We’ve used up all the flour making homemade Play Doh. Glitter has settled between every gap in the floorboards. Lego-related injuries are up 500 percent.
With school cancellations entering their second or third weeks across America, parents are desperate for a way to keep children entertained—and, ideally, learning something too. Mercifully, writers, teachers, museum curators, librarians, artists and others are stepping up to offer special virtual learning activities for kids of all ages. We’ve collected some of this week’s best offerings and organized them by subject and time, for you to choose from as appropriate.
Good luck, and watch out for those underfoot Legos.
Virtual Learning Schedule (all times Eastern)
9 a.m.: Spanish
Miami-based children’s performer Alina Celeste is livestreaming bilingual singalongs on her YouTube channel at 9am, helping kids learn basics like colors and numbers. And unlike that 300th rendition of “Baby Shark,” her music is actually enjoyable for adults too.
9:30 a.m.: Astronomy/Space Science
The Kennedy Space Center will have daily Facebook Live presentations for young children at 9:30 a.m. and for teens at 1 p.m. Videos include astronaut-led story times and demonstrations on the science behind space food.
10:30 a.m.: STEM
Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center is keeping young scientists on their toes with a twice-daily (on weekdays) "Curiosity Corner Live" on YouTube. Kids can follow along as museum staff demo STEM activities like building a tin foil boat (and trying to sink it with pennies) or making billowing clouds with liquid nitrogen and water. The first session is 10:30 a.m., the second is at 3 p.m.; all videos are archived.
11 a.m.: Language Arts
Tune in to Penguin Kids’ Instagram feed at 11 a.m. on weekdays to see the publisher’s authors read their books live. A hit this week was a reading of The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, a story of empathy and kindness surely needed during these times. If the slot doesn’t work for you, there are several authors, publishing houses and libraries offering live story times. The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will livestream a story time from its Facebook feed every Wednesday at 11 a.m. For older kids, look for award-winning children's book author Kate DiCamillo's weekly YouTube writing tips and prompts.
11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Math
Join Science Mom and Math Dad (married vloggers Jenny and Serge Baliff, a plant scientist and a math PhD) for QuaranTime, a two-hour math and science livestream on YouTube. Recent topics included the science of slime and Minecraft math. The lessons are designed especially for kids 7-12, but older or younger siblings might enjoy them too.
12:30 p.m.: Marine Biology
Tune in to the Georgia Aquarium's YouTube for livestreamed visits to their watery habitats daily at 12:30. On Friday, viewers got a peek into the colorful and deeply hypnotic jellyfish tanks. Oh, and there are live piranha feedings at 2 p.m. every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. If you're too busy eating lunch to watch, the Florida Aquarium is doing a similar program at 10 a.m.
1 p.m.: Art
Earlier this month, Mo Willems, author and illustrator of such beloved children’s books as Knuffle Bunny and the Elephant and Piggie series, announced he’d invite young readers into his studio to doodle along at 1 p.m. every weekday. Episodes will remain online to be streamed afterwards at your convenience. Willems is not the only artist opening his studio this way—there are dozens, and the list seems to grow daily. Every Friday at 11 a.m., D.C.-based artist Jill Galloway will lead an Open Studio lesson on the National Portrait Gallery's Facebook page. Last week, she led followers in a class on blind contouring, a drawing exercise that involves drawing the outline of a subject without looking at the paper. Author-illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka of the Lunch Lady and Jedi Academy series of graphic novels will be hosting a live "draw every day" YouTube illustration lesson at 2 p.m. on weekdays. And Stimola Literary Studio, a literary agency representing kids book author-illustrators, has launched Stimola Live, a series of livestream art and reading events for kids and teens. This week's offerings include drawing tutorials with Matt Tavares and a Sharpie tie-dye project with Joyce Hesselberth.
3 p.m.: Animal Behavior
The Cincinnati Zoo is hosting “home safaris” each weekday at 3 p.m., with zookeepers giving video tours of different animal habitats on Facebook Live and leading a themed activity. Last week, kids played freeze tag alongside Sihil the Ocelot and made leaf portraits of Moe the Sloth. If you can’t be there live, all safaris are posted on the zoo’s website and Facebook page.
3 p.m.: Home Economics
Italian superstar chef Massimo Bottura is hosting a “Quarantine Kitchen” cooking show on Instagram at 3 p.m. Recent dishes include Thai curry and a tortellini in parmesan sauce. Bottura, the mind behind the Michelin three-star restaurant Osteria Francescana, is currently in lockdown in the hard-hit city of Modena.
5 p.m.: PE
After a day cooped up indoors, get the wiggles out before bedtime by joining a live Instagram dance party with Mark Kanemura, a former backup dancer for Lady Gaga. “People can expect wigs, fans, confetti and a lot of really great pop music," said Kanemura, of the all-ages boogie-fests. "Oh, and they can expect to sweat!"
Whenever they lose their "indoor voices:" Music
Was your kid’s school musical cancelled? Tony-winning actress Laura Benanti encourages theater kids of all ages to share videos of their singing on Twitter, tagged #sunshinesongs. That way she—and anyone on Twitter—can be their audience. Also following the hashtag are theater luminaries like Lin-Manuel Miranda, which almost makes up for not getting to wear your Hello, Dolly! costume on stage.