Family & Parenting

12 Activities To Keep Your Kids Busy While Schools Are Closed

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The Centers for Disease Control has released recommendations on school closures based on the effects of and mitigation strategies for COVID-19 outbreaks, resulting in action on the part of local school systems around the U.S. Some districts are extending spring break for an extra week or two while others are closing for a month or longer.

While protecting the health of your family and working to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus is a top priority, you’re not alone if you are wondering how you’ll keep your kids from going stir crazy when schools are closed or quarantines are in place.

Here are a dozen ideas to help keep your youngest family members active, engaged and educated while they wait for classes to resume.

1. Virtually Visit The Zoo

Many zoos and aquariums are currently closed to the public, but the animals are still doing their thing. Let kids watch their favorite critters through live streams. The one at the Cincinnati Zoo is highlighting one animal via its Home Safari Facebook Live each weekday at 3 p.m. ET. The Georgia Aquarium has several live webcams that monitor otters, penguins, jellies, and other creatures. Check with your favorite zoo to find out if they are streaming during the shutdown.

Here’s a Facebook post from the Cincinnati Zoo highlighting its Home Safari project:

2. Check Out An Exhibit

Students can soak in some art and culture from the couch. World-class museums such as the Louvre, the NASA Space Center in Houston, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and others have virtual tours available online.

3. Hold STEAM Challenges

Keep kids interested in science, tech, engineering, art and math with some fun learning activities. Provide open-ended challenges that will spur creativity through tools such as the Carson Dellosa STEM Challenges Learning Cards. The pack of 30 cards uses common materials to answer questions in each of the five STEAM areas.

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4. Take An Art Class

A quick search on YouTube will turn up hundreds of kid-friendly art tutorials, ranging from drawing cute characters to molding animals out of clay to painting with watercolors. Some art instructors are currently offering free online lessons during school closures, such as Wild, Free and Crafty. Find a complete schedule and supply list on their website.

5. Learn a New Language

Free apps such as Duolingo let kids gain proficiency in a foreign language wherever they are. Children can start learning words and phrases in virtually any language (even Klingon!).

6. Make a Sensory Walk

Use colorful masking tape to turn the family room into an obstacle course that helps kids release some pent-up energy safely. Let kids get involved in the design and include multiple senses, as shown in this YouTube video that takes place inside an elementary school.

7. Cook Together

Learning can take on many forms. During your time at home, teach your kids some new skills in the kitchen. Show them some age-appropriate skills. Let them choose recipes based on ingredients you have available and make dinner or treats together.

8. Write Notes To Elders

Many nursing homes and senior centers are restricting visitors due to concerns of exposure to the coronavirus. Brighten the day of some lonely nursing home residents while fostering empathy and compassion in your children. Get some assorted notecards and write thoughtful letters to send in the mail. If you’re not sure where to send them, check out Letters of Love.

9. Find A Pen Pal

Another fun writing activity that also promotes communication and social skills is to write to a pen pal. PenPal Schools connects students ages 8-18 all over the world. They are offering free access during the COVID-19 pandemic.

10. Start A Garden

All of the empty shelves that have ensued from people stockpiling for the coronavirus might cause you to consider growing your own food. Kids can tend to plants while they are home, even if you want to start a few plants indoors. Make it easy with a kit, such as the Creativity for Kids Plant a Pizza Garden, which provides everything you need to start basil, tomatoes, oregano and peppers.

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11. Go To The Library (Online)

Public libraries are a treasure trove that sometimes goes unnoticed. Check with your local branch to see what they offer to library patrons. Even if they are closed to the public, librarians might be available to tell you more; if not, the library website likely will. Public libraries frequently offer access to everything from genealogy websites to audiobooks and ebooks to online courses.

12. Take a Virtual Field Trip

Traveling might not be possible at this time, but kids can visit some amazing places via the internet. Discovery Education offers virtual field trips to places such as the Johnson Space Center and the Ford Motor Company. The National Park Service provides virtual tours of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. You can take a virtual tour of the Great Wall of China or even Mars.

Turn these unprecedented days and weeks into a time for learning, making memories and growing closer to your children!