COVID-19, Family

Dr. Jen Welter Shares Tools For Kids To Thrive Through Social Distancing

By Beth S. Pollak

How can we help young children understand more about social distancing and wearing masks? This might seem like an impossible dilemma for parents of active and social kids. Part of child development is learning how to play, share, talk, and tumble together, and it’s hard to push kids to modify these sweet moments of interaction in response to COVID-19. As cities emerge from their shelter-in-place orders, the complexities of playdates and summer camps might be confusing for everyone to navigate.

Within this new normal, kids must still explore how to develop their own voices, sense of boundaries, and confidence. One way to support kids’ growth and understanding is to read the new Critter Fitter series, available in the Caribu app. The books are written by Dr. Jen Welter, a doctor of psychology and the first female coach in the NFL, and Brooke Foley, a storytelling expert. 

The series includes three books that address children’s physical, psychological, and emotional fitness. The first book, Critter Fitter with Bizzy Bee uses motion (physical activity) to address wellness. It teaches fun sequences of exercises for kids to try whether indoors or outside. The second book, When a Lady Bug Can’t Hug, uses emotion to explore feelings caused by social distancing. It offers tools to help kids approach this experience from a positive perspective The third, Wearing a Mask Says I Love You, explains proactive safety habits like mask wearing. With kid-friendly language and concepts, it encourages children to protect each other and their families. 

“As we examined the global challenges and associated changes happening, we designed this series to help kids move through these times emotionally and physically, based on what they needed, not what others thought they wanted,” explained Dr. Welter. 

Stories can be powerful tools to support kids’ thinking about choices and behavior, and the Critter Fitter books use bright images of friendly creatures to convey lessons about health and safety. 

 “When I wear a mask, I protect you and me, from the virus we can’t see!” says a critter in Wearing a Mask Says I Love You. The rhymes and characters make a difficult topic approachable. 

In addition to her writing, Dr. Welter is the director of the Grrridiron Girls Football Camp and a public speaker. Prior to her work as a coach, she was an active football player, and the first woman to play in a “contact” role on a men’s professional team. Brooke Foley is the CEO of Jayne Agency, which approaches storytelling with a user-centered design approach. She also speaks regularly on the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

The pair chose to expand the scope of the Critter Fitter books as the COVID-19 pandemic spread to help families share emotions surrounding shelter-in-place guidelines.

Read the Critter Fitter stories on your next Caribu Video-Call to learn about topics like:

  • How viruses can enter your mouth and nose 
  • How to spread hugs while six feet away from others
  • The importance of making calls to long-distance family and friends
  • How to exercise like a busy bee together with loved ones
  • How to create your own “love bug” masks with friends and family 

The books are available to read in Caribu’s in-app library, and also on Caribu as Video Read-Alouds. Dr. Welter brings her storytelling talents to each book and invites kids to read along. Gather all the critters in your home to watch and read when you need a break (or a good workout!). 

Beth S. Pollak is a writer and educator based in California. In addition to working with Caribu, she consults with educational organizations and EdTech companies. Beth has worked as a teacher and journalist in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. She holds degrees in journalism, bilingual education, and educational leadership. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, picnics, and dance.