To those of you holding many feelings for children in these weeks, thank you. Reorganizing daily life is not easy, but we are grateful to watch the world make efforts large and small to protect vulnerable people. Here are resources from the Fred Rogers Center in addition to partner organizations for those of you looking for ways to create learning opportunities and structure for children. Be sure to follow our social media pages where we will also continue to share reminders and resources from Fred Rogers about what children may need from the adults in their lives during these uncertain times.
On this page, you will find some ideas about the following topics. Scroll down to learn more!
The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College is committed to supporting children and their helpers – especially in times of need. We would like to share with you some considerations when talking with children about the rising concerns of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We wish all of you health and safety during these uncertain times.
During uncertain times, it may be difficult to know what to do or to say to children. As Fred Rogers said, it is your being there that matters most. “Being there” may look different for each caregiver and child and it may look different each day. Here are some considerations as you care for yourself and children. Remember, you know yourself and the children in your life best.
Trust Yourself. Fred Rogers believed that what children need is deep and simple – they need an adult who cares for them, accepts them wholly, and gives them space to wonder. During these times when everything may seem uncertain and ever changing, we can easily get swept up in trying to make every moment “perfect” or “normal.” It is important to remember that even brief, high-quality loving moments with children help to build their sense of trust in you and in themselves.
Honor Solitude: Solitude is important for children and their helpers to understand their inner stories and the world around them. For young children, solitude might mean being near a loved one. Older children may seek aloneness in their room or in another part of the house. As an adult, you may also need some time to yourself and that is ok.
Share Feelings: You and your children may have many feelings in response to the coronavirus. Fred Rogers reminds us that “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” Let your child know that their feelings are always safe with you, whether they are feeling worried, angry, sad, or anything at all.
Connect with Others: We can still connect with others in a time of social isolation. Children can talk, sing, dance, and play with family and friends on the phone or with an online video tool. Caregivers can also reach out to others to check in, share resources, and encourage one another. Sometimes the world can look so big that it is hard to know where to start to connect with others. It is times like this when the words of Fred Rogers ring true: “The deep and simple is far more essential than the shallow and complex.” Even the simplest acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy are felt so deeply in times of uncertainty.
The Fred Rogers Centers’ Dr. Dana Winters and colleagues at UNESCO, Dr. Mark Brennan and Dr. Pat Dolan, wrote a piece published in USA Today. The authors draw on the message of Fred Rogers and remind us that no act of kindness, compassion, and empathy is too small to bring comfort and healing to those around us. Click HERE to read.
Prioritize Health & Hygiene: Caring for yourself and your child also includes taking care of our bodies. Showing children how to wash their hands to protect their body from illness and talking about why you are staying home to protect others from illness are important lessons for children. You are teaching children the skills to care for themselves and that every single person is valuable. Here are resources about talking to your children about health and hygiene related to coronavirus.
Consider Mental Health: Mental health is important, especially during challenging times. We can do many things to keep our minds, bodies, and spirits healthy such as connecting with others, playing, spending time outdoors, and limiting our news consumption. Here are some other resources that may be useful for you and your children when considering mental health.
Fred Rogers believed that: “Play is the real work of childhood.” Play serves many purposes for children. Play can be just for the fun of it. Play can help children work out their feelings, rehearse events that may be difficult, or learn about the outside world. Play can also help children feel some control of their world and their inner self. Whatever form children’s play may take, it is an important way for them to learn and grow. This is especially the case when a child is able to lead their own play. Here are some ideas for thinking about play that is child-led.
Dramatic Play: Dramatic play can be an important tool for dealing with problems big and small. This kind of play might include dressing up as a character or superhero, pretending to be in another world, acting out scenarios with puppets, or playing with an imaginary friend. Dramatic play might also be a tool for parents to learn what is in a child’s mind at the moment.
Artwork: When children are encouraged to create their own unique forms of art, they can use this as a way to understand and cope with stress in their lives.
Making and Building: Children make decisions about what and how they make and build. These decisions can be an expression of their inner feelings and give a child control of what takes place. We may be tempted to rearrange a child’s structure or alter a child’s creation, but this could change a child’s play or design. Consider asking open-ended questions about a child’s creation and waiting for a child to ask for your help.
Active Play: Children can learn when they are on the move. Exercise is good for our bodies and brains. While being mindful of social distancing, we can still move around through play, taking walks, and exploring nature near the home.
For families with young children: Here is an article written by Zero to Three about activities related to play that you can do at home with young children.
There are many resources and websites with ideas about creating learning opportunities for children through digital media. Here are a few that we find useful. Remember, humans give meaning to technology and caregivers can help children integrate what they have learned online or on a device.
Common Sense Media: Common Sense Media is a website that rates apps, games, and websites for developmental appropriateness. They offer media recommendations for entertainment, resources for at-home learning, and stress-management tips. In addition, they provide ideas for educators as they prepare to teach online. They have resources for families and educators during coronavirus at the links below.
PBS Kids: PBS Kids is an educational and fun site that offers high-quality games, videos, and quests featuring popular PBS characters.
Education Development Center: The EDC designed and delivers programs related to health and education. Here is an article they published about using technology to support learning at home.
Harvard Graduate School of Education: This website offers articles related to learning online compiled by Harvard researchers and educators.
Virtual Field Trips
You may be wondering if there are ways to bring the message of Fred Rogers into your care of children. Here are some websites to get you started.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Archive: The Neighborhood Archive offers an overview of all Mister Rogers Neighborhood episodes by year and by topic. You can also search for particular content areas and find an episode related to an area of interest.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Episodes: Fred Rogers Productions, formerly Fred’s production company Family Communications, offers five episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for free each week. There are additional tools and resources all focused on the television program.
Fred Un-Boxed: A newly launched resource from the Fred Rogers Center, Fred Un-Boxed offers a glimpse into the Fred Rogers Archive, a collection of nearly 22,000 items from Fred’s life.
Fred Rogers Productions: Through the Fred Rogers Productions website, educators can access episodes and games related to popular shows, such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Peg+Cat.
Legacy of Fred Rogers: A virtual tour of an Exhibit from the Heinz History Center about Fred Rogers.
Educators’ Neighborhood: If you are an early childhood educator interested in learning from and with other educators about the life and work of Fred Rogers, you may be interested in applying for the next cohort of the Educators’ Neighborhood. Click HERE to learn more. Applications are due May 15, 2020.
With so many children home from school and out of their routines, adults may be wondering about the kinds of learning and stimulation children need to continue to grow. In 1983, Fred Rogers and Barry Head considered this question. In Mister Rogers Talks with Parents, they introduced these six basic necessities of learning. This list may be a reminder that what children need for learning is simple and deep. Below you will find some ideas about each.
(1) a sense of self-worth,
(2) a sense of trust,
(4) the capacity to look and listen carefully,
(5) the capacity to play, and
(6) times of solitude.
Fred Rogers believed that a sense of self worth is one of the most important things we can help children to gain. It helps them to see value, not only in themselves, but in others as well. You are helping a child to see their self worth every time you show them how to wash their hands to protect their body from illness, every time you listen to their stories, feelings, and questions, and every time you give them the chance to be a helper at home. When you talk this week about why you are staying home to protect others from illness you are teaching children that every single person is valuable. When you help children know that every person is worth protection and love, you are setting them up for a lifetime of learning and healthy relationships. The children in your life are so fortunate to have you.
Fred believed that a children’s sense of trust came from having caring and supportive adults around them. That it’s the adults “being there” that matters most. During these times when everything may seem uncertain and ever changing, we can easily get swept up in trying to make every moment “perfect” or “normal.” It is important to remember that even brief, high-quality loving moments with children help to build their sense of trust in you and in themselves.
You are helping your children to trust that even in the uncertainty, there will be adults in the world who are helping, who are supporting, and who are ready to listen. Talking with children about your own feelings can continue to build their sense of trust – in you and in other helpers. In the end, children may not remember every activity and moment of every day, but they will remember that you did what you could, with what you had, to be there for them. That you made these times special – and safe – just by being there.
The world can be a wonderful place, full of wonderful things. It can also be scary, especially for children. Fred Rogers promoted curiosity in children by helping them to explore their imaginations and the world around them through Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He also made sure children could engage with their worlds in ways they could understand. Children may be curious about what is happening right now in the world around them. Knowing that you are there to keep them safe allows children to continue to be curious, even in times that seem to be ever-changing.
It may seem like the world is moving faster and faster right now. One thing Fred Rogers taught us to do is to slow down and appreciate the world around us. We help children to look and listen carefully when we notice something about them, reflect that to them, ask questions about what they notice, and help them to slow down to appreciate their own worlds. A dear friend of the Fred Rogers Center, Melissa Butler, once told us that learning to notice and to look and listen carefully means thinking about “what’s there, what’s not there, what was there before, and what might be dreamed there.” What can we notice when we slow down to look?
Whether play is independent, with friends or siblings, or with adults, children are working out problems, creating solutions, dreaming up new ideas, and discovering the world. You can support a child’s play by simply allowing space for it. We know that working from home, caregiving, and teaching can be overwhelming. We hope you are able to embrace that your child’s play during these less structured days is “serious learning” – and take some moments to enjoy playing with them, too.
This is a deep and simple wish from Fred, and we wish it for you – that today, you will give yourself the gift of a quiet moment. Know that this is an essential gift for children, too. Fred saw solitude as one of the six basic necessities for being able and ready to learn. You do not need to fill a child’s day with activities and lessons and stimulation. When a child can pause and be alone with their thoughts, they will be able to learn more about who they are, and they will be ready to learn about others and the world.