Sara DeWitt of PBS KIDS Digital shares tips on keeping kids happy, entertained and educated

During the coronavirus pandemic, the more parenting tips the better. Here’s how DeWitt, the vice president of PBS KIDS Digital, recommends families spend their time right now.

small child holding iphone with big earphones on her head
© Ermolaev Alexandr / stock.adobe.com

Schools have been out for a month and parents have been working from home for the same amount of time. You may be thinking that’s plenty of time to adjust to this new normal, but during unprecedented times, new routines for families can take longer to settle in, especially with young children.

Below, Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS KIDS Digital, shares her advice for parents on how to manage a work-life balance from home, making sure your kids are keeping up with their education and which resources to use during this time. 

In order to get work done, many parents are sitting their kids in front of screens to entertain them. What should parents be aware of when selecting TV shows, movies and games for their kids?

It’s important for parents to choose content that they’re familiar with and trust—that way, when they have to take a call or answer important emails, they feel good about what their kids are interacting with, they know about how long it will last and they can talk to their kids afterward about what they watched. Research shows that learning gains are greater when parents and kids talk about the media they’ve watched, so when parents are done working or have a break, they can prompt conversations with their kids by asking questions about the characters or what happened in that episode. If they are looking for something new, Common Sense Media is a great tool that parents can utilize to find age-appropriate content for kids—there are even editor recommendations for various categories, such as “educational apps that don’t need Wi-Fi or data” and “movement apps, games and websites.”

What are your top tips for parenting during the coronavirus pandemic?

My main tip is to cut yourself some slack and release some of the guilt you may be feeling about not being able to manage everything in the household (and/or working from home) perfectly. This is an unprecedented time, and we each need to figure out which routines are going to be best for our own families. Increased screen time is part of this new reality; we are relying on screens for our children’s schoolwork and to stay in touch with family and friends. Be kind to yourself with these changes in routine and think about the ways both screen and non-screen time can support your family’s mental well-being. A family game night or a family movie night might be just the thing kids and grown-ups need to relax and unwind together.

What types of toys should be in a family’s household to help develop children’s motor skills, literacy, etc.?

Kids have vast imaginations. Many everyday household objects can become the inspiration for crafts, building projects and role-playing experiences. We offer DIY craft videos on PBS KIDS for Parents that allow you to make many toys from objects you can find around the house, such as a DIY lava lamp, monster slime, telescope and so much more. Of course, books are great for literacy. Games and apps can help support literacy development as well. 

What are easy, at-home games, crafts and other activities that families can do together that all ages will love?

At PBS KIDS, we offer a variety of free resources, including crafts and activities, to support families as they are playing and learning at home. PBS KIDS for Parents offers tips, resources and an activity finder where parents can search for fun activities based on a child’s age or favorite show or topic. Resources to support healthy habits and conversations with children about coronavirus and other tough topics are also available on the site. The PBS KIDS Daily newsletter can help parents keep their kids engaged while schools are closed. Each weekday, subscribers receive an email with educational videos, games and related offline activities and tips that families can use at home to encourage play and learning. And, the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel offers anytime access to trusted educational series for kids ages 2 to 8. The PBS KIDS Video app is available on mobile devices, tablets and connected TV devices and offers on-demand educational videos and a livestream of the PBS KIDS 24/7 channel too. Plus, no subscription is required. There’s also the PBS KIDS Games app that offers nearly 200 educational games, which can be downloaded for offline play any time, anywhere.

What is PBS KIDS Family Night, happening every Friday? What can parents expect during the program?

PBS KIDS Family Night programming airs every Friday evening on the PBS KIDS channel. Parents can expect fun, educational content that the whole family can enjoy. Upcoming events include an all-new Cyberchase Mini-Marathon (Friday, April 17); Wild Kratts: Amazin’ Amazon Adventure (Friday, April 24); and Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: I Am Madame President (Friday, May 1). You can check your local listings, which for this area include WETA, WHUT and MPT for more information.

Do you have any other tips or advice you’d like to share?

Every family is having its own unique experience right now, so be thoughtful about what new routines make the most sense for you and think about what your family most enjoys doing together. Try to find some time to do those favorite things together, whether that’s playing games, cooking together, watching TV together or having a family dance party.

For more parenting tips during the coronavirus spread, subscribe to our weekly Family newsletter.

Loading cart ...