How to support your child’s learning, engagement during COVID-19 outbreak

Mother and son working from home

Editor’s note: This article was written by Melissa George, Sabrina Duey and Caitlin Bourne of Colorado State University’s Prevention Research Center in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

With schools closing for an unknown length of time due to the COVID-19 outbreak, parents face the challenging task of figuring out how to support their child’s learning (and more likely how to keep them entertained), while social distancing is either mandated or encouraged.

Parents have taken on the role of teacher, while trying to figure out new routines and coping with ample amounts of stress. During this trying and unprecedented time, the Colorado State University Prevention Research Center wanted to provide a few at-home activities and online resources to keep your child engaged.

Helpful reminders

First off, here are some helpful reminders:

Parents will approach teaching in their own way. Experiencing an outbreak to this degree is something we’ve never experienced before so it’s OK if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Every parent is going to approach teaching their child differently, and that is absolutely fine.

Your home is different than the classroom. It is not likely that you will be able to replicate what children are taught in a classroom. But children can still do activities at home that can be both enjoyable and educational.

Building flexible routines is important. Most of us need structure to function healthily. This is especially true for children, so sit down with your child and discuss what the days are going to look like and what expectations will be in terms of tasks such as homework, chores, reading, outdoor time, technology, etc. in the coming weeks. It is important to hear their input, needs and suggestions on this, so that they can have a small sense of autonomy and control amidst the uncertainty.

Online resources

Great Schools: Resources and toolkits to help your child learn from home

Scholastic Learn from Home: Educational resources to keep kids engaged in thinking and reading while at home

PBS Kids: Educational games, videos and activities (ages 3-8)

Exploratorium: Educational resources for learning science, art and human perception

Virtual School Activities: Site filled with live webcams, virtual tours/tours and other educational sites

EQ in Your PJs: Free social and emotional learning (SEL) video series and lessons that are uploaded weekly

Confident Parents Confident Kids: Site filled with resources for caregivers to support kids’ social and emotional development

Father and daughter working from home

Six things to do with your child

Explore nontraditional ways to engage your child in learning various school subjects. Many of the daily activities we do at home, such as cooking, cleaning or playing games, can be used as opportunities to support your child’s learning.

  1. Math – Teach fractions through baking. Teach counting with fake (or real) currency, or with counting game pieces they’re putting away or items they’re putting away as part of their chores.
  2. Reading – Ask your child to read other materials like recipes, coupons, food labels and instructional manuals for games or puzzles.
  3. Writing – Ask your child to write letters or notes to their friends and family. Have your child write a fictional story.
  4. Art, music, library, technology – Time spent engaged in these school subjects that are commonly referred to as “specials” are also important to your child’s learning. Allow them time to draw, color, play instruments, read and engage their brains and bodies in creative ways.

Parents carrying child

Play board games, card games or active games like a scavenger hunt or hallway hopscotch. Whip out old board games to play with your family, or maybe invent a new one yourselves. It’s also OK to be less strict about screen time, since kids are also working to find a new “normal,” and a few extra minutes on screen can be a temporary way to minimize anxiety. The most important thing to remember is to make time to laugh and have fun. These activities and others are listed in an article by

Adventure into nature by going on walks or hikes, or simply sitting in your yard. Everyone can benefit from outdoor time as long as they are social distancing. Whether that looks like going for a family walk around the neighborhood, letting kids play outside or bike, or just eating in the backyard, fresh air and physical activity are crucial during such a time of isolation and inactivity.

Talk to your children about what’s happening. Having an open, exploratory conversation with your children and family about this historical moment and what is happening, how they are responding during this time, or brainstorming ways to help others in need, can bring you closer together and keep you engaged in what’s going on in the world.

Make space for feelings. Children and teens are experiencing major losses, anxieties and confusions as a result of COVID-19 just like everyone else, and it is important to let them know that it is OK to feel sadness and to empathize as best as possible. Consider using workbooks for older children and adults (like Stay Safe & Sane) or stories for young children (like the Coronavirus and Me) that allow ways to process feelings.

Stay connected. Stay in touch with the outside world – your community, family members, friends and classmates. Schedule time each week for your child to virtually be in touch and stay connected with others. Use the phone, FaceTime or handwrite and mail letters to help fight cabin fever and loneliness.

This is uncharted territory. It may take some time, through trial and error, to figure out what activities work best for you and your family, but hopefully this resource provides some helpful options. Keep in mind that prioritizing self-care, structure and communication are key during this time.

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.