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Age-appropriate tools: Nurse Tia Hermanson and 11-year-old Zoe Simpson work through the "Learn about Coronavirus" and "COVID-19 activity book.".

The Colors of Coronavirus

St. Jude creates coloring books and activity books that help children, tweens and teens understand the new coronavirus.

By Tiffany Derrick; Photo by Ann-Margaret Hedges

Cerulean, indigo, scarlet and apricot are among the hues in a box of crayons. But what color would you choose for the novel coronavirus that has transformed life as we know it?

Children across the country and around the globe can select any shade they wish as they fill in pages of a new coloring book designed by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

With the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S., St. Jude staff recognized a need for resources for parents to talk about the pandemic with their children. And so, the idea for an age-appropriate educational tool in the form of a coloring book was born.

Conversations in cornflower and Caribbean green

Research shows children learn best through play and interactive experiences, with a non-threatening approach to working through potentially threatening situations.

 “Our goal was to help our patients find a way to adjust to these big changes happening around the world, but we also wrote the books more generally so that everyone could use them,” says Kristin Canavera, PhD, a child psychologist.

Canavera collaborated with Rachel Schmelzer, a child life specialist, and colleagues in the Department of Medical Content Outreach on the project.

“It’s not just St. Jude patient families who are anxious about COVID-19,” Canavera says. “A lot of the information about the virus has been focused on adults, but many parents might not know how to start a conversation without it being too intense.”


A lot of the information about the virus has been focused on adults, but many parents might not know how to start a conversation without it being too intense.

Kristin Canavara

Coloring books

Electric lime designs

The team made coloring books for young children and activity books for older children. St. Jude graphic designer Emily VanGilder created an accessible design for both.

“Many parents know this is a scary time, so the coloring book is a way to bring this topic up without it being too overwhelming,” Schmelzer says. “While the unknown is far more threatening than the known, it’s important to have age-appropriate tools we can use.”

The team hopes the coloring and activity books will help families manage their anxiety around COVID-19. Canavera says being open, honest and willing to discuss uncertainties and fears can help children learn better coping mechanisms.

Teamwork turquoise, carnation collaboration

Canavera credits teamwork throughout the hospital for helping the project develop quickly.

“Working with colleagues in other departments has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had,” she says. “At St. Jude, collaboration has always been one of our strengths, but I’ve been impressed with how willing everyone is to work together during this challenging time.”

The coloring book, “Learn About the Coronavirus” is aimed at children between 5 and 9 years old.

A book for older children and tweens includes more detailed information about COVID-19 and interactive activities such as a crossword puzzle and word search. The team also created a teen resource that is available online.

The books are available to download for free on the hospital’s Together website in Arabic, English, French, Hindi, Malay, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. The books are also being translated into Filipino, German, Italian, Chinese and Urdu.

This article appears in the Autumn 2020 edition of Promise.

The Colors of Coronavirus video

The Colors of Coronavirus

St. Jude staff developed a coloring book to help kids cope with the ever-changing life during the COVID-19 pandemic.