Hi, I’m Jill and four days ago I became a home schooling mom because my kids school is closed for at least the next two weeks. Like a lot of parents around the world, I’m in a situation I didn’t expect to be in. And let’s be clear: When I say I’m a home schooling mom, I mean that I’m trying to keep my kids constructively entertained and not watching 10 hours of straight YouTube and not killing each other while I work from home. I’m loosey goosey as far as “curriculum” goes – homeschooling parents like to use the word curriculum, by the way. I guess this is a good time to let you know I had to ask Alexa how to spell curriculum which is the only reason why it is spelled correctly. My goal is to keep the learning going and to not have this uncertain time be remembered as a more negative period than it has to be. I’ve curated this list of free things your kids can do online. I would call these mostly educational but I think they’re all constructive. Whether you’re building a home school curriculum or just want a few new boredom busters, these have all been hits at our house.
1. Home Safari at Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Zoo is currently closed but they’re doing a daily live stream at 3:00 p.m. Each day they highlight a different animal. Make sure you’re following their Facebook page and setting a reminder for 3:00 p.m. Central when the new videos go live. There’s also a quiz at the end so pay attention!
They also have a great YouTube channel. If your kids are like my kids, they’re into watching other people play video games – and WHY that is a thing I have no idea. This is a YouTube channel I approve of.
When the zoo re-opens to the public, the Home Safaris will likely be discontinued but for right now, it’s a great way to virtually get out of the house and learn something new.
2. Lunch Doodle with Mo Willems – One of the BEST free things your kids can do online
Mo Willems is the Kennedy Center’s Artist in Residence. I didn’t know that was a thing but I’m glad I know now. Every day at 12:00 Eastern, Willems puts a new interactive video online. Kids (or adults) can grab their crayons, pencils, markers and some paper and draw along. My kids have drawn some amazing things and it’s taken the place of art class for them for the foreseeable future.
Willems also shows kids around his studio, which my kids are minimally interested in. The videos are 30-minutes in length and move fast enough to hold the attention of my two fourth graders. It’s YouTube, so you can always pause it. Look for these videos on The Kennedy center’s YouTube Channel. If you’ve ever wanted a private art class but couldn’t make it work, now you can.
3. Bedtime stories by Josh Gad – Worth getting a Twitter account for
Josh Gad – best known to kids as the voice of Olaf – is a good human, that’s all I’m gonna say.
Actually, I’m gonna say more. Josh Gad reads a different bedtime story to kids nightly (7:00 p.m.) and it’s adorable. He’s got a great selection of books that will probably end up being your new favorites.
You can follow @JoshGad on the Twitter or you can search #GadBookClub which is an easier way to find the videos since he posts other stuff on Twitter and the story videos are mixed in with the other things he tweets.
Oh, and watch the video in the pinned tweet (the very top tweet on Gad’s twitter feed.) It’s not a story video, but…well I’ll just say you can thank me later. What a feeling.
4. Happy Little Trees
Remember The Joy of Painting and Bob Ross? Full disclosure: I used to watch this on PBS when I was too broke to afford cable and there was nothing else on.
As a stressed out adult trying to entertain and educate two kids for an uncertain period of time, I’ve got a new appreciate for Bob Ross and his happy little trees. And the best thing? Every single episode of The Joy of Painting is on Ross’ YouTube Channel. Totally free.
You do need some basic art supplies to make this work, so check out a couple of episode and see if it’s what you want to do before you invest in supplies.
5. Google Arts and Culture
I never knew this was a thing until I started searching for “free things your kids can do online” but it’s an online collection of hundreds of museums and galleries around the world. You’ll find familiar things like the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Italy plus lots of places I’ve never heard of. There’s even a search function so you can look at what might be near you or a place you’ll be traveling someday.
This probably isn’t going to hold the attention of younger kids for very long but older kids and art lovers will find this fascinating. You can also use this to illustrate a broader art lesson and show examples of impressionism, water colors, etc. See the entire gallery here.