Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd; Ma-TESOL
Abandoned sippy cups rolling around on the floor of the car, a small army of bath toys in the shower, and crushed Cheerios in the rug— as the parent of a preschooler, you’re used to living in controlled chaos. But even you, brave parent of a tiny human, weren’t fully prepared for life during the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the stay-at-home mandates and social distancing guidelines that have become the new normal for all of us.
Preschools have been shuttered, playdates have been cancelled, and any semblance of a normal schedule has long since been abandoned. You’re navigating uncertain, often scary, waters, and you may be struggling with difficult family and financial decisions while still attempting to keep life as normal as possible for your child.
Should I talk to my child about coronavirus? Is it safe to take my child to daycare? Is there financial assistance available to help cover my unexpected childcare costs during the pandemic? How can I keep my child’s boredom at bay and encourage learning while we’re stuck at home?
We understand the questions that are popping up right now because they’re the same ones we had. The only difference is that we’ve been able to make the time to track down the resources necessary to find the answers. Don’t worry, we got you covered…
Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of trusted resources that will answer your questions, quell your fears, and point you in the right direction as you scramble to figure out how to manage childcare and early learning during these difficult times.
Talking to Your Preschooler About the Coronavirus
Should I talk to my child about the coronavirus and, if so, how do I do it without instilling a sense of fear? This question is on the minds of parents of young children everywhere as they struggle with the decision about whether to shelter their child from news of the pandemic or provide them with age-appropriate information about it.
We’ve rounded up a list of resources that will help you tackle this tricky topic with your child:
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides a list of tips, along with facts about COVID-19 to help you explain the coronavirus in terms that are simple and easy-to-understand.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles published a helpful article that explans how to talk to kids about the coronavirus in reassuring words.
The experts at the Child Mind Institute developed a checklist (with an accompanying video) that offers guidance on broaching the topic of the coronavirus with your child.
The New York Times offers a comprehensive list of the newest illustrated children’s books that many publishers and nonprofits are releasing, free of charge, to help teach children about the coronavirus.
Storyberries offers a free animated picture book called “Olive Stays In” that explains to children why they have to stay home.
Zero to Three offers a unique guide on answering your toddler’s questions about why everyone is wearing masks.
You can ease your child’s fears about COVID-19 by talking about the ways in which your family can stay safe. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can make this process fun:
PBS’ Daniel Tiger offers a video that shows that good hand washers and germ busters!
Sesame Street’s resources for teaching young children about COVID-19 are just as impressive as you’ve come to expect from this leader in children’s education. We like the How to Wash Your Hands video, and the H is for Handwashing storybook.
Supporting Your Young Learner at Home
The switch from your child’s preschool classroom to home learning doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should be thoughtful and organized. Ask your child’s preschool teacher for ideas and activities for keeping the learning going at home and head to your school district’s website to read about their continuity plan for early childhood education.
Then check out these resources for developing a homeschool routine that’s sure to keep your little one entertained and engaged:
Vroom offers a plethora of activities, free of charge, to make the most out of your child’s time at home.
Many preschools have learning centers organized throughout the classroom. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides you with a list of suggestions for setting up mini-learning centers at home.
TRUCE offers a great selection of screen-free activities – called Family Play Plans – to inspire the entire family to play together.
Early Learning Nation’s guide for parents offers plenty of ideas for making the most out your time at home with your young learner.
Understood’s “9 Indoor Activities for Hyperactive Kids” will give you plenty of inspiration for keeping your young child moving with structured games.
PBS offers a great array of activities, searchable by age, designed to help your child learn and grow.
Zero to Three provides an at-home activity guide to promote your young child’s healthy development.
Online Learning Resources
Online games can be educational and fun for your preschooler and are offered through a number of trusted websites:
Education.com provides a nice selection of online games for preschoolers, along with printable worksheets and guided lessons for exciting learning opportunities.
Family Education has curated a great selection of learning websites for toddlers and preschoolers.
Nick Jr. and Noggin offer games with your child’s favorite television characters as the stars. Peppa Pig, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues…they’re all there.
PBS offers plenty of games based on your preschooler’s favorite PBS show.
Re-Establishing Routines to Get Everyone Back on Schedule
A lack of schedules, outings, and playdates can throw any toddler or preschooler into a meltdown. So, how do you create a routine that will provide your little one with the structure they need? The following resources will provide you with a game plan for re-establishing a routine the whole family will love:
Healthychildren.org offers great tips for getting a family schedule up and running.
Busy Toddler has developed a list of tips for getting your toddler on a routine during COVID-19, as well as a sample schedule you can use as a guide when you’re developing your family routine.
Sesame Street offers a printable schedule called My Healthy Week that encourages toddlers and preschoolers to keep up with healthy habits like brushing their teeth and getting a good night’s sleep.
Navigating Childcare Issues and Concerns
Reliable, high-quality childcare is something that’s always on the minds of working parents of young children. And during this challenging time, questions about what precautions are being taken to ensure the health and safety of children have become more important than ever.
If you are an essential worker during the pandemic, you are most certainly wondering about your state’s laws regarding childcare during the outbreak, or if it’s still safe to take your child to daycare right now under any circumstances.
We’ve got the resources to get you the answers you need:
The CDC published its Guidelines for Child Care Programs That Remain Open that includes recommendations for childcare centers regarding cleaning efforts, social-distancing strategies, and staggering drop-off and pickup times.
Your state’s laws regarding childcare facilities will ultimately determine if the location is allowed to remain open and the rules they must follow to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can contact your state health department or local health department or visit one of these resources for learning more about your state’s childcare requirements:
Child Care Aware provides a clear overview of how your state is handling childcare closures.
The Hunt Institute does a fantastic job of outlining each state’s childcare closure status, emergency childcare provisions, and state action guidelines for childcare centers. You’ll also find information on financial support initiatives that are in place in many states to help residents pay for emergency childcare during this time.
CareLuLu developed a comprehensive guide to daycare during the coronavirus that includes tips on finding childcare during closures and answers to your most pressing questions.