How to explain the Coronavirus to children

Your little one might be feeling a bit confused at the moment. They may be spending a lot more time at home, or even all their time inside if their nursery or school is shut. And it’s bound to make them feel restless, inquisitive and even a bit scared.

After all, it’s out of the ordinary seeing people walking around with masks and shoppers madly putting everything and anything they can get their hands on into their trolleys (dog food but no dog? It’s still going in the basket).

By now, they’ve probably heard the word ‘virus’ but might not fully understand what it all means.

The British Psychological Society has communicated the importance of talking about it with your little ones, to reassure them in this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

And we’re here to help, which is why we’ve scoured the web and pulled together the best ways to explain COVID-19 to your children.

Keep it factual

Explain that there’s a sickness bug going around that’s making people feel unwell, and that there are things we can do to stop it spreading. It’s really important here that we talk about things that can be controlled, rather than things that can’t.[1] Tell them how washing our hands with soap and warm water can help keep germs at bay.

Remind them to catch any of their coughs or sneezes. And without a tissue, the best place to actually catch these atishoos is in our elbows! Sometimes we’re not always near a place to properly wash our hands, so this is the best way to prevent the spread of germs.

Make it light

The best thing to do is to keep it simple and use a calm and reassuring tone when you speak.

And why not even use the tune from the ‘Bounce Bounce’ Water Babies song when you show them how to keep their hands clean? Children often learn best through sing-song and play. We’re pretty proud of our lyric change on this one if we do say so ourselves.

Wash, wash, this a-way

Wash, wash, that a-way

Wash, wash all the day

Wash wash wash

Scrub scrub, this a-way

Scrub scrub, that a-way

Scrub scrub all the day

Scrub scrub scrub

Rub rub this a-way

Rub, rub all the day

Rub all the germs away

Rub rub rub

But be honest and reassuring

It’s also important to explain that it’s not a normal time at the moment. Parties will be cancelled, play-dates stopped and trips out and about non-existent for a while - but emphasise that it’s to keep everyone safe. Explain that doctors and hospitals are doing all they can to make people well again and that it’s similar to other illnesses like coughs and colds that people get better from.

Let them take the lead

Why not ask your little one to tell you what they know about the virus? Opening up conversation helps get rid of worry and fear. A problem shared is a problem halved! And this way you can make sure you’ve answered all their concerns (as best you can, sometimes it’s okay to say you don’t know). If they’re particularly small, you could even get them to show you what they know by getting them to draw pictures too.[2] 

It’s a tough time, but we’re all in the same boat. So now more than ever, let’s work together to keep each other and our little ones calm – and clean!


[1] Coronavirus: Keep it simple, stick to facts - how parents should tell kids,, 5 March 2020

[2] Talking to children about the Coronavirus,