in Central Iowa, call your primary care team and/or consider calling Iowa Department of Public Health. Don’t just walk into a clinic or emergency room — call first so that they can give you the best advice — which might be to go to a drive-through testing center with TestIowa or a virtual visit on video or phone. Of course, if it is an emergency call 911.

Current Closings & Event Cancellations, as well as, Adjusted Store Hours in the Des Moines Area:

Governor Reynolds declared a “State of Public Health Disaster Emergency” on March 17th, which has been updated on March 22nd, 26th, April 2nd, 6th, May 7th, May 13th, May 20th, May 26th, June 10th and June 25th.

The updated proclamation extends current business openings and guidelines for 30 days. The six-foot social distancing requirement will remain in place for restaurants, other businesses and mass gatherings. All businesses are asked to implement reasonable measures and increased hygiene measures in accordance with guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The new guidance is set to run from June 25 through July 25, 2020.

Des Moines

DMARC – Operations continue. They are asking donors to donate funds online rather than donating in-kind items that require volunteer labor to process.

Food Bank of Iowa – Food Bank of Iowa operations are continuing uninterrupted as need grows. And, they are still in need of donations and volunteers.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation -Des Moines Parks & Recreation has announced plans to reopen facilities and begin summer programs. Birdland, Nahas and Teachout Aquatic Centers will open on July 6, 2020. The following spraygrounds are open as of June 16, 2020, daily 9:00 am to 8:00 pm:
•Columbus Park – 1921 SE 1st St.
•Evelyn K. Davis Park – 1400 Forest Ave.
•Good Park – 1103 17th St.
•Greenwood Park – 100 45th St.
•McHenry Park – 1012 Oak Park Ave.
•Sheridan Park – 4000 Hull Ave.
•Tower Park – 4900 Hickman Rd.
•Woodlawn Park – 3126 Twana Dr.

Des Moines Public Library – All DMPL locations are closed until further notice.  They are offering on-line activities through their social media sites and curb side pick up.

Blank Park Zoo – Non-Members need to pre-purchase a ticket before attending the Zoo.  Members DO NOT need to reserve a ticket at this time.

Des Moines Art Center – The Art Center will re-open to the community on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. They will implement a timed and ticketed entry, heightened cleanliness, added wayfinding, mandatory masks for staff and visitors, as well as a phased approach to programming.

Des Moines Performing Arts – DMPA is postponing all events. They will continue to monitor the crisis and will resume operations when government agencies indicate it is safe to do so. Individuals holding tickets to affected performances should maintain their current tickets. DMPA’s Ticket Office will be in touch with Ticket Holders (who purchased directly from DMPA) as details become available with further information.

Des Moines Playhouse – The Playhouse will be closed until further notice.  Their summer show season has been cancelled.  They will be presenting three shows this summer outdoors in their “Live Theatre Drive-in” series.

Des Moines Symphony – The Des Moines Symphony is postponing all concerts and events until further notice.  Yankee Doodle Pops has been moved to Monday, September 7, 2020 at Water Works Park.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – The Botanical Garden reopened to the public on June 30th. The number of guests allowed in during each block will be capped to ensure appropriate social distancing guidelines. Admission will be exclusively by advanced online reservation/timed ticketing through the Garden’s website at or over the phone by calling 515.323.6290. Entry is not guaranteed to those who arrive without a ticket. This includes members, Museums for All participants, and Library Adventure Pass participants.

Iowa Events Center – The Iowa Events Center offices are open. They are currently working with each event planner and promoter to determine the status of their event and/or reschedule meetings, conferences, and live event performances. For the latest news on their event schedule, visit their website.

Merle Hay Mall – The Mall is open Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm and and 12:00 noon to 5:30 pm on Sundays. While the mall has officially re-opened, some retail stores are not open.  Visit the website for a full list. Their Local Eats Food Court is OPEN for carryout or through a variety of delivery services.

Science Center of Iowa – The Science Center of Iowa will re-open on July 1st.  SCI Summer Camps will operate virtually for the first two weeks (June 8-12 and June 15-19) and plans to move to onsite operations starting June 22. To limit camp sizes, capacities have been reduced and remaining spaces are limited.

Polk County Conservation – The Jester Park Nature Center will remain closed until August 3rd. The adjacent Jester Park Outdoor Recreation & Wellness Center will open as planned on Thursday, July 2nd due to the open air nature of this facility. Face masks will be required upon entry into the Center. While the building doors may be closed, Polk County parks and trails will remain open.  In addition, Easter Lake Boat Rental and Concessions is OPEN as well as, Jester Park Golf Course & Jester Park Miniature Golf Course.  

YMCA of Greater Des Moines – The Y reopened on June 1. During the first phase of reopening, it will be necessary to restrict programs and services due to capacity limitations, social distancing requirements and safety considerations. They will continue to expand offerings as soon as it is safe and feasible to do so.

Iowa Wild – Remaining 2019-20 season is cancelled.

Iowa Wolves – Remaining 2019-20 season is cancelled.

Iowa Cubs – 2020 season is cancelled.

Iowa Barnstormers –  2020 season is cancelled.


Ankeny Parks and Recreation – Effective June 1, 2020 playground equipment and shelter houses are open to the public. All park restrooms and water fountains will be turned on. The Skate Park, Dog Park, along with the tennis, pickleball and basketball courts are all open. Cascade Falls Aquatic Center will open for open swim, swimming lessons, lap swim and water walking on Monday, June 29 with restrictions. Prairie Ridge Aquatic Center will not open this year. The aquatic center will be open only to residents of Ankeny and families enrolled in Ankeny public and private schools to help manage capacity issues. SummerFest has been canceled.

Kirkendall Public Library – The Library reopened to the public with limited services and some restrictions on Monday, June 22. To help encourage social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19, capacity will be limited to 75 people and all visitors will be required to wear a face covering while in the library.


Altoona Parks & Recreation – City park playgrounds and the dog park are open, but ask that visitors practice social distancing. The Altoona Aquatics Park will be opening the first week of July, with a hard date to be determined. For the summer of 2020, the Altoona Aquatics Park will only be open to Altoona and Southeast Polk School District Residents. Morning and evening swim lessons will be offered. Altoona Palooza has been canceled.

Altoona Public Library – The Altoona Public Library reopened on June 22nd with limited hours.  They are also still offering curbside pick-up and some on-line programming.

Adventureland – On Friday, June 5th Adventureland Park opened to the general public. Adventure Bay Water Park opened  on June 13th.

Bass Pro Shops – They are open their regular store hours. They will open at 8:00 am on weekdays for older customers to access essential products before the general public.

Outlets of Des Moines – Outlets of Des Moines is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Individual store and restaurant hours may vary.


Clive Parks & Recreation – Clive parks, fields, courts, and trails–including the Clive Greenbelt Trail–are open.  As of June 1, playground equipment is open. The City will begin some recreational leagues and team sports on June 15, 2020 and continue to phase in summer programs.  The Clive Aquatic Center programming will start Monday, July 6th with swimming lessons, lap swim and water walking.  The Clive Festival has been canceled, but there will still be fireworks on July 17.

Clive Public Library – The Clive Public Library will reopen to the public on June 29, 2020. There are a number of guidelines in place, including only 10 patrons will be allowed in the libary for a maximum of 30 minutes.


Grimes Parks and Recreation – City of Grimes Parks and related facilities, including all athletic fields, public parks restrooms and portable restrooms, volleyball courts, playgrounds, skate parks, and drinking fountains, will be opening to the public on June 1, 2020. All residents should continue to use reasonable precautions, including enhanced hygiene, social distancing and related practices. Playground equipment will be cleaned and sanitized upon opening only.  The annual Governor’s Days festival has been canceled. 

Grimes Public Library – The Grimes Public Library has reopened with restrictions and limited hours.  They also are still offering curbside pickup and virtual programming.


Johnston Parks & Recreation – Phased opening of facilities and amenities: Public park playgrounds and restrooms – Monday, June 1; Ballfields (open to socially distanced practices) – Monday, June 1; Rental facilities (Crown Point Community Center and Simpson Barn) – Monday, June 22.  Green Days have been cancelled. 

Johnston Public Library – Curbside pickup of holds and printing by appointment is available Tuesdays & Thursdays 2pm-6pm, Wednesdays & Fridays 10am-2pm, and Saturdays 9am-12pm. Computer Use by Appointment Begins Tuesday, June 23rd. One-hour appointments will be available Tuesdays & Thursdays 2pm-6pm, Wednesdays & Fridays 10am-2pm, and Saturdays 9am-12pm. Browsing by appointment will begin on July 7, 2020. They are accepting returns at the library book drop and the Beaver Creek book drop.


Urbandale Parks & Recreation – Due to the increase in new COVID-19 cases reported in central Iowa, beginning at 5 PM Tuesday, June 30, 2020, city buildings, departments, and facilities are closed to the public until further notice. Playgrounds and city-owned softball and baseball fields remain open. Classes, lessons, and programs will continue as scheduled following CDC guidelines and with appropriate social distancing. Patrons with facility rental agreements can continue as scheduled, but no new rentals will be accepted until further notice.  The Urbandale 4th of July Celebration has been canceled.  The fireworks display will still take place.

Urbandale Public Library – Due to the increase in new COVID-19 cases reported in central Iowa, the Urbandale Public Library will suspend lobby service effective Wednesday, July 1. The Library will remain closed to the public until further notice. A number of online programs for all ages are available, including the annual summer reading program. All in-person events and programs are canceled until further notice. Curbside pickup will remain available.

Living History Farms The farms opened on June 1st.


Waukee Parks & Recreation – City of Waukee park playgrounds and restrooms are now open. The Fox Creek Splash Pad opened June 24th. The Waukee 4th of July Celebration has been canceled.  The fireworks display and a skydiver demonstration will still take place.

Waukee Public Library – The Waukee Public Library is closed  until further notice. Starting June 1st the Waukee Public Library will start offering scheduled curbside pickup of library books and materials by appointment and will start accepting returns on a limited basis. All due dates have been extended to July 1st

Dallas County Conservation – Camping spots are only available on a first-come, first-serve basis at this time. In all campgrounds, only registered campers will be allowed, no visitors allowed in campsites until further notice. Only six overnight occupants per campsite will be allowed, unless immediate family contains more than six. Outdoor playgrounds and restrooms are open as of June 1st. Cabins at Sportsman Park, Glissman Lodge at the Glissman Conservation Area, and the Dayton Stagecoach Inn will be open and available for rent.  On June 5th, Forest Park Museum will be open with some restrictions weekdays 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Voas Geology Museum and GAR Building open by appointment. Shelters and lodges will be open with some restrictions.

West Des Moines

West Des Moines Parks and Recreation – On June 1 all park playgrounds, park picnic shelters, park restrooms, drinking fountains and the Crossroads Park Skate park are open to the public. The Raccoon River Park Dog Park and Archery Facility, along with tennis and basketball courts are also open. The Valley View Aquatic Center will not open this summer. Holiday Park Aquatic Center will open for lap swim and swimming lessons July 6th.  The Legion Park Sprayground opened June 25th.  The 4th of July parade and celebration have been canceled.  Fireworks will be shot off from the West Des Moines City campus.

West Des Moines Public Library – The West Des Moines Public Library re-opened Monday, June 15th with some changes for public health, including altered hours and some temporary changes to rules and procedures, including wearing masks.

Jordan Creek Towncenter– The mall will be open from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday – Saturday and from 12:00 to 6:00 pm on Sunday. The following amenities will be unavailable until further notice: valet services, play areas, stroller rentals, and mall-operated carousels. All restaurant and food service is take out only.

Valley West Mall – The Mall is open Monday-Saturday: 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and Sunday: Noon to 6:00 pm. Several Valley West Mall stores are still closed. Visit their website for a full list of store closings. All restaurant and food service is take out only. No food court seating is available. The Play Area is closed.

Things To Do at Home

Start a Post-‘Rona Wish Jar for Your Family
Arts & Culture for Families in Des Moines: Top LOCAL Entertainment Streaming Online
Food for Thought
Fun Virtual Workouts to Keep the Family Fit While Stuck at Home
Fun Coloring Pages & Other FREE Printables by Des Moines Designers, Businesses & Organizations
At Home Activities to do During School Closures published on Redfin
Celebrating Kids’ Birthdays While Maintaining Social Distancing
Spring 2020: A Few Fun Ways to Celebrate Easter at Home This Year in Des Moines
Keep Connecting During Self Quarantine
On-Line Resources to Keep Kids Learning During the Coronavirus School Break
Activities to Keep the Kids Busy at Home During the Coronavirus School Break
Book Nook: Summer Read Aloud Books 4 Kids
5 Fun Indoor Activities to Get You Through Winter Break
100 Summer Boredom Busters 4 Kids
Fight the Summer Brain Drain in Des Moines
Go Go Yoga for Kids: Yoga Lessons for Children
25 Rainy Day Boredom Busters
Family Activity to Increase Gratitude & Positivity
How to Survive Winter with Little Ones

Outdoor Activities

Safe Outdoor Activities for Kids During COVID-19
Go Fly a Kite Des Moines!
Nature’s Beauty on Display at 12 Central Iowa Gardens
Geocaching in Des Moines
10 Outdoor Games 4 Kids in Des Moines
Explore Nature with Kids in Central Iowa
Go on a Family Bike Ride in Des Moines
Go On an Outdoor Scavenger Hunt this Fall with Your Kids
Des Moines Kids Are Wild About Pokémon Go
9 Parks 4 a Spring Walk in Des Moines

Easy Meal Prep Ideas

How to Make Your Food Last Longer and Conserve Where We Can
What We Ate for Dinner Last Week: April 5-11, 2020
Where to Order Family Meals for Pickup or Delivery in the Des Moines Area
What We Ate for Dinner Last Week: March 29-April 4, 2020
What We Ate for Dinner Last Week: March 22-28, 2020
What We Ate for Dinner Last Week: March 15-21, 2020
10 Grab and Go Snacks 4 Kids
5 EASY Week Night Family Meals
Celebrate Cinco De Mayo with a Taco Twist
9 Healthy School Snack Ideas
A Hearty Beef Stew for a Cold Winter’s Night
Pre-Trick-or-Treating Chili

Healthy Habits & Life Skills for Kids and Support Organizations for Families

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS): Caring for Kids & Families in Crisis in Des Moines
Summer 2020: Should I Sign My Kids Up for Summer Camp?
5 Ways to Support Des Moines Area Small Businesses While Stuck at Home
Des Moines Area Tutoring Centers
What to Consider Before Hiring a Tutor 4 Your Kid
When Are Kids Old Enough To Stay Home Alone?
To Do & Done: Chores 4 Kids at Various Ages
Charities That Help Kids and Families in Des Moines
Homeless Kids & Families in Des Moines