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There’s no doubt that we’re all living in unprecedented and incredibly challenging times, especially if you’re responsible for the well-being and development of tiny humans.
Routines have been turned completely upside down and schedules have flown out the window. If you’re struggling to keep your kids occupied while attempting to work from home, know that you’re 100 percent not alone.
And while many of us are typically fighting tooth and nail to get our kids away from digital devices, it goes without saying that we’re all beyond grateful that the internet exists right now.
Whether you’re looking for a new way to engage with your little one or just need to focus their energy so you can have a millisecond to yourself, there are plenty of digital resources to keep kids of any age busy — and even learning — at this complicated time.
So, to help you embrace your new normal, we’ve pulled together a list of 15 awesome online options to entertain your kiddos (and buy mom or dad a little quiet time — you’re welcome).
We’ve rounded up the best of the web to keep kids of any age stimulated, entertained, and learning. After taking recommendations from educators and parents, we vetted these options for factors such as:
- educational aspects
- fun games
- colorful and engaging
- gets kids moving
- helps learn a new skill (e.g., cooking, language, music)
- focused on science, technology, engineering, or math
A note on price
Most of these options are free, but a few require a subscription. We note those with a $.
Oh, and another hot tip: many local zoos and museums are offering their own unique programming online during these stay-at-home orders, so check out the websites of your favorite spots in your hometown, too.
As an extension of its television programs, PBS Kids offers online games for kids that feature the characters for their favorite shows. On this colorful, animated site, kids can build a story with Pinkalicious, answer math problems with Arthur, and make art with Peg and Cat.
Now owned by the reputable Khan Academy, Duck Duck Moose offers free, interactive iPad apps for the younger set. For example, in the Itsy Bitsy Spider app, a video sings the classic song while letting kids interact with elements on screen. The Moose Math app teaches counting, connect the dots, and sorting through shapes and colors.
With each app, there are also additional questions and extension activities for parents to maximize teaching moments. And if your kids have already tapped out on screen time for the day, the site also has a number of printable worksheets available if you’d like to switch from digital to analog play.
ABC Mouse ($) offers almost 1,000 lessons across 10 levels, covering reading, math, science, social studies, and art. With animated lessons and games, curriculum is supported with music, puzzles, printable worksheets, and art projects.
It’s not an accredited program, but it offers supplemental learning, especially for younger children who aren’t enrolled in a formal preschool program yet. Your first month is free, followed by a monthly subscription.
What could be cooler than real live astronauts reading children’s books about space while they are actually in orbit? If you have a little space explorer at home, the answer is probably “nothing.” Enter Story Time from Space.
This fun, free resource also offers Science Time Videos, where astronauts on the International Space Station conduct and film science demonstrations (whose curriculum is designed with science educational standards).
Alright, so this one isn’t necessarily an online activity, but letting your little one help you shop the website for their next project will be fun.
KiwiCo ($) sells boxed STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, and math) kits for kids grouped by age, ranging from 0 all the way up to 104. Among the best-selling “crates” are a soap making kit, a DIY volcano kit, and a solar system kit — move over Bill Nye! Prices range from $24 and up.
Does your little one need to burn some energy? Carolina Bacallao, a second grade teacher in Denver Public Schools, recommends GoNoodle. This free online resource has more than 300 dance and yoga videos aimed at keeping kids active.
“It’s fun and gets kids moving,” Bacallao says. “Some videos are in Spanish, and some teach content while the kids do dance moves.”
There are also at-home activities for the whole family to do, too. Because who can resist shaking it to “Footloose” before making up a batch of homemade guacamole together?
Like the classic magazine, the National Geographic Kids site lets kids explore the natural world and the humans living in it. Through digital books, videos, and games, children can learn about topics like reducing their carbon footprint and preserving the habitats of their favorite animals.
One of our favorite aspects of Nat Geo Kids is the suggested nature-themed science experiments kids can try with things you probably already have at home. There are also quizzes and funny Mad Libs style fill-in-the-blank pages to keep the learning fun.
Open Culture is a massive collection of hundreds of resources for all age groups and grade levels, including e-books, movies, Ted-Ed talks, and more. There are hundreds of links to websites, audio recordings, language classes and more are collected all in one place.
One challenge to consider: Open Culture’s site isn’t a very kid-friendly user experience, so you might need to surf the site a bit yourself to find what works for your kiddos.
Epic! ($) is an online digital library that gives kids aged 12 and under access to 40,000 audio and e-books and videos, including titles in Spanish. For a monthly subscription, a family can read unlimited books and create up to four profiles — think Netflix for books.
Put on your apron and roll up your sleeves, things are about to get messy! Cooking and eating are some of life’s greatest pleasures, but for a lot of busy families, cooking a meal from scratch has become a lost art. With everyone stuck at home, we anticipate that learning cooking basics will be making a big comeback.
With Kids Cook Real Food, younger kids will learn simple skills like pouring liquids and rolling dough while more advanced little chefs learn knife skills, safety, and how to cook eggs. This one requires a subscription, but they’re currently offering a 2-week free trial.
Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization offering math, science, arts, and humanities curricula, and even test prep courses for older students. You’ll find classes on computing, finance, animation, and even social and emotional learning (a big buzzword in education these days).
Many school districts are already using Khan Academy in their regular classroom learning and remote learning programs, so it’s a source trusted by educators. They also have preplanned schedules so if you’re not quite sure where to start with at-home learning, you’ll have some support.
This free language learning app and website offers instruction in 23 different languages (even Klingon!). Best of all, Duolingo makes it fun. By using bite-sized lessons, you can ease into a new language at your own pace.
Learners can earn points for correct answers, stay motivated using rewards, and get immediate feedback while leveling up. It’s animated, encouraging, and easy to use, so kids of all ages can start learning a new language!
Amazon’s Audible is an audiobook service that typically starts with a free trial then a monthly subscription. However, with most of the country under stay-at-home orders, they’re offering listening to hundreds of stories for free. Their age ranges span from Littlest Listeners’ to teen and adult selections, plus stories in multiple languages from German to Japanese.
“Audible is a great tool for all students and especially ones that have dyslexia and other reading complications,” says Erin Carter, special education coordinator at the Hill Country Special Education Co-Op in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Outschool ($) offers online video instruction covering a range of topics, led by a live instructor and other students. Classes are priced individually (starting at $5) and include not only core subjects like social studies, math, English, and science, but the arts, music, and language.
Outschool also focuses on life skills like cooking and finance, health and wellness (such as emotional and nutritional health), coding and tech topics, and even fun classes involving Fortnite and Harry Potter.
The Smithsonian offers a slew of online resources, including zoo animal cams, musical recordings, geography from space, meteorology, and more. Best of all, the site has plenty of games that give kids a fun and engaging way to experience art, science, and history topics.
This is (to say the least) a wild moment in our lives. While “sheltering in place” offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy some quality family time, go easy on yourself if you need your kids to self-entertain for a bit each day.
Self-care comes in many different forms, and we hope these digital resources can help you find a little peace and quiet if that’s what you need right now.