UW News

April 15, 2020

UW Center for Philosophy for Children helps families explore ‘big questions’ around COVID-19

UW News

Collage of children's book covers

Recent weeks have seen events that are affecting people of all ages. The UW Center for Philosophy for Children is offering free materials to help families broach big questions and feelings that may be surfacing as kids experience the current realities of sickness and isolation.

The new guide released in April suggests books and short videos to explore the broad questions — about loneliness and isolation, boredom, illness and death, as well as fear and uncertainty.

The Center for Philosophy for Children was established almost 25 years ago by director Jana Mohr Lone. She has written several books about philosophy for children, including a 2012 book for parents about ways to talk with children about their philosophical questions. Since the school closures she has continued her “philosophy in the classroom” series for elementary students over Zoom.

“The response from the parents led me to start thinking about all the questions and concerns children are having and the ways in which the center might be uniquely suited to provide some support for parents,” she said.

She developed the new resource with input from colleagues in the philosophy department and College of Education.

To use the list, she suggests parents read the stories or watch the videos and use them to inspire conversations with their children, paying attention to the questions children ask and the topics they want to pursue.

“The conceptual level of the conversations will, of course, vary with the ages of the children, but we find that often the questions children and adults of all ages ask are very similar,” Mohr Lone said.

Mohr Lone says some of her favorites from the list include the stories “Black Dog”by Levi Pinfold; “Duck, Death and the Tulip“ by Wolf Erlbruch; “Hug Me” by Simona Ciraolo; “Let’s Do Nothing” by Tony Fucile; Arnold Lobel’s story “Alone,” and the videos “The Benefits of Boredom” and “Baboon on the Moon.”

Many titles could overlap with suggestions from a child or family therapist, she said. But philosophers introduce the books from a unique angle.

Hear a KNKX interview with Mohr Lone in 2019 about the story “Alone,” from one of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel

“The approach is to follow the children’s lead in exploring the deeper questions about which they are wondering, without feeling compelled to give them answers,” she said. “Often the focus for adults is to try to allay children’s concerns, or provide answers to their questions. Our approach is to encourage children — and adults — to see that questions are often more important.”

As far as Mohr Lone knows this is the only such resource in the country. A British center is also offering tools to explore philosophical questions with younger people.

“I have been inspired in my conversations with children over the last month to see how deeply and honestly they are contemplating questions about loneliness and isolation, illness and death, and the uncertainties in life,” Mohr Lone said. “Talking with children gives me so much hope and confidence in the future.”


For more information, contact Mohr Lone at mohrlone@uw.edu or email info@philosophyforchildren.org.