While Neil Patrick Harris couldn't be more ready for quarantine to come to an end, he's managing to stay focused on the positive.
The actor tells PEOPLE the additional time at home has only helped the bond he and husband David Burtka share with their 10-year-old twins Harper and Gideon.
"I think it's made the kids closer to each other and made us become closer to them in a much more nuanced way," he explains. "So as challenging as it's been, I really appreciate the good things that have come from it."
Harris, 47, reveals the kids are still adjusting to their new routine. "The kids are in fourth grade remotely, so they each have their own little school room and their own key lights and their own headphones," he says. "I feel like they're in the school of the future — in the present! But they don't get to go to gymnastics classes, swimming and a lot of the social activities and play dates that they are used to."
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The toughest part for the doting dads? "Coming up with new and inventive things to amuse 10-year-old children," Harris confesses. "As a parent, we don't want them to be constantly attached to an iPad, and yet with few options, that's kind of all they want to do."
"That's challenging because I really like video games," he adds with a laugh. "I'm torn between being the stern taskmaster that says, 'Nay those screens, you must paint!,' and being the father that says, 'Wait, what's this cool new game, show me.' "
As Harris notes, the coronavirus pandemic "is far from over, and we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so we need to still be doing everything that we can to stop the spread of the virus." The star has partnered with PayPal and Venmo to share tips for shopping safely in-store, like paying touch-free with PayPal and Venmo QR Codes at CVS. For the father, it was important to spread the word that "safety is first" as more businesses reopen.
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"I think wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and being kind and supportive is important, but also any way we can be contactless is great," he says. "It's nice to be able to touch as little as possible, and so being able to use these touch-free QR codes for both PayPal and Venmo, it's a smart call."
"I think it's most important to respect other people's decisions, be kind to each other, and try and get through it with a smile — even though that smile may be masked," Harris adds. "I used to not like that when I smiled the lines around my eyes would wrinkle up. Now I'm very grateful for it because you can tell when I'm smiling, even though you can't see most of my face."
The Emmy-winner says he'll be jumping at the chance to take the vaccine when it becomes available to him, hoping it brings him closer to the things he misses most. "There are few things that I love and discuss more than experiential activities and entertainment, like going to the circus, being on stage, going to museums," he thinks back. "I really miss those dynamics, and so if we can get to 75, 80 percent immunity rate where it comes into play, that'll be a big game changer."
"I feel like days go by faster than ever and I'm not sure if it's because we're in the same location all the time so it feels redundant, or whether I'm just getting older and therefore time is truncated," he adds. "But I think it's important to step back, reach some kind of perspective and recognize this isn't forever. I want to follow the science and be as diligent as I can be."
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In the meantime, Harris can be seen in HBO Max's It's A Sin, which premieres on the streaming platform Feb. 18. From creator Russell T Davies, the miniseries follows the lives of a group of young gay men living through the AIDS crisis in 1980s England. "That story hasn't really been told before, and that added a level of importance to my commitment to it," he explains.
"I was more excited just to work with Russell T Davies, to be honest," the How I Met Your Mother actor adds. "I'm such a fan of his work, from the UK Queer As Folk all the way through Years and Years and A Very English Scandal. I just think his writing and his dialogue are very special. So when he called and wanted me to work on a project, I was going to say yes regardless."
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