For many students the start of the 2020 school year is just around the corner. Children will be able to see their friends and teachers and they will be able to engage with new experiences and master new skills again. In order to do those exciting things though, students need to remember, and also consistently do, a few very important things to help keep themselves and everyone around them safe.
For young children, part of starting school is learning that certain tasks are their job to remember to do without a reminder. For example, kids learn to put their name at the top of their papers without the teacher asking. They learn to keep their own shoes tied. They often learn a hand signal from the teacher that means "quietly put away your things and line up at the door." For this school year, new routines about wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing will become a part of each student's daily routine at school.
Many children will be facing mastering these skills away from home, in a group setting, and when many other skills are being introduced at the same time. We can calm our kids, and ourselves, by talking about and practicing these unfamiliar skills ahead of time. Mastery puts children at ease. If students have already worn a mask for several hours at home, that won't be a new experience at school. It is reassuring to know what is expected and to be able to carry out directions. It decreases anxiety and is empowering to know that what you do will result in better health for yourself, your family, your friends, and your teacher. If there ever was a year for classroom bonding as a team with a common goal, 2020 is it!
Helping young children build these new health safety skills into their everyday behaviors and routines is a goal for parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and other caring adults. Books can help! Use these books and online resources to start conversations about these important behaviors. Once these safety routines are just part of their normal day, a student's attention can instead be on the more exciting, interesting, and fun things that will happen at school! And also, your child's teacher will thank you!
For general information about health and wellness guidelines see The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page How to Protect Yourself and Others. It is very clear and helpful. The CDC updates these guidelines as more is learned about the coronavirus so check back often.
For additional ideas using books to help kids understand and cope with starting school and COVID-19 try:
Even young children are familiar with washing their hands before eating or after going to the bathroom, but wearing a face mask is a brand new behavior for them - as well as for all the adults around them! Here are some resources to help talk to them about face masks and when and where they will be expected to wear one. Even if it fogs up their glasses. Even if it is hot.
Tip: How to Wear a Face Mask, Wearing a Cloth Face Covering and Who Wears Masks? are all available in multiple languages. When you open one, click the Narration button to select a language.
Social distancing is another behavior that is brand new and oh so hard to remember when your first instinct is to greet a friend with a hug or high five. These resources will help you explain why this is important as well as give you ideas for helping kids understand what the distance of six feet looks like.
Tips: From My Window was produced by the United Nations and includes illustrations of children all over the world. This is the House We Sheltered In is available as both a printable mini book or a video read aloud. What is Social Distancing is available in multiple languages. When you open it, click the Narration button to select a language.
Tips: H is for Hand Washing is an online storybook from Sesame Street that introduces young children to the universal experience of hand washing by sharing how kids wash their hands all over the world. Wash Your Hands is available in multiple languages. When you open it, click the Narration button to select a language.