Smithsonian guide helps children understand COVID-19


Lack of information can make the unknown even more difficult to handle. To tackle children’s fears about COVID-19, the Smithsonian Science Education Center has created a guide to help children better understand the current situation.

Perhaps the most difficult element of the COVID-19 crisis is just how much remains unknown about the disease. It’s scary enough for adults, but children can be left out of the loop and unsure of what to expect as the world radically keeps changing.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center, in collaboration with the Interacademy Partnership, has created a special guide for children called “COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others?” that aims to give children the information that they need to understand their new world.1

The guide includes 7 tasks. The topics of tasks include:

·      What is happening in the world right now

·      How keeping distance from others helps

·      How covering noses and mouths helps

·      How washing hands provides protection

·      How COVID-19 is impacting families and communities

·      How to stay informed on the pandemic using factual sources

·      What actions a child can take

Each task is divided into 3 sections: discover, which encourages children to find answers to questions in their home environments; understand, which explains the science of disease in simple terms; and act, which offers guidance on how to use the first 2 sections to help family and friends during the pandemic. Each task also has additional resources for children to turn to, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guide is tagged for use by children in grades 3 through 8. It is currently available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, Bengali, French, Hausa, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Portuguese, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Vietnamese. Translations into Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Malay, and Pashto will be available soon. There is also a webinar available.


1.    Smithsonian Science Education Center. COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others? Published May 21, 2020. Accessed May 27, 2020.

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Tina Tan, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, FPIDS, editor in chief, Contemporary Pediatrics, professor of pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, pediatric infectious diseases attending, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
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