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How to Explain the Coronavirus to Children and Young Students

By Melody Johnson, Curriculum Developer and Writer from Georgia

Every news channel, email and social media platform is focused on one hot topic…

The coronavirus (COVID-19).

I felt this was such a necessary topic to address.

I’ve seen so many articles relating to how to care for ourselves, keeping a home /office sanitized, and an almost frenzied-like behavior with making sure each household has adequate materials, groceries, and medical supplies. What was missing about getting all this news and information?

They were all targeted for adults. Nothing for children. Nothing for parents and teachers to explain about this virus.

Children can sometimes internalize things and not share fears outright. These behaviors come out in certain situations at home and school such as seeming defiant or more withdrawn.

Sometimes the fear is based on images they may have seen from television or sometimes hearing conversations from adults about possible negative outcomes that may occur.

Either way, here is a way to explain the virus in a non-threatening manner to ease your child’s worries.

Explain What a Virus Is

A virus is a bad germ that multiplies in our bodies. That means it makes copies of itself. It comes into our bodies when we touch someone’s saliva by accident (touching / moving something they touched).

Dr. Binocs has a kid-friendly video on Youtube explaining this very thing, “What is a Virus?”

  • Always preview videos with your child on open platforms from his link above.
  • During this time, remind children of a situation where they (or someone close that they know) may have been sick so they can connect the previous experience to what is happening now.

How Can Get the Virus?

We can get it by sharing drinks and food with others, being too close, touching items they may have touched, being in small spaces with that person.

What Happens to Our Bodies When We Have a Virus?

When people have a virus they might:

  • Get a fever (meaning when you take your temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Feel “cold,”
  • Feel “achy,”
  • Have a headache
  • Have a runny nose, sneezing, and sometimes a cough

What Can We Do to Stay Away from a Virus?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is recommended to

  • Wash your hands after using the bathroom
  • Wash our hands while singing happy birthday twice!
  • Watch this short video on proper handwashing
  • Taking care of someone that is sick
  • Before you eat
  • Taking care of an animal
  • Throwing out trash

Additional Helpful Reminders for Children:

  • When using tissue, throw away the tissue immediately in a trash can. Do not leave it on a table for someone to accidentally touch
  • Don’t share food or drink
  • Wash your hands when you enter the house from school
  • You can do an elbow high five to others
  • Refrain from hugging / close contact with people that are sick

I know it seems like there are many precautions, but it is one way to help them to stay healthy by taking on these healthy habits.

How Do You Feel?

Children need to be able to express how they feel. Especially through play.

One way your child can express how they feel is by going to Dr. Jean and Friends website.

As a well-known author and educator, Dr. Jean makes every child feel special and incorporates playing and singing for students to understand current events and how to cope with the feelings they have. She also has an abundance of activities that will keep your child entertained for hours! In addition, she has some great calming activities that anyone can benefit from during this stressful time.

One particular activity, the emojis puppets, is a great way for children to express how they feel and feel a bit lighthearted about the situation.

Dr. Jean will also have a fun song on her blog about the coronavirus soon, so check back often.

Read About It

At Read Brightly, there are ten books that focus on how book characters feel when they are sick. This is a great way to explain how people cope with sickness and how to care for themselves or others. It is also a great way for students to practice their reading skills. If you are unable to get access to the physical book, you can also go onto Youtube and look up read-aloud for the same books listed. It is recommended that this activity is monitored with your child (while watching any videos) since this is an open platform community.


Since this pandemic is quite serious, we can ease our children’s concerns by sharing with them what is a virus, what symptoms they might see, how to avoid it and how to care for ourselves to prevent the spread of this virus (Perlmutter, 2020). By also incorporating reading about this in their own way, we can safely introduce this topic in a non-threatening manner, while keeping the children at ease.

Works Cited

McMurdie, D. (2020). Sick Lit: 10 Kids’ Books to Have On Hand for Sick Days. Retrieved on 3/12/2020 from

Dr. Jean and Friends (2020). Dr. Jean and Friends Homepage. Retrieved on 3/12/2020 from

Medical City Dallas (2016). Video retrieved from Youtube on 3/12/2020 from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020). When and How to Wash Your Hands.

Retrieved on 3/12/2020 from

Perlmutter, D. (2020). Live Question from Facebook Live Stream on 3/12/2020- “How can we explain the virus to children without them getting freaked out about this virus?”

Melody Johnson is a curriculum developer, educator, and creator, writer, lover of coffee hot or cold, reading, writing, and baking. She is a proclaimed supermom, combustible content creator, and aspiring future pet lover of two Sphinx cats or hermit crabs, old or young! Born a New Yorker, but living and loving the Southern life in Georgia, she is married, with three amazing kids.

She is the creator of Positive Masterminds. Positive Thinking Podcast

Connect with her on Facebook at Positive Masterminds, Twitter, and Instagram @4Positivethinking.

Sign up for her newsletter for more tips on reading and connect on Instagram @4Kids2Read!

Follow the conversation #WhyITeach

To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

You can view the McGraw-Hill Privacy Policy here. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not reflect the values or positioning of McGraw-Hill or its sales.



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