COVID-19: Information and Ideas to Share

Written by Julie Bisnath, BSW, RSW

Hello Readers,

We hope that you are all as well as can be during this time of uncertainty and concern relating to the Coronavirus COVID-19.  We understand that feelings of angst are at the forefront for many.

  • We see you—independent caregivers who are faced making critical business decisions, looking for direction and solidarity.
  • We see you—parents who can not work from home and desperately require childcare.
  • We see you—parents and caregivers who have travelled in the past few weeks and are self-isolating.
  • We see you—caregivers and parents who had hoped to travel this week and have had to cancel.
  • We see you—adults concerned for your own health or the health of a loved one.
  • We see you—school age children with hopes of camps, playdates, sleepovers, and a March Break filled with fun outings.
  • We see you—children who don’t quite understand what is going on—who may feel confused, stressed, or anxious about what you see or hear from adults around you, or in the media.
  • We see you—little ones for whom routines have been disrupted, change is hard.
  • We see you.


While it is certainly a time for diligent precautions, it is also a time for compassion, support, communication, and sharing.  We want you to know that while we may not be able to answer all of your questions, we are here to offer whatever support we can. We also want to encourage you to share resources and support with each other.  Talk about your feelings and concerns, brainstorm ideas, and share strategies.  Together we are stronger.  Together we are a community.

Today we will be sharing several types of resources we hope you will find helpful.

  1. Where to get up to date information regarding COVID-19.
  2. How to talk to children about the current situation.
  3. How to teach young children about germs and handwashing.
  4. Ideas, activities, and online learning resources to help children thrive during the next few weeks while respecting the guidelines for social distancing and non-essential outings.

Where to get up to date information regarding COVID-19:

One of the best and most accurate sources for information is your local public health unit.  To find your local public health unit search here:

Visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website for information on COVID-19 updates, Canada’s response, being prepared, travel advice, prevention and risk, and symptoms and treatment:

How to talk to children about the current situation:

While it may be tempting to avoid talking about COVID-19 with your children, having the talk—with careful thought about what you say and how you say it—will in fact help them to feel safer.

It is also important for parents and caregivers to communicate openly and decide together on some consistent messaging.  This will help to reassure young children by creating a feeling of calmness and uniformity between home and childcare.

General Principles from the Center for Disease Control:

Remain calm and reassuring.

  • Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.


Make yourself available to listen and to talk.

  • Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.


Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.

  • Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.


Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.

  • Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.


Provide information that is honest and accurate.

  • Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
  • Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.


Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.
  • Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff. (many schools are currently closed but this also applies to potential new protocols effective once schools re-open) (e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities)
  • Get children into a handwashing habit.
    • Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
    • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol, especially in schools and childcare facilities.


Sometimes a short video can provide a helpful visual when communicating information.  Here is an example from a recent CTV article on talking to kids about the coronavirus:

Visual representation of self-isolation and social distancing—good for school age children:


Read the full CTV article here:

Finally, PBS has some great tips and wording to use when talking to children:

How to teach young children about germs and handwashing:

From the above cited PBS article: Here are four ways we can help young kids build germ-busting habits.

  1. Wash your hands: Use soap and water, rub and scrub for 20 seconds. Sing the ABCs slowly for a general timer.
  2. Catch that cough or sneeze: Teach children to catch their coughs and sneezes in their elbows.
  3. Rest is best: When we stay home sick to rest our bodies we are avoiding the spread of germs to others.
  4. Practice healthy habits: Good sleep, daily exercise, and nutritious foods help to keep our bodies strong and healthy leading to less germs.


For young children try an activity that provides a visual representation of germs and handwashing.



  • Explain to the children that germs are invisible. Paint your hand with some washable paint (a highly noticeable colour) and then explain that you are pretending that the paint is really lots of germs.  In front of the children touch the table, a doorknob, a toy, your face, a child, etc. so that they can see the “germs” spreading. Demonstrate hand washing: what does it take to get off all the paint? A dry cloth? Water only? A 5 second rinse? Soap and water without scrubbing? Soap and water and scrubbing for 20 seconds? Let the children try this for them selves by painting their hands and providing shallow pans with soap and water for washing away the “germs”.


Provide and post handwashing visual steps for children to follow—you can find many examples online, here is one from Ottawa Public Health:

Take a look at the information from Parenting in Ottawa on Hand Hygiene for Children:

Handwashing songs and printables:

Handwashing sequence file folder game:

Ideas, activities, and online learning resources to help children thrive during the next few weeks while respecting the guidelines for social distancing and non-essential outings:

Children (and often adults too) thrive with the predictability and structure of a routine.  If possible, create a new routine for your children (whether at home or childcare) to help them adjust to the current guidelines. Here is an example of an at-home routine with a link to modify for your own purposes.  Obviously, routines will change based on the age and number of children in your care.  Use the sample to create something that will work for you and your children.

Daily Schedule: Click here to download the schedule in Microsoft Word format (modifiable).  Click here to download the schedule in Open Office format (modifiable).

Here is a great guide full of ideas for art and play geared towards children ages 3-8:

Search for ideas to keep your toddlers and preschoolers busy indoors.  Here are a couple of interesting finds:

40+ Super Easy Toddler Activities

42 Easy Indoor Activities for Toddlers

Indoor Recess Games and Activities for Preschoolers


Here are 25 non-screen activities perfect for slightly older children but also many are easy to modify for toddlers and/or preschoolers.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities for older children:

Other screen-free ideas:

  • Theme days: a great way to pass the time and can be extended to develop early literacy, motor skills, dramatic play, art activities, and sensory play (note: depending on the age of the children you may want to limit sensory play as a way to reduce the spread of germs). Examples include beach day, pyjama day, colour or rainbow day, sports day, spa day, etc.
  • Have a dance party: dress up, play fun music, dim the lighting, enjoy party/special snacks. Search up links for music and movement like this one: Try Zumba or yoga for a change.
  • Storytime or Circle time marathon: everyone chooses their favourite books and/or songs, gets a blanket or pillow, and enjoys an extended version of this popular activity.
  • Art exploration: have children wear play clothes and spend the day exploring various art mediums: finger paint, paint with brushes and other tools, collage using various materials and textures, crayons/pastels/markers, etc. Tape up the artwork and pretend that you are at an art gallery.
  • Set up a games circuit outside and around the house: water bottle bowling, bean bag target practice, balance beams made from painter’s tape, etc. Google indoor obstacle course for toddlers.
  • Choose a topic of interest to learn about and work on this each day.
  • Bake or cook together (practice lots of good hand washing!).
  • Board game or card game marathon for older children.

Ideas for online learning and/or using online resources: Always visit the site yourself first to ensure that it is appropriate for the children in your care.  Monitor screen time closely, when possible access content together, and limit screen time according to guidelines (

  • Free children’s literacy resource featuring the world’s best storytellers reading books aloud. Each video includes an activity guide with lessons for K-5 students to do at home.

And a few more:

  • Keep your eye on Facebook and other types of social media—I found this yesterday: “While the Cincinnati Zoo is closed and kids are home from school, let us help make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational. Join us for a Home Safari Facebook Live each weekday at 3pm where we will highlight one of our amazing animals and include an activity you can do from home. Join us starting Monday, March 16 at 3pm for our first Home Safari- featuring Fiona!”


We encourage you to share your thoughts, concerns, and support for one another on our facebook page:

Be well.

Yours in sharing and caring.