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How to help kids understand health guidelines and stop the spread of COVID-19

Help kids understand health guidelines and stop the spread of COVID-19
Posted at 1:25 PM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 17:04:23-04

We all know the guidance on stopping the spread of the coronavirus: stay 6 feet away, wear a mask and wash your hands. If your kids are getting ready to return to school in-person, or will be heading to a park or soccer practice, or could just use a refresher, below are some ways you can talk to your children about the guidance, and maybe have some fun along the way.

Social Distancing

The CDC recommends staying roughly 6 feet away from others, when physically possible. And their guidance for schools includes social distancing recommendations.

Here are some ways to help kids understand what 6 feet looks like.

  • Use a pool noodle: Those foam pool noodles are normally between 4.5 and 5 feet long, and while not exactly 6 feet, they provide a way for kids to understand the distance.
    • Have your child hold a pool noodle and try to tap you. Then back away from them as they keep trying to touch you while keeping their feet in one place. When you are too far away for them to touch you, talk about the distance between you and what that looks like.
  • Use a tape measure:
    • Have your child hold one end of a tape measure while you walk out six feet. Talk about what that distance looks like, can you reach each other? Can you still talk to each other?
  • Create a chalk circle
    • Cut a piece of string 3 feet long, then have your child tape one end of the string down on the ground while you pull the other end tight, take a piece of chalk and create a circle around the taped end.
    • Create more circles for other family members.
    • Have each person hold a simple spray bottle filled with water in the center of their circle and try spraying each other. You can explain how the water represents tiny droplets expelled while breathing and talking that could carry the coronavirus. Does any water get into other circles? If so, this could be a segue to talk about wearing masks.

Social distancing also means no hugs or handshakes. With kids of all ages, it may be helpful to talk about other ways to greet friends.

Talk to your kids about what you can do while being socially distanced; like have a conversation, wave, use FaceTime or other video conferencing apps to stay in touch with friends and family.

Wear a mask

Dozens of states and municipalities require masks of some sort that cover the mouth and nose.

Wearing something on your face can be uncomfortable, sweaty, and for children, it can provide a reason for endless hand-to-face contact and complaining. What can parents do?

  • Make sure it fits:
    • Create or purchase child-sized masks when possible.
    • Use buttons on headbands or hats to put the ear loops over, instead of kids’ ears if it gets uncomfortable.
  • Have the child get involved:
    • Give them options of fabric, color, etc. when possible.
    • Have the child put it on themselves (with your help if they are younger).
    • If they are younger, have them practice putting masks on dolls or stuffed animals.
  • Explain the reasons for wearing a mask:
    • Talk about family members or close friends who wear a mask, or talk about people close to you who are at-risk and you want to protect.
  • Give them a chance, it will be weird at first:
    • Have them practice wearing a mask for longer and longer periods of time.

Wash your hands

It’s the best advice to kill an endless list of germs and bacteria: wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.

  • The CDC has 5 easy steps to washing hands: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry.
  • Make it part of your routines:
    • Before you eat
    • After using the restroom
    • Coming inside from spending time outside or in public
  • Be a good role model and wash your hands often.
    • With younger children, make it a family activity and wash your hands together.
  • Choose a song or music verse to sing while washing. Need ideas? Try this, this or this (including hits from Prince, Lizzo, Toto and Beyonce). Yes, even older kids can sing while washing their hands.

Overall, no matter how old your kids are, acknowledge that some of these recommendations are different and present added steps to their routines. Let them ask questions and share frustrations in a supportive atmosphere.
If your child responds well to empathy, remind them these steps are meant to save the lives of people you care about. There are also kids who respond to rewards; consider an appropriate reward system and prizes, and the behavior or action you are focusing on.

This article is meant to provide your family with activities and conversation starters about safety precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic. This does not replace or supersede CDC guidelines or advice from a medical professional.

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