By Kathleen Mangeri
Program Director, School of Education, American Public University
Suddenly, almost in the blink of an eye, we have entered into a new world. The chaos of the morning routine is a distant memory. We are looking for any sense of normalcy. Many child care centers are closed. School-age children are now attempting to engage in remote learning while parents are suddenly thrust into a homeschooling role.
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Parents may now be part of the work from home force, an essential employee still going to work or one who is learning to navigate the unemployment system. There is certainly a lot to navigate these days. While this all seems so challenging, there are ways to restore order for those with children.
Parents Are Looking for Activities to Keep Their Children Occupied during the School Closures
One common theme from parents is that they are looking for activities to keep their children occupied. Some parents are looking for activities to do with their children to fill the long, empty hours. Others are looking for activities their children can do independently while they attend to their many other responsibilities at work and home. Building routines that incorporate both structured and unstructured activities are important.
The key to a successful activity is one that is developmentally appropriate for the child’s age group. When an activity is too easy, children quickly become bored. If an activity is too difficult, children will become frustrated and give up, or perhaps seek help. Developmentally appropriate activities, such as these below, allow children to engage independently.
Funbrainjr.com is a site designed for preschoolers and kindergarteners that focuses on early math and reading skills. The site provides games, stories and printables. Some games require you to download Flash if you do not already have it. This site also has a downloadable app.
PBS Kids Daniel Tiger Games – This website is part of PBS Kids and features Daniel the Tiger. The site offers preschoolers games, stories (in English and Spanish), videos, art activities and songs.
ABCmouse has a wide variety of learning activities for children ages two to eight in Reading, Math, Science, Art and colors. This site usually requires a fee, but is offering a 30-day free trial at this time.
Multiple-Age Group Resources
Education.com is a site created by educators for teachers and parents to promote learning for preschool through fifth grade. While schools are closed, the site is offering premium resources for free when parents sign up for a free account. This site offers a wide range of online games in coding, math, reading and writing, and typing. Be sure to choose the right level so that your child can play independently.
Pinna is an audio streaming service for children in three age groups: three to five, six to eight and nine to 12. Pinna includes podcasts, audiobooks and music. The site is providing a free 60-day free trial after you create an account.
Audible offers free access to streaming stories for as long as schools are closed. Stories are grouped by ages to include early childhood through teens.
Scratch allows children ages eight to 16 to explore the world of animation and create interactive stories and games. They can share them with an online community while at the same time learn programming skills. Scratch is free and can be downloaded as an app for use offline if parents do not want an online presence.
ScratchJr is a downloadable app that provides coding activities for children ages five to seven. They can create interactive stories and games using beginning programming language.
Tynker is offering free premium coding courses during the school closures. You will need to create an account. Activities are for ages five and older.
Time for Kids Time magazine is offering free access for the remainder of the school year to the Time for Kids Digital Library. There are four different grade specific editions (K-1, Grade 2, Grade 3-4 and Grade 5-6). Registration is needed to access this free app.
Ranger Rick is produced by the National Wildlife Federation and includes a wide range of information, activities, videos and crafts about animals. The digital edition of Ranger Rick magazine is also available free through the end of June. Sign up is required to access the magazine.
High School Age
Crash Course offers educational videos via YouTube on numerous different topics of interest to high school students. The videos offer a fast-paced format for learning educational information. Courses include History, Psychology, Government, Literature, Biology, Film Studies and many more.
NOVA Labs from PBS offers high school students multimedia experiences on a variety of scientific topics.
Duolingo is a free online language-learning program that provides access to learning 30 different languages. Time spent can be as little as five minutes a day. Learning is designed for ages 10 and older.
Virtual Field Tours
Virtual field trips allow you to explore a wide variety of museums and other interesting destinations. These activities which cover a wide variety of interests can be done independently or as a family adventure.
- The British Museum, London, UK
- The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., online exhibit Fashioning a Nation (high school)
- Boston Children’s Museum Virtual Tour
- The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History – Virtual Tours
- Monterey Bay Aquarium: This site offers 10 different live webs cams to enjoy the aquarium.
- NASA Glenn Virtual Tours offers 10 different virtual tours of NASA facilities for the astronaut in all of us.
- The Hubble Space Telescope (this site offers five different virtual tours)
- New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art – this site offers an entire section devoted to children called MetKids. Included in the site are an interactive map of the museum, a time machine, as well as videos.
National Park Tours
- Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
National Marine Sanctuaries
Virtual Dives takes you on a virtual tour of marine habitats and animals from the National Marine Sanctuaries. There are many different dive galleries from which to choose.
Escape Room Activity
Hogwarts Digital Escape Room – a Harry Potter-themed digital escape room that can be viewed individually or as a group or family activity.
About the Author
Ms. Kathy Mangeri is the Program Director for the Human Development and Family Studies Program at American Public University. She earned a B.S. in Special Education from Bloomsburg University and an M.A. in Counseling from the College of New Jersey. Kathy is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of New Jersey as well as a long-time educator. Kathy has taught all ages from preschool through higher education and also has over 30 years of experience in the field of mental health. She is active in her community and currently serves as the president of the local board of education.
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