15 Cool Things Kids Can Learn Online—For Free!
From science tricks to piano lessons, there's no shortage of fun things your kids can learn on the web.
Two words no parent wants to hear this summer: “I’m bored.” (It’s especially hard to sympathize with that complaint when most adults fantasize about what it would be like to have a three-month hiatus themselves!)
Thankfully, to keep boredom at bay, the internet has plenty of fun lessons for kids. Go ahead, call them “games” or “activities” to sound less like you’re holding summer school and more like you’re running the coolest summer camp out of your house.
Our muse is a list created by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization with a mission of helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. After all, by the organization’s figures, kids are logging more than 50 hours of screen time per week—which is the equivalent of a full-time job, plus some. So it’s best to make that time productive and harness the power of media for good, yes?
With that in mind, here’s 15 of the coolest things kids can learn online this summer (or heck, even this weekend).
1. Superhero Facepaint
What’s better than playing a superhero-themed video game? Employing some art skills to re-create superhero faces.
The tutorial: You can find easy-to-follow directions to create a Superman face on YouTube. You’ll need some brushes and face paint, as well as a some stencils and a makeup sponge. (The artist includes her full materials list in the YouTube description box under the video).
More like this: Find more superhero painting tutorials on Pinterest.
2. Tie-Dye Your Toast
You know how much fun it is to dye Easter eggs? Let toast be the next canvas for an edible art project.
The tutorial: Things to Share and Remember has a tutorial on how to make edible rainbow-painted toast using milk and food coloring.
3. Play The ‘Star Wars’ Theme On The Piano
A YouTuber and pianist says he had fun teaching his son how to play the “Star Wars” theme song on the piano. Now, he’s sharing the tutorial with all who want to learn.
More like this: A YouTube search of “theme song piano tutorials” will pull up some fun ones. You can play along to songs from Super Mario Brothers and The Pink Panther. (And if your kids don’t know about the video games and movies you watched as a kid—now’s your chance to school them.)
4. Create Geodes in Eggshells
Go ahead, kids, play with food. In the name of science of course.
The tutorial: This science project from Science Bob will help kids learn how geodes are formed. Plus, the end result is a science project that’s actually pretty enough to put on display.
More like this: You can find all types of at-home, fun science projects on Science Buddies.
5. Write A Book
Your children can write their own storybooks and, when they’re done, they can use their allowance (or broker a book deal with you, the publisher) and purchase a $5 printable eBook that can be shared online, too.
The tutorial: MyStoryBook.com is an easy-to-use website that will help your children tell their stories. They can draw characters, add text and select from pre-made images.
More like this: You can find other storybook creators online as well.
6. Learn How to Draw Cartoons
Your child is your resident artist, with galleries of artwork on the refrigerator and hanging in the hallways to prove it. Why not expand his or her repertoire?
More like this: If you’ve got a budding artist, check out Sparketh, which has a library of 500 “bite-sized” videos for kids, and the site loads new lessons each week. It’s free for the first month, but after that you will have to pay a subscription cost of $25 a month. If you know you’re the type who forgets to cancel before a free subscription turns to paid, be sure to set a reminder on your phone.
7. Learn How to Sew
Let’s not let this textile art form end up on an “endangered skills list.” Knowing how to sew on buttons or patch up denim are great skills for your kids. Bonus if your kids could eventually sew something they can wear!
The tutorial: You’ll find a whole line-up of sewing videos on this YouTube channel, learning everything from how to set up a sewing machine, to how to stitch circles or sew pixie dolls.
More like this: This round-up of beginner sewing lessons includes fun projects like pencil pouches, iPhone holders and lightweight scarves.
8. Make Your Own Word Games
Are you game? It doesn’t feel like homework when your kids are crafting their own word games and puzzles that they can then use to challenge you.
The tutorial: This website will help your kids create their own word searches, allowing them to enter the words they want to generate in the puzzle. Get them started by suggesting a theme like “summer fun” or “zoo animals.”
More like this: Once your kids graduate from word searches, they can create their own crossword puzzles.
9. Become a Birdwatcher
How cool would it be if your kids could identify the birds perched on your windowsills or the ones hanging out in your trees?
The tutorial: Bird Sleuth has some great, free curricula to help your kids (and you!) learn how to identify birds.
More like this: The Lab of Ornithology has a series of four “Inside Birding” videos that are each about 10 minutes and help beginners identify birds.
10. Learn the Basics of Coding
Tech skills are in high demand! According to Code.org there are 523,872 open computing jobs across the country. Last year, only 42,696 computer science students graduated into the workforce. But even if your kids don’t choose a tech-related career field, learning the basics of coding could give them an edge (and a cool hobby).
The tutorial: To help pique interest in coding, Code.org offers a slate of coding tutorials, weaving in Frozen, Minecraft and Star Wars.
More like this: There are lots of cool coding sites out there to learn from, but many come with subscription fees. Scratch, a free site run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, allows kids to code stories, games and animations.
11. Pick Up a New Language
Learning a second language is a benefit for kids’ minds, and it can help them better grasp grammar and perform better academically, according to Cornell University researchers.
The tutorial: Duolingo allows kids to learn a second language through bite-sized lessons and games. The website and app teaches several different languages, including French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and more.
More like this: Open Culture has a comprehensive round-up of where you can find foreign language lessons, including many university sites.
12. Whistle Through a Blade of Grass
While not useful, per se, it’s fun to commune with nature and learn some random tricks from the world around us.
The tutorial: This simple tutorial courtesy of “The Daring Book for Girls” teaches you how to use a blade of grass as a whistle.
More like this: Got a nature lover? BBC has a regular feature about how nature is inspiring scientists, architects and engineers. It’s called “Nature’s Tricks” and includes fun stories about how a woodpecker inspired a new kind of helmet and fashion tips from cuttlefish.
13. Train Animals
Pets can help teach children about responsibility. But we’re guessing your kids will love being the ones who get to call the shots for once. (OK, they’re kind of always calling the shots, but let’s not let them know that.)
The tutorial: A dog trainer shared this video that shows how a child can teach a dog new tricks.
More like this: The Humane Society put together free lessons that parents and teachers can use to teach kids about caring for their pets.
14. Make Cool DIY Jewelry
Graduate beyond the shell necklaces! Let your kids design their own jewelry (aka probably your next Mother’s Day present).
The tutorial: Pinterest has rounded up some of the best jewelry-making tutorials, with a revival of those ’90s-tastic friendship bracelets and cool ways to upcycle buttons or puzzle pieces into jewelry.
More like this: This online jewelry school is full of free videos that showcase how to make both trendy and classic jewelry, like those ever-so-popular tassel necklaces and stacked rings.
15. Make Homemade Bubbles and Wands
Letting your kids craft their own toys and games will help inspire their creativity.
The tutorial: Did you know some dish soap and corn syrup can combine to make bubbles. Follow the tutorial here to make bubble solution and even a cute, homemade wand crafted from pipe cleaners.
More like this: From an adorable felt garden to magnetic fishing rods, Pinterest has curated a list of tutorials for homemade toys.
[H/t: Common Sense Media]