While the world is sorting out the new normal of social distancing, parents everywhere are also trying to do it with full-time jobs, and in many cases, no child care. For the first time in most of our lifetimes, schools have been shut down for extended periods, and no one really knows when it will end. Moms and dads are suddenly finding themselves wearing far too many hats: parent, employee, caregiver and teacher are just naming a few.
Stuck at home with canceled spring break plans, and summer vacations next on the chopping block, things might be looking pretty grim right now. No doubt, parents find themselves constantly looking for ways to entertain their kids 24/7, and with the quarantine well underway, many are at a loss for resources.
With everyone doing their part to curb the spread of Coronavirus, the usual haunts for children’s entertainment are now closed to the public. In their attempt to comply with social distancing directives, museums, zoos and amusement parks the world over have announced temporary closures; when they will reopen is anyone’s guess.
While these places have physically closed their doors, many have realized that the need for children’s entertainment is at an all-time high, and many have stepped up to offer just that. Parents can also find a wealth of resources for educational entertainment through Google Arts Culture, some of which are linked below as well.
While these resources are being shared all over the internet, finding the time to make heads or tails of them is another story.
We know parents, we know. Help is on the way.
Here’s a comprehensive list of some great virtual tours, zoo cams, and STEM activities (and we even threw in some doodling and celebrity readings), and it’s all free!
Science & Exploration
NASA is offering a slew of STEM activities for grades K- 4. Activities range from building foam rockets to solving space station emoji puzzles. Parents can also download coloring sheets and books for younger kids.
Discovery Education offers free virtual field trips complete with companion guides and hands-on learning activities. For example, kids can explore Polar Bears And The Tundra or take a look behind the scenes of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas
Take a trip to Mars. Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover. The site is in the middle of an update, but the 360 mode offers a great digital view.
Cincinnati Zoo Botanical Garden Every weekday at 3 PM EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo will host a Home Safari Facebook Live that features a different animal each day. For those who don’t have social media, the zoo will post the safaris on both their website and YouTube.
Panda Cam Zoo Atlanta Pandas are always fun to watch, quarantine or not, and Zoo Atlanta offers this live stream of the only panda twins in the United States, Ya Lun and Xi Lun.
Monterey Bay Aquarium offers ten live cams where viewers can sneak a peek at the sharks, do a little birdwatching in the aviary, and they can even check the goings-on in the open sea. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a large but not even close to being the largest and best aquarium in all of world.
The San Diego Zoo has ten live cams to choose from, including penguins, tigers, koalas and giraffes. The zoo also has a website exclusively for kids that’s loaded with videos, stories, activities and games.
Historical Sites & Museums
The Smithsonian Museum offers virtual tours of their current and permanent exhibits, and viewers can even take a look at a few of the past exhibits. Users can easily navigate between adjoining rooms of the museum and click on the camera icons for a closer look.
Virtual tours of other world-famous museums:
- British Museum, London
- Musée d’Orsay, Paris
- National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
- The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
- Guggenheim Museum, New York
- MASP, São Paulo
- National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- Pergamon Museum, Berlin
- The Louvre
The Great Wall Of China This virtual tour offers a breathtaking view of the Great Wall Of China, and visitors can even read up a little on its history.
Virtual tours of other historical sites:
- The White House – a virtual tour guided by President and Mrs. Obama
- Buckingham Palace
- Taj Mahal
- Red Square in Russia
Storytime & Doodling
Josh Gad is even doing his part to help parents deal with life in quarantine. Every night on Twitter, Josh Gad is doing ten-minute storytime. Josh has already read a few children’s classics like The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein and Hooray for Diffendoofer Da by Dr. Seuss. And it looks like he plans to do so for the foreseeable future. This one is not to miss, as he puts a little Josh Gad into it with voices and everything!
How About a Lunch Doodle? Mo Willems, beloved author of Waiting Is Not Easy! and The Pigeon HAS To Go To School! is hosting a Livestream Lunch Doodle. Every day at 1 PM EST, new episodes will be posted on the Mo Willems page on the Kennedy Center’s Website. Additionally, Willem is encouraging kids to send him questions at LUNCHDOODLES@kennedy-center.org, and he will attempt to answer those questions in his videos.
Pete The Cat creator James Dean presents virtual storytime every day at 12 PM on Instagram Live.
We all have to do our part to stem the outbreak of Coronavirus, but life in quarantine doesn’t have to be that bad. Every day, new resources are popping up to help us get through it. These virtual tours and online resources have a little something for kids of all ages. What a great opportunity to see the world from the comfort of your own couch!