Resources for families with young children

Helping families learn at home

In partnership with the New York City Department of Education

With our daily routines disrupted and many elements of our work and personal lives currently unknown, it’s understandable that stress and anxiety may be heightened. In times of communal stress it can sometimes be hard to know what to say or how to react. During this time, keeping as many of our daily routines as possible, connecting with others (even from afar), and caring for ourselves help offer a sense of security and help children know what to expect.

While this shift in your family’s daily life may be temporary, the fact remains it is a huge shift that may bring heightened stress and anxiety. As you work to manage priorities and to adjust during these challenging times, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the incredible job you are doing to maintain normalcy for your child and family during this time, no matter what that looks like. 

Here are a few suggestions, with more information and resources on each below:

  • Speak with your children about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and why schools are closing
  • Keep a daily routine that works for you and your family so everyone knows what to expect
  • Offer children lots of opportunities to stay engaged in play and learning
  • Caregivers’ physical and mental health is important

Speaking with your child about COVID-19

Children are likely hearing about the virus. 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.

When talking with your child about COVID-19, you might say:

Use these tips to help you have a positive conversation:

  • 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

    • Your attitude about the coronavirus will impact how your child feels about it. If you remain calm, your child is more likely to remain calm as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Keeping daily routines

Children (and adults!) thrive on routines. Following a predictable routine is a helpful way for children to feel safe and know what’s expected of them (for example, washing hands before breakfast or taking a bath or shower before bed). Routines help you and your child move confidently through the day and encourage positive behavior. 

At the same time, be flexible and responsive to your child’s needs. You know your child best! Find a balance of routines and flexibility that works for your family.

Language to share with children about routines 

“Some things may be different right now, but lots of things are still the same. We’ll still wake up every morning, have breakfast, and read a story. Some things that will be different are that we won’t be going to school for a little while and we won’t be going to the library after school.”

Remind them:

  • 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 (i.e.”I will see you after snack this afternoon.”)

You can also talk with your child about your own routines, and things that may be unexpected. For instance, you might be home more often now, which some children are not used to; or, if you are an essential employee you may be seeing them a bit less right now. Talking openly and honestly about what to expect, and letting your child know that you love and care for them—even if you’re not there—will help them feel safe and secure.

Daily routine considerations

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


Learn-at-home activities

For young children, everyday living is full of learning. Any learning that they consider fun is called play! Connecting with and talking to your child throughout the day is one of the best ways to support their development.

Additional Resources 

  • The NYCDOE’s Early Childhood Learn at Home page.
  • DOE Online resources to help you use Fun with Feelings cards for 4-year-olds at home to support identifying and talking about feelings, including the videos “How Can I Use Fun with Feelings?” and “Why Is it Important to Learn About Feelings.” 
  • DOE’s Additional Resources for Families, which contains digital/online resources that offer fun, new experiences for families. The list also shares information related to City programs that provide support and resources for family and child well-being; some ideas for adult self-care; and ways to support children’s understanding and feelings of security during this time.
  • Let’s Learn NYC! is a new educational public television program produced by the WNET Group in partnership with the New York City Department of Education (DOE). It features lessons for children in 3-K through second grade that supplement your child’s remote learning. Episodes air on weekdays at 11am on THIRTEEN through the end of the school year. The episodes are also available to livestream at thirteen.org/live. For questions, email EarlyChildhood@schools.nyc.gov.
  • New resource for linguistically and culturally diverse families! Check out this interactive map that connects NYC’s linguistically and culturally diverse families with community-based organizations near them. You can search by borough or zip code to get to know the agencies, advocacy groups, and youth organizations within your community
  • Ready4K is an evidence-based family engagement curriculum delivered through text messages. Each week, you’ll receive short text messages with fun facts and easy tips on how to promote your child’s development by building on existing family routines. To sign up, text “NYC” to 70138.
  • Sparkler is an app that offers play-based learning activities you can do with your child. Download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play. When you open the Sparkler app for the first time, create a new account. Next time, sign in using the method you picked. Use code 2-1-2-1 to register, which will give you access to Sparkler for free for 90 days.

Spot the Color

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Ask your child, “What color is your shirt today (or pants or dress)” Then ask, “What other things are that color” Add your ideas, too, and make it a back and forth game. See how many things you can think of.

See what your child is learning
Playing the “Spot the Color” doesn’t just teach your child colors. You’re also giving them the chance to practice focusing on an idea and a task with another person. The ability to focus is very important in life and in school.

See more tips

Your physical and mental health

Adults should support each other to recognize and address stress. It can be challenging to recognize stress signals for what they are. Physical discomfort, unusual emotional fluctuations, and difficulty thinking clearly are some common responses to stress. When you take time to care for yourself, you’re better able to care for your child. Even a few minutes of “you time” (i.e. taking deep breaths or listening to a song) can help you recharge so that you can be your best.

Additional resources

  • Tips for taking care of yourself

    • 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. Even two minutes of relaxation can make a difference in how you feel.
    • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. When your little one lays down to rest, try to do the same. If they’re having trouble settling down, sing a quiet song that you loved when you were small, one that calms you down, too.
    • Take a ten-minute vacation. As you’re bathing your child, soak your hands in the warm water.
    • Keep a favorite family photo with you. If you’re having a challenging day with your little one, you can look at it to remind you of happy times you’ve spent together.
    • Reach out to others. Feeling alone is common for families and caregivers during stressful times. You don’t have to handle them on your own. Connect with trusted family members and friends on the phone or over video chat, share your feelings with them, and enlist their help.

Virtual Activities

Keep your kids engaged and active while at home with these virtual events and activities.


Parks @ Home Jr.

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