The Early Childhood Family Toolkit

Our favorite resources to keep kids learning, playing, and growing healthy

In partnership with the New York City Department of Education

As we start the new school year, we hope this page can help answer the common question, “Where do I start?” This easy-to-use page features a collection of resources we love for families with young kids—chosen by the NYC Division of Early Childhood Education. Discover learning tips and activities, health support, and more on the topics you care about. Come back every two weeks to find a new featured resource!


Home to school transition strategies

As your child starts a new school year, remember that separation is a process. You and your child will need some time to get used to a new setting, and new routines and situations.

  • Toileting

    • Find out about the toileting procedures at the new school/program so you can review the situation and plan accordingly with your child and make sure they are comfortable.
  • Routines

    • Your family routines may change. One tip to help your child prepare is to use household materials to make a book about their new routine. For example, you can take or draw photos of your child in front of their new school and add text like, “This is Pilar at school. This is her favorite t-shirt. This is Pilar playing and learning with her friends. This is Mommy picking up Pilar when school is over.”
  • Familiar Objects

    • Bringing a familiar object from home may be comforting and promote a sense of safety for children. Work with your child on picking an object such as a stuffed animal, a blanket, or a toy that doesn’t make noise. You can also explain that when they feel like they miss you or home, they can hug the object as hard as they want.
  • Share your experiences

    • Tell stories about when you went to school and share how you felt about it, “I was nervous at first, but my teacher helped me make new friends.” If available, share or draw childhood pictures of yourself and other adults in your child’s life going through transitions, and talk about the feelings you and others had.

Public television for learning

WNET Let’s Learn NYC

Watch remote learning classes for grades 3K–2 taught by NYCDOE professionals. One-hour lessons include literacy, math, music, movement, science, and social studies.

Why we love this!

It’s TV but educational!

Previously featured resources

A list of our previously listed favorite resources you can access anytime.

  • Learn at home resources

    • Parent University is a one-stop-shop where NYC families can find free trainings on a range of topics, including adult education, social-emotional learning, and special education. Parent University empowers families as partners in learning through free courses, resources, events, and activities. It serves all families, from early childhood through adulthood.
    • Need fresh ideas for learning at home? Find resources for parents, caregivers, and teachers to support distance learning on Wide Open School. This resource includes topics on equity and social justice, learning and thinking differences, family services, and more.
    • Trying to set your child up for remote learning success, but not sure how? This guide can help your family adapt. It explains remote learning, offers tips for keeping a daily routine, and gives suggestions for how to connect your child's learning at home with learning in school. You can also find tips and resources to support your physical and mental health during this stressful time.
    • On Zero to Three , a trusted name in early childhood education, you'll find a range of resources to help you support and nurture your young child at home. The website includes activities for play, information on brain development, guidance for challenging behaviors, and much more.
    • Let's Play! is a public television program created by and starring New York City educators. It features lessons for children ages 3-8 that can add to remote and blended learning. Lessons focus on literacy, math, science, social studies, and the arts. The series also supports social-emotional learning, and brings families on virtual field trips to watch dance performances, meet animals, visit botanical gardens, and more.

      New episodes are available now! Episodes air weekdays at 9 am on Channel 21 WLIW, 11 am on Channel 13 WNET, and are available to stream at any time at

    • Shelf help is the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) new personalized book selection service! Tell them your reading interests and they’ll pick five books for you. Fill out the online form, call 917-ASK-NYPL, or get a request form at a grab-and-go location to get new reads handpicked for you.
  • Pandemic related resources

    • With so much change and uncertainty during the pandemic, it can be hard to stay optimistic. Sesame Street in Communities offers ideas for how you can build hope with your child. Check out ways to say thank you to a local hero, make the most of "inside days," resources for children with autism, and more.
    • We know it can be hard to find resources in your community when you're stressed. The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center provides information on a variety of topics to help you find what your family needs. Topics include health care, mental health resources, social services, legal help, emergency support, housing, parent training and education, recreational activities, faith-based organizations, and more.
  • Mental Health

    • While the City stays home to stop the spread of coronavirus, New Yorkers can access a range of mental health services by phone or online. If you or someone you care about needs support, we encourage you to reach out to the programs on the ThriveNYC website. Help is available.
    • The City of New York offers a range of free, easy-to-use mental health resources. Text, call, or chat NYC Well to learn different ways to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and substance use. Services are available at any time, any day, and in over 200 languages. It's a good place to start if you're looking for help.

Learning support

This school year, your family may experience a lot of transitions and changes to the routines you put in place over the past year. 

Change can be exciting, but can also be challenging. In this section, you can find resources to support with the transitions you will experience as a family. This includes learning tips, virtual and in-person activities and events, and other helpful resources for families of young children.

Parents draw with their child at home

Learning resources

Early Childhood Family Resources
A NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) homepage for families with activity suggestions and resources for infants, toddlers, and children 3–4 years old.

Learn at home


Back to School in a pandemic
Read here for tips and what to expect as your family prepares for back to school in a pandemic.

Find back-to-school tips


Preparing your child for preschool: Learn best practices for preparing your child for preschool from PBS, and sign up for the PBS Kids newsletter for activities and parenting tips emailed to you every week.

Find best practices


NYCDOE Guide to the Early Intervention to Preschool Transition
A guide to help families become familiar with the transition from Early Intervention to Preschool Special Education.

See the guide


A free resource for helping your child stay on track with their learning goals. To get three texts per week to support your child’s growth, text “NYC” to 70138 or fill out this form.

Sign up for Ready4K


Office of Homeschooling
Find answers to your questions about homeschooling your child on the Office of Home Schooling website.

Visit the home school website


Play and Learn at Home
Check out the DOE’s at-home learning guides to supplement your child’s learning. View weekly read aloud and activity suggestions that align with your child’s curriculum. Download this new Let’s Play at Home guide for families with children attending Family Child Care programs. And have some fun with these Family Bingo cards!

Explore the at-home learning guides


Sesame Street in Communities
Sesame Workshop offers information, videos, and activities in English and Spanish on a wide range of health, literacy, STEM, and other topics.

Visit Sesame Workshop


WNET Let’s Learn NYC!
Watch remote learning classes for grades 3K–2 taught by NYCDOE professionals. One-hour lessons include literacy, math, music, movement, science, and social studies.

Watch classes


Tips, tools, and 1000+ activities to help you add learning to meal time, bath time, bed time, or anytime. Visit to access the tips, download the app from the App Store or Google Play, or see a selection of tips in our Brain Building section.

Visit Vroom


Mealtime Check-In
Keep your child engaged in dinner prep. Take turns measuring, pouring, and mixing. If they might spill, put the bowl in the sink so spilling is okay. Talk to them about what you’re doing and the ingredients you’re using. Encourage them to smell, touch (and taste!) as you go. Ask them what they notice.

See what your child is learning
This activity gives your child the opportunity to hear new words, which builds their vocabulary. Measuring involves counting, which will help them with math in the future. Having a conversation about the experience helps them develop their communication skills.


Find more brain building tips

Brain Building Basics with Vroom Webinar – Washington State ...


Keeping daily routines

During this time, your child’s routines may change. You can help them by following a predictable routine so they feel safe and know what’s expected of them. Routines can help you and your child move confidently through the day and encourage positive behavior. It can also make your child feel safe and secure.

When creating a new routine with your child, be flexible and open to their needs and incorporate your child into the decision making. Afterall, you know your child best! Find a balance of routines and flexibility that works for your child in and out of school.

A grandmother reads to her toddler grandchild

Talking to children about routines 

Remind your child:

  • They are safe
  • Where they will be that day
  • Who will be taking care of them that day
  • When they can expect to see you again 

You can also talk with your child about your own grown-up routines, and things that may be unexpected. Talk openly and honestly about what to expect, and let your child know that you love and care for them—even if you’re not there. This helps them feel safe and secure.

Daily routine considerations

Get started by asking yourself, “What are the things that we need to do every day?” A schedule at home may look like:









Adults thrive on routines, too

Make sure you build in self-care practices everyday, like staying connected with others (even from afar). Routines can provide a sense of security, help reduce anxiety, and build resiliency in adults and children alike!

Tips for talking about COVID-19:

As we continue to go through the pandemic together, children may need support when hearing about the virus and illness. Feel free to talk with them about it. Not talking about it may actually make them more nervous. Invite your child to share what they know about the coronavirus and how they are feeling.

  • Find out what they know

    • Find out what your child already knows before beginning the conversation so that you know where to begin and can correct any misinformation. Ask questions geared to your child's age level. For younger children, you could say, "Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness (germ) that's going around?"
  • Follow your child’s lead

    • Some children may want to spend time talking or even drawing. But if your child does not seem interested or doesn’t ask a lot of questions, that’s OK. They may need time to think about it and come back to you later with their questions.
  • Be direct

    • Answer your child’s questions about the virus in a straightforward and factual manner.
  • Be honest about what you know

    • If your child asks about something and you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say, “I’m not sure.” Use the question as a chance to find out together, or let the child know you’ll check into it and come back to them later.
  • Recognize everyone has big feelings

    • Children and adults are experiencing a lot of stress and emotion during social distancing and the pandemic. As your child’s first and most important teacher, you have the power to help your child learn about feelings. Consider using the Fun with Feelings tools to find ways to talk about big feelings together.
  • Empower with information

    • Empower your child with information about staying safe. You might say, “We can be germ-busters! Germ-busters keep germs away by washing hands and keeping hands to ourselves and away from faces.” Let children know there are a lot of helpers who are working to keep the germs away too, like doctors and nurses.
    • Consider reading a social story (one can be found in English here, in Spanish here) or create one yourself explaining why adults are covering their faces. You could also write a story with your child about wearing a mask. For younger children, share this short video featuring Sesame Street’s Elmo and Dr. Sanjay Gupta to help children understand the importance of wearing masks.
  • Allow space for feelings

    • Give your child space to share their fears. It’s natural for children to worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Let your child know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.

Staying safe in NYC

All New Yorkers should take steps to prevent the spread, such as staying home when sick and wearing a face mask. Learn about what that means for you below, or visit the NYC Department of Health website for more. 

A father holds hands and walks with his child wearing a backpack

Tips for families to stay safe in NYC:

  • Schools

    • Schools have increased health and safety measures. Some measures include regular deep cleanings, better air flow, and changing around spaces to ensure physical distancing. All staff and students must wear face coverings, if it's developmentally and medically appropriate for them.
    • If a student or teacher is feeling sick, they must stay home. If their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, they are asked to get tested.
  • Face masks

    • New Yorkers must follow social distancing guidelines, including wearing masks or face coverings in crowded public spaces, on public or private transportation, or in for-hire vehicles.
    • All children ages two and over who are medically able should wear a face covering. Wearing face coverings may be confusing or scary for young children at first. It's a good idea to take some time to introduce the idea to your child at home to help get them used to it.
    • At your child’s program, their face covering should cover their nose and mouth, be stored in between uses in a clean, sealable paper bag or breathable container, with your child’s name on it, and washed daily with detergent and water.
  • Getting together with others

    • Stay cautious when you meet up with friends. Avoid indoor activities and stay away from big groups by sticking to a core group of friends and family—your pandemic "social bubble."
    • Only play sports and games with others when you can stay 6 feet apart and wear face coverings.
    • If you visit a playground, wear a face covering and keep at least six feet between each child not in the same household. Playgrounds are cleaned daily, but play equipment is not sterilized. Please stay home if you or your child feels sick, and wash your hands often, both before and after using play equipment.

Mental health

These are challenging times for adults and children. It’s important to think about how children are feeling, as well as ourselves. 

Mother and child play in a park

Your child’s emotions

Here are some tips to help your child learn about their emotions:

  • Communicate to your child that their feelings are valid.
  • Help them begin to understand feeling words, such as happy, sad, frustrated and scared by naming the emotion for them. For example, “It looks like you are excited! I wonder what you are so excited about.”
  • Teach them how they can express feelings. Consider saying “It looks like you are feeling really angry. When you feel angry you can push on the wall ” or “It looks like you are feeling sad. When you feel sad you can ask for a hug or get your favorite toy.”

To learn more about feelings, check out these NYCDOE online resources. Use the Fun with Feelings cards to help 4-year-olds identify and talk about feelings at home, and watch the videos “How Can I Use Fun with Feelings?” and Why Is it Important to Learn About Feelings.

Tips for taking care of yourself

When you take time to care for yourself, can take care for your child better. Even a few minutes of “you time” (like taking deep breaths or listening to a song) can help you recharge so that you can be your best. Here are some tips for creating “you time”:

  • Listen to music as you’re doing chores around the house
  • Set an alarm to remind yourself to pause, take a deep breath, or use a calming meditation app
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (when your little one lays down to rest, try to do the same!)
  • Take a ten-minute vacation, like soaking your hands in warm water as you’re bathing your child
  • Keep a favorite family photo with you to remind you of happy times in hards moments
  • Reach out to others when you’re feeling alone—you don’t have to handle these feelings on your own!

Other resources