How to talk to your child about viruses
By Jeannine Laubner
The first step in broaching a topic with your child is making sure you know the facts. The past weeks have everyone talking about Covid-19 previously called the Coronavirus. It is important for your children to understand what the grown-ups in their lives are concerned about and how it relates to them. Once you are feeling confident about what a virus is you can:
- Ask your child if they have ever heard the word virus or what they know about viruses? It may surprise you to hear their answers or understand what they have been told by their teacher.
- Armed with the facts, you can calmly fill in the gaps of information that your child has previously shared. Including that viruses are things we can’t see but we can sometimes feel like when we cough, sneeze or get sick.
- Tell your child that one way to protect themselves from viruses is to wash their hands properly and to always try and ‘catch’ a cough in the inside of their elbow.
Make sure to demonstrate that when you feel a sneeze or a tickle in your throat to bring your elbow to your nose. You can make this a game! Ask your child to show you how they can bring their mouth and nose to their inside elbow.
Here’s a fun way to help explain how a virus is transmitted.
Prepare 3 toys (ones that are easy to clean)
1 heaping spoon of glitter (preferable biodegradable) or flour
1 plate (contrasting colour to the glitter or flour)
- Put the spoon of the glitter on a plate
- Ask your child to touch the glitter. They can make shapes or letters on the plate by moving the glitter around.
- Take the plate away and ask your child to play with the 3 selected toys
- While the child is playing with the toys, point out how the glitter has moved from their hands onto the different toys. It may have even ended up on their clothes or face.
- Now tell your child that viruses can spread exactly like the glitter, except that we can’t see the micro-organisms that makeup viruses.
- Ask your child if they know how to remove the glitter from the toys? Ask your child if they know how to remove the glitter from their hands? If they don’t suggest washing them, you can suggest it for them and go back to showing them how to properly wash their hands just like washing the toys.
Please note that effective handwashing can be done with regular soap and running water. Children love making bubbles and suds. One way to make sure that they are scrubbing for the recommended 20-30 seconds is to sing the Happy Birthday song or really any chorus of their favourite song for at least 20 seconds. Don’t forget about between the fingers, under the nails, and both sides of the hands!
About the author:
Jeannine Laubner is the Academic Director of Kipina Kids Nurseries and Preschools, the world’s fastest-growing international Finnish preschool franchise. She is a fourth-generation teacher, and mother of two Kipinä-educated children. Hailing from San Francisco, USA, she is a successful leader in education with over 18 years of experience. Jeannine holds a Masters degree in Teaching, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development certification. When she is not developing teaching tools for the Kipinä Enhanced Finland Curriculum, she is supporting green initiatives, animal welfare and Girlscouts Overseas.