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KinderCare Daily Tips

How families can explain social distancing to children

This is tip six in a series from pediatrician Dr. Ray Fabius for families on maintaining health and wellness at home or on the front lines. Find more tips and actionable advice on our Dr. Ray resource page

Be sure to learn more about Dr. Ray and how he’s guiding KinderCare’s response to coronavirus. 

A tip for families on teaching social distancing 

First, to help children understand the concept, it might be better to call it “physical distancing,” because it’s so important to remain social with loved ones by phone or video chat. Second, always talk to your children in language they will understand. Be honest and truthful. Be supportive and empathetic. Be sure to give them a chance to absorb information and ask questions along the way.

When discussing “physical distancing,” start with a general discussion about germs. Germs are so tiny you cannot see them with your eyes, but you can see them with the help of a strong microscope. These germs can make us sick if they enter our bodies. Sometimes we breathe them in. Other times we might touch our nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands that have touched a dirty surface or a sick person.  
If someone near us has these germs, they might sneeze or cough and put germs into the air for us to breathe. Or they can spread germs by sneezing or coughing into their hand and then touching a surface or another person. If you touch someone who is sick or something with germs on it and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, these germs can enter your body and make you sick. That’s why handwashing is so important! 
Sometimes, it’s hard for people to tell if they have germs that make others sick. So that’s one reason why we’re all “physical distancing.” During this pandemic, doctors and scientists think it’s best to stay away from most other people so they cannot touch or cough on you. This guidance helps your parents keep you safe. When the pandemic is over, we'll be able to visit with friends and family again.  

Educational activities to help children understand 

A note that these activities might best be enjoyed by school-age children. 

  • Use a measuring tape or a yardstick to measure six feet of ribbon or string. Place it on the floor so everyone can learn how far six feet is. Now remove the ribbon or string and have each family member guess how long six feet is. The closest guess is the winner. This is the distance you should keep between you and other people for now.  
  • Cut out people from magazines and draw an outdoor scene on a piece of paper. Glue or tape the people into positions in the scene that keep them as far apart as possible to signify social distancing.  

Resources to learn more about this topic 

Here is a KidsHealth resource and recommendations on social distancing for parents