Helping kids learn, live, and love in a time of disruption

We are all living a chapter in history that most of us never anticipated. But kids are curious, resilient, and almost always up for an adventure as long as we wrap them in love and reassurance.

Acknowledging that parents around the world are struggling with how to talk to kids about the current pandemic, “10 Tips for Talking About COVID-19 with Your Kids,” by Wendy Thomas Russell, writing for PBS, offers some great ideas as well as a link to a video from BrainPOP. Geared toward mid-grade school kids, it helps explain the virus and some of the response to it. All 10 tips in the PBS article are wonderful, but perhaps their top 3 are up front for good reason: Make children feel safe; give them facts, and let them lead the discussion; and give them power—and responsibility.

In terms of that last one, the article says that “Kids can help their neighbors and loved ones stay safe and healthy if they frequently wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.” Charmingly, Thomas Russell says, “You might tell them that hand-washing is like kryptonite to the coronavirus,” adding that “hand sanitizer is a perfectly good stand-in when they can’t find soap and water.”

She also tells parents to remind kids to wipe down their devices often and “to cough or sneeze into their elbows or a tissue.” A health commentator interviewed recently on national TV suggested that because kids are often a bit sloppy with the elbow thing, coughing down the top of their shirt is another option.

Even adults sometimes need a refresher in the genuinely germ-killing form of handwashing, and a section of NPR called Goats and Soda, offering “stories of life in a changing world,” posted, “Hand-Washing Can Protect You from Coronavirus. But You Need to Do It Right,” by Maxwell Posner and Elena Renken. While not always doable, one tip they suggest is that “If possible, you should remove jewelry like rings, bracelets, and watches first so you can scrub your hands without anything getting in the way.”

According to the BrainPOP video posted to PBS there are 4 coronaviruses that commonly infect humans, including one that causes many common colds. The viruses get their name from their crown-like surface. (We knew it wasn’t from being like rays of sunshine!)

These one-celled villains are changing our daily routines, and when the world feels wobbly, not just for kids but for grown-ups too, our natural instinct is to pull our loved ones closer. However, that’s not always physically possibly, whether due to miles, travel bans, or social distancing. Fortunately, technology allows many to not just work at home but to stay connected despite traditional barriers.

For example, one Michigan grandma, four states away from her toddler grandkids, shared how she plays games remotely with them including a game that helps get them moving, thinking, interacting, and learning multiple skills. She says, “I’ve been Face Timing every other day with my granddaughters, and we have come up with a few fun games. I have these big wooden animals, and I hide them around my house. Then I walk through each room until they spot them. They have to give me directions such as: move right or look on top of the mirror. And then they have to say what animal it is. Once we have collected a few we count them until we find all 7 or whatever number I’ve hidden. They love it!”

She adds, “Next we are going to play Barbie dolls together I have two at my house and they have two, so we will have play dates with the Barbies.”

Similarly, Priority Health, a health plan also in Michigan, recently published “Ideas to Help Keep Spirits Up During a Shutdown,”including a list posted to their Think Health blog. Some of them are “blow the dust off your old video games,” “re-watch your favorite movies or re-read your favorite books,” and pull out the board games. The article says, “From Sorry to Scrabble, Clue to Guess Who, there’s plenty of time to take on anyone in in the house that’s willing to roll the dice or make a move against the likes of you.” They even report that “According to Statista, 38% of American households own five or more board or card games.”

PBS Parents, in an article by Suzanne Bouffard, titled, “Schools Closed? How to Make a New Home Routine,” offers great tips for parents suddenly tasked with kitchen-table lessons. One is setting a school day schedule. She writes, “If your kids are in grade school or older, set up specific times for reading, math, and other academic work, as well as breaks.”

Bouffard also recommends getting outside 2 or 3 times a day and being physically active. Even in most areas in lockdown, officials approve of getting fresh air and exercise. Just keep social distancing guidelines in mind and avoid touching shared surfaces.

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Get kids learning, and it will help them weather disruption and come out stronger and smarter on the other side. After all, Aristotle once said, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.” It can also be lots of fun!