Last updated: June 1st, 2020
By Erica Ward, Webgility Channel Manager
Schools and offices around the country have closed down in response to COVID-19, which has many families living in closer quarters than they were previously used to. There are benefits of more quality time with loved ones, but there is also the added stress of keeping children entertained and educated during typical office hours while you’re working from home.
In my own home, we have two adults, two children and one husky all balancing our days. Fortunately, individuals and organizations have risen to the occasion and are offering online versions of the activities that kids (and adults alike) can enjoy. From animal rescue live cams to storybooks shared by authors, there is an abundance of activities your family can do from home.
Below are some of the ways that the Webgility Team is keeping their families entertained while practicing social distancing:
One of the most well-known companies for learning, Scholastic has developed remote teaching curriculums for kids through 9th grade. Each day’s lessons are centered around four videos or stories that kids can engage on their own or with a teacher or parent. Choose between Pre K/Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2, Grades 3-5, or Grades 6-9 to get started. This activity is a huge hit in my house!
Learn About Recycling
There are plenty of resources available to teach children about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling. National Geographic combines short reading materials with an interactive game, which kids can complete before challenging themselves with the EPA’s recycling city challenge or a Turtle Diary game.
Several children’s authors are offering real-aloud sessions of their own and their favorite books on YouTube, Instagram Live, and their own websites. For older kids, these sessions include or are replaced with reading activities to think about these books in new ways. The authors include J.K. Rowling, John Green, and even Oprah. This is a great activity to entertain the children during meetings and conference calls.
Science classes might not be in session, but the experiments can still be done at home. Parents and teachers have gotten creative and taken to YouTube to guide experiments like “cloud in a jar” with water vapor or “raining cotton balls” with colored water. All the activities use items that you probably already have at home, and the hands-on component makes the concepts easier to grasp.
Mystery Science is the creator of the most popular science lessons in U.S. schools, and their online portal is rich with learning opportunities and complementary activities. There are digital mini-lessons (10-15 minutes) and full-length (45-90 minute) lessons with a hands-on activity for kids from kindergarten to 5th grade. Some standout lessons: “Can animals laugh?”, “Why would a hawk move to New York City?”, and “How are toys invented?”.
Every day at 3pm Eastern time, the Cincinnati Zoo hosts a Facebook Live session highlighting one of their animals and giving kids an activity to complete about what they learned. These home safaris are then posted to their YouTube page so you can access the archives. The zoo is also selling plush toys along with their home safari series with proceeds supporting their operations and animals. In my home, we tie this into snack time and it has become a highlight of the afternoon.
Use Music To Learn
The Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel is a popular choice with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Most of the videos teach numbers and letters using a catchy song to help kids remember, but others are solely fun focused, such as a recent entry that teaches the “Baby Shark” dance.
Take Free Art Lessons
This one’s for kids of all ages (and adults, too.) The Wild, Free & Crafty YouTube channel just launched last week, but there is a new video every day that shows you how to draw things like pop art donuts or sea turtles. Also, children’s author Mo Willems is teaching drawing lessons, and Gail Simone is hosting a comic writing class.
Check In On The Animals
Zoos and animal shelters around the world have set up live cams so you and your kids can watch the animals in real time. The San Diego Zoo has nearly a dozen available, and the Smithsonian Zoo lets you watch lions, elephants, and more. You can even watch polar bear cubs at Ouwehand Park in the Netherlands. For more on demand viewing, Explore.org also offers documentaries in addition to live cams.
Visit The Aquarium From Your Couch
Just like the zoos, aquariums are giving patrons a look at their facilities with live cams, tours, and information sessions with their staff. Watch the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s and the Georgia Aquarium’s critters in real time and tour the Seattle Aquarium and the National Aquarium from the comfort of your own home.
See Priceless Works Of Art
Many world-famous museums have virtually opened their doors to visitors and are showcasing priceless works of art for free. See the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or ‘The Birth of Venus’ at the Uffizi gallery without the flight and without the crowds. The National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Van Gogh Museum are also open.
With Google Maps and other online resources, it’s never been easier to explore the world and learn about places that are thousands of miles away. The teams that maintain monuments and natural sites (like national parks) help facilitate this with virtual tours that are free to anyone with Internet access. This roundup is full of “field trips,” but a simple search for “name of site + virtual tour” often turns up results.
The Walt Disney Company has developed a series for kids and adults to learn about the inner workings of its imagineering department with Imagineering in a Box. “Imagineering in a Box is a series of interactive lessons in theme park design and engineering, designed to give a behind-the-scenes peek into Imagineering’s development process. It combines 32 videos of actual Imagineers, real-world case studies, and lots of interactive activities to give you the opportunity to dream and design your very own theme park experience!”
It doesn’t take much to set up any of these games or activities, which use household items and a bit of imagination to create an experience that will keep kids occupied. If your kids burn through all of these ideas, there are nearly endless lists and ideas online to keep them occupied.
Our friends at Ninja Focus have graciously unlocked all the content on its science-backed, child-centered app for the next 90 days. You can download this healthy-screen-time app for kids now and get free access to the normally locked content including:
– 1-10 mins meditations to help kids reduce anxiety and feel calm
– Soothing original music to help kids focus better on schoolwork
– Sweet bedtime stories to help kids get off to sleep peacefully
– Yoga poses and activities to help kids release energy and stress and more