Children Learning (and Laughing) at Home

children learning at home

Image by Phuong Dresher

This all happened so fast. One day, we were picking up our kids at after-school care, and the next, we found out schools would be closing for an indefinite amount of time. Many of us have been laid off or are working at home, and we are suddenly responsible for eight hours a day of our children’s learning and playing.

Whatever your situation, taking care of kids at home full-time is demanding, of time, energy, and creativity. To support you, please have a look at this curated list of resources. Unlike other lists, I’ve combed through all the content, selecting only the most unique, engaging, and truly educational sites. If you have other ideas, please feel free to be in touch.

Learning at Home

* Storyline Online

This is a wonderful site where celebrities from the Screen Actors Guild read children’s picture books out loud. Examples: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon, read by Sean Astin; I Need my Monster, written by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam, read by Rita Moreno; and The Empty Pot by Demi, read by Rami Malek.

* Learn at Home Guides by Scholastic

You can choose your child’s grade level and they offer books and activities organized in an order or with day numbers to be able to plan a complete program. Example: pre-K and K, day one, is about rabbits. You get a video, some activities, and a book or story about rabbits. Day two is plants, day three lifecycles with baby animals, etc.

* Daily lunch doodle with artist Mo Willems, Kennedy Center Education Artist in Residence

This is just really cool. You first watch the artist create the doodle and then he shows you and your kids how to do it. There are new episodes posted daily at 1:00 p.m. ET then streamed.

* Worksheets and printouts

This is a very pragmatic site for new homeschooling parents. The worksheets are organized both by subject and by grade level. There’s also a great section about how to homeschool, the different options and some how-tos from families who have been doing it for years. Includes puzzles, printable maps, games, and flashcards.

* Free Books

My 10-year-old son Alexi keeps asking me to buy him books for him to read on the Kindle now that my library subscription has run out and I can’t go there to renew it. This site is great for both content and affordability since everything is free. You’ll find a complete catalogue with all available formats, and the titles include many classic children’s books like Peter Pan, Aesop’s Fables and The Wizard of Oz. You can also find free textbooks by subject here.

* Free course, Parents and Toddlers: Teaching and Learning from Home

If you’re insecure about homeschooling, this is a great resource. The course addresses using talk and play to stimulate growth, key psychological and educational theories related to toddler development, and ways to effectively translate formal education in places like daycares into informal contexts like home.

* Harry Potter at Home

Alexi is a huge fan of the Wizarding World and this site is packed with value. Along with free access to the first audiobook in six different languages, you can also find magical craft videos, quizzes and puzzles.

Physical Activity

* Working out as a family

Better yet, call it “play.” Among other ideas, the site suggests dance parties, letting kids be exercise boot camp generals, and acting out a movie of your kids’ choice.

* Physical literacy

This site introduced me to the concept of physical literacy. It offers activities for babies and toddlers 0-3 years, daily activities log sheets, a KidActive mobile app with activities and games, and a Skills Builder tool.

*General tips

* Activities based on age group: 6-8

Mental health

* WHO guide, mental health considerations during COVID-19 outbreak

Amplify positive news. Encourage kids to express difficult feelings with drawing or dance. Help neighbors and those more vulnerable than you with your kids.

Respond positively to kids’ need for more hugs, attention, and affection. My son has slept in my bed for all but two nights during the pandemic.

 * Keeping your family mentally healthy

Keeping a schedule including regular bedtimes, reaching out to keep in touch using technology, limiting news exposure, and making sure to emphasize that the situation will end are all basics. But the article also suggests other ideas I hadn’t heard before, like planning just three days ahead, making space for kids to express sadness about losses, and integrating daily gratitudes or prayers.


Cooking and Nutrition

* Make Nutrition a Priority

Prioritize fruits and veggies, even canned or frozen (if fresh cost too much). Limit pre-prepared foods (making hummus from canned chickpeas is really easy and tastes so much better AND it saves money! Write me for a great recipe!). Try online shopping. Think of neighbors who are over 70 and not allowed to shop, and ask if they have a list you could pick up for them. Contribute to local food pantries as many who have lost their jobs are now relying on them to feed their families. Get kids involved in all aspects of meal planning, list prep, and cooking; they learn science, math, and reading through doing.

* Healthy Eating toolkit, Action for Healthy Kids

Links with Links

* PBS Kids Daily

I’m a huge PBS fan and their site did not disappoint. You’ll find information about knowledge area by age including emotions and self-awareness, social skills, character, literacy, plus info about school subjects. The site also offers suggestions about indoor activities to release energy, how to talk to kids about the pandemic, and how to make a new home routine. Featured activities include a hero self-portrait, a homemade snow globe, and a scent-memory game. They also broadcast a family night show every Friday 7-9 p.m., repeating Saturday and Sunday evenings.

* Open culture

This is a reader-curated list so it’s massive. I liked that there were unusual findings, like where to go to learn Mandarin and statistics and links to the Schoolhouse Rock videos (if you’re younger than Gen-X, please do yourself a favor and Google it!),

along with sheer numbers of offerings, like 1500 free online classes, virtual tours of 30 museums, and a world music archive from the BBC offering music from over 40 countries.

* Ottawa resources compiled by playwright and parent Megan Monafu

My very smart friend Megan put this list together for work and it’s pretty great, even if you don’t live in Canada. It features access to live online classes for K-12, a page for Indigenous resources, Fluency and Fitness math classes, farm tours, family workouts, and the well-known Khan Academy, which is offering free resources and live homeroom sessions on Facebook and Twitter.

*The blog of teacher Jodi Southard, friend of a friend

Lots of great links to pre-screened resources for the pandemic period.

By Gail Marlene Schwartz

Gail Marlene Schwartz is a mother, a runner, and a writer. As Content Curator for JogAlong Stroller, she writes blog articles, video scripts, and ad copy.