It’s safe to say that we’re all going a little stir crazy from being cooped up inside these days. Our kids have a neverending list of questions, and we’re all trying to find things to do without really leaving the house. It’s stressful, frustrating, and if you’re anything like me, you’re banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how to keep them entertained day after day. After all, the have-them-run-around-outside-for-as-long-as-possible routine can only work for so long, right?
But thankfully, there’s some good news. As this thing drags out, more and more companies both large and small are coming up with amazing virtual experiences (most of which are free!) that can help keep your kids entertained — maybe if you’re lucky, for 10 whole minutes!
Fun with Reading
Missing storytime with friends at the library? Luckily, there are several virtual options, including some from a few famous authors!
- Reading Rainbow legend Lavar Burton offers several options for storytime. You can tune in on his podcast or on Twitter.
- The Epic! digital library is offering free access for up to 40,000 books for 30 days to help parents out during the pandemic.
- Pete the Cat creator James Dean is doing storytime (and a drawing lesson!) live at 1 p.m. EST on weekdays live on his Instagram story — a huge hit for toddlers!
- Say good night with none other than country music legend Dolly Parton, with her evening storytime on Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
A few other fun options? There’s Squiggle Park, Storyline Online, 12 Story Library, Operation Storytime, and Scribd. And while the Jacksonville Public Library may be closed, you can still check out tons of e-books there for your kids!
Have little budding artists on your hands? Check out some of these art-centric online activities.
- Dav Pilkey, the author and illustrator of Captain Underpants, is offering free lessons and tutorials, both for kids and adults, in partnership with the Library of Congress.
- The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens may be closed, but they have Art Making at Home on their website. On YouTube, they’re also offering virtual lectures and art projects.
- Activity Village offers practically endless activities including thousands of printable coloring sheets, crafts, and more to keep kids occupied and happy.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville has art projects available online while the museum is closed. The MOCA Saturday Movie Nights will be continuing as well through Netflix watch parties.
There are also tons of art museums around the world offering free virtual tours right now. These include The Louvre, the Vatican Museum, the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many more! If your kids like music and theater, you can also take in a Broadway play from home.
At-Home Science Experiments
Calling all scientists and curious minds! The below ideas are chock full of virtual tours and science experiments.
- Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History may be closed, but there’s MOSH Connects for now, offering video content, science, and history lessons, as well as live online sessions.
- Mystery Doug features five-minute videos debunking scientific “mysteries,” like why we get goosebumps.
- National Geographic Kids has tons of options for little ones, like games, videos, animal facts, and even an Explorer Academy set of books and videos.
- Live Science offers several experiments for kids to help unleash the budding scientist inside your kiddo!
Other fun science projects or virtual tours being offered for free include NASA, tours of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Museo Galileo, and the Museum of Science in Boston.
Working on Their Fitness
Keeping kids active helps keep the wiggles out, and without friends to run around with, they certainly need some way to get out all that pent up energy.
- The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast Virtual Studio includes fun workouts for kids.
- MBody Yoga in Neptune Beach offers a free kids yoga class each Wednesday from 3–3:30 p.m.
- Joe Wicks, an online fitness coach, is giving a free PE class every morning on YouTube called P.E. With Joe.
- My Gym LIVE! offers free classes for kiddos, right from the comfort of your own home.
Other options include Beachbody Kids, Sworkit, Just Dance and many more!
Virtual Field Trips
Travel and explore without setting foot outside your house.
- The “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibit is back with an online exhibition, featuring real-life historical artifacts, old drawings, manuscripts, and synopses from author J.K. Rowling herself.
- Random Street View takes you to a different place around the world with just a click of a button, letting you explore Finland, Texas, Slovenia, Israel, and countless more destinations.
- Explore the Winchester Mystery House online for some spooky fun.
- You can also explore all of the National Parks right from home!
What little one doesn’t love animals? Check out the animals in their natural habitats with live webcams and fun activities and projects courtesy of some of the nation’s most popular zoos.
- The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is keeping us updated on our beloved local animals with regular projects, videos, and insider looks at training from inside the zoo.
- Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary is featuring virtual nighttime feedings every Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and educational programs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m. on their Facebook live.
- Visit the animals at the San Diego Zoo, without having to hop on a plane.
- Dive into the Georgia Aquarium and see thousands of aquatic animals.
- The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, home of famous hippo Fiona, is taking you inside the exhibit with their Home Safaris on Facebook.
Other virtual zoo experiences are available at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Smithsonian National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Dallas Zoo, and the Shedd Aquarium.
Math Whiz Kids
Check out these math-related resources for kiddos who love numbers or simply need a little extra brushing up in the math department.
- If your kids haven’t already discovered Prodigy, now is a great time. It’s free, and pairs math and games for hours of fun, educational play.
- The Khan Academy is offering free resources for kids who may need a little extra help while they’re out of school.
- Math Playground also has tons of fun games that help kids learn while they play.
- PBS is so much more than Daniel Tiger! Did you know they offer math games and resources, too?
Support Local Businesses
It’s important to support our local businesses, and many of them (including a few mentioned above) are offering a variety of virtual classes, projects, and resources to help keep your littles busy.
- Local Montessori-inspired playspace Bay & Bee has launched baynbeeathome.com, which features a ton of fun project ideas and resources for children under 5.
- Jax Cooking Studio has a variety of virtual classes available online (cookies or pizza dough, anyone?) perfect for children and adults alike.
- Bolts & Bytes Maker Academy offers some cool ideas for at-home projects and experiments with their handy how-to videos.
What fun virtual activities have you found online for your kids?