Quarantine is hard on us all, yet it can be toughest on kids. If you are a parent, relative, or caregiver —or if your friends have children— you not only have to grapple with your own pandemic-related concerns, but are tasked with helping a child navigate the chaos in an age-appropriate way.
2yo can tell that Everything Is Weird but can’t really grasp what, so she’s spending the morning trying to lock down the basics.
“Mama are you my mom?” (yes)
“Dada are you my dad?” (yes)
“Where are we?” (home)
“Is today a day?” (?)
“What is the number of toddlers?” (??)
— Kathryn VanArendonk (@kvanaren) March 15, 2020
There’s plenty of solid guidance on how to talk to kids about coronavirus, like this New York Times article covering 10 questions parents may have. A more immediate issue is what to do for children who are home from school or daycare as a result. Wondering which schools are closed across the country? Here’s a map.
Here are some resources to best support the kids in your life (while the grown-ups steadily oscillate between denial and panic).
PBS Kids has ways for parents and kids to destress, plus pointers on how to talk to children about the crisis, and a new weekday newsletter with activities and tips for those home from school. They also offer 24/7 free streaming live TV, thousands of free videos — including Daniel Tiger — and more free games and apps. If you’re looking for something more retro, you can revisit old episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
The Library at Home program from DC Public Library lets you get your card online (in case you don’t already have one) and enjoy 90-days of access to their digital resources. Beyond your local branch, goDigital offers free ebooks, movies, and music, and DC Reads spotlights books for teens and adults. This month’s pick is With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Unlimited ebook copies are available and DCPL hosts a Twitter chat on Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Understood provides unique insights for families of children with learning differences or disabilities. On their site, you’ll find everything from coronavirus updates relevant to your family to learning activities that keep kids engaged and tools to help address children’s anxiety.
¡Colorín colorado!, a bilingual site for educators and families of English language learners, has truly helpful guidance for families. You can access reading tips and games, bilingual booklists, videos with children’s authors, musicians, and more.
While travel is off-limits for a bit, the Hidden Worlds of U.S. National Parks lets you kayak past icebergs, fly over volcanoes, ride horseback through a canyon, and explore an underwater shipwreck. Or you can discover museum collections from around the world with Google Arts & Culture. For kids craving artistic expression, try DIY Together’s hands-on projects and step-by-step tutorial videos (currently discounted with code TOGETHER).
For more academic content, check out Khan Academy’s courses, videos, schedule templates, and guidance, Outschool’s live online classes for ages 3-18 from, or Mystery Science’s free K-5 science lessons. Similarly, Scholastic’s Learn at Home projects “keep kids reading, thinking, and growing,” from PreK to grades 6 and up, and PBS Learning Media has mountains of educational content for students through high school.
The social and emotional learning materials and techniques from Edutopia meet children’s needs beyond the classroom experience, which is essential in frightening times. NPR’s excellent Life Kit podcast has episodes on difficult conversations that parents (and other caregivers) face. Refer to the CDC’s guidance on talking to children about COVID-19 in a way that’s accurate but minimizes their feelings of anxiety and fear.
Kids may not know exactly what’s going on right now, but they know something is wrong. More than any of us, they are pros at feeling their feelings, often out loud. While these resources can’t change the situation, they offer something positive and concrete amid the confusion and sadness. We’ll get through this together — and no one’s going to judge you for blowing past screen time limits for now.
Do you have any other recommendations? Let us know.