Here we are in our new normal. And it’s no less weird than it was three weeks ago. Hopefully, self-isolation is temporary and we only have to endure 24/7 family time for a couple more months. Like my cousin recently said to me during a Messenger chat: “Families are not meant to spend this much time together.” I love my kids (a lot) and genuinely like hanging out with them, but I love them even more when we have time and space between us at more regular intervals.
Below, you’ll find a whole bunch of fun things to do at home for kids once you’ve surpassed whatever e-learning assignments your kids’ teachers assign each week. This is not meant to replace your board’s distance learning curriculum, nor am I qualified in any way to provide supplementary materials beyond being a newly full-time-stay-at-home-mom who desperately needs at least a few hours a day to herself to stress-bake and make Tik Toks.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you’ve visited this post before, please be sure to refresh the page before continuing to ensure you have the latest version. New content is being added from time to time and I don’t want to you miss it!
I’m still just trying to share as many helpful tools and tips as I can to make your lives easier; nothing here is sponsored nor do I currently generate a single penny from sharing blog posts since my site doesn’t serve ads or contain affiliate links. I simply want to be of service because being useful is a big part of what helps me stay sane and fulfilled. Please also keep in mind that in the interest of providing so much information so quickly, I have not yet personally vetted every single resource nor taken time to create any fancy graphics to break up all this text.
At a minimum, I hope you find something in here you like and use. And if you do, and think it worthy of sharing, I’d appreciate that to no end.
Fun things to do at home for kids
If you haven’t already checked out — and bookmarked — my free homeschooling resources post, you’ll find LOADS of education-based content there, divided by subject (including math, literacy, science, music, social studies, coding, worksheets, graphic design and even educational TV programming). Start there.
You should find that this post is more about edu-tainment and fun things to keep kids busy; the homeschooling during COVID-19 post is more traditional in its scholarly approach. However, I also want to point out that the original post remains filled with resources that are free and this one has some activities that are pay-to-play. Please keep in mind that I’ve been gathering a lot in the past few weeks, so this is in large part an information dump. I’m allowed to be a bit lazy right now, right?!
Pro Tip: I’ll add more in the coming weeks and months, so remember to REFRESH this page every time you come back to it to ensure you have the latest version.
Fitness & PhysEd
The 60 Mins Kids Club and the Just Go Play team will be sharing a free platform to fill the void of P.E. and youth athletic development programs. Info here.
Accessible through the Peloton App — and through Android TV — which is currently available for an extended 90-day free trial if you sign up by April 30, 2020; users can experience immersive, instructor-led workouts that can be done with or without equipment. And the brand has recently added a number of family-friendly classes, too, many of which are 5-20 minutes long.
ParticipACTION has daily live fit breaks every day at noon ET on its Facebook page — from core workouts to high-intensity cardio, with modifications to fit your needs.
Connect “With Me” on YouTube: Families can queue up a #withme YouTube playlist to learn how to cook a new recipe, try out a fun craft or get up and dance together. For example:
- Cook a quick and easy pantry recipe from @domesticgeek
- Groove to Justin Bieber’s new single “Intention” with a Toronto fitness enthusiast @madfit
- Enjoy some quiet and calming craft time with @DIYMommy
4cats art studio — in which I normally enroll our kids every summer for camp — is offering its spring session online! Now, it’s not cheap but you do get Zoom access to instructors and all of the materials delivered to your home. For CDN$269 (plus tax), the classes run for five weeks starting April 27, 2020, with approximately 16 hours of classes during the session. Many classes offer an older 9-15 year-old class or younger version for 5-9 year olds. Info here.
Normally $15-50 per class, Nikon is offering 10 of its most popular photography classes for free throughout April. While some of it may be too advanced for younger kids, if you have a spare Nikon DSLR kicking around, there are some great beginner classes here that kids around 8+ should be able to manage. Info here.
“Captain Underpants” writer/illustrator Dav Pilkey is hosting virtual drawing demo and readings, launching every Friday. Info here.
Hippo Hug has a pattern and how-to-sew tutorial to make your own Mini Yoda. Info here.
Families can play a trivia game or take a number of fun quizzes using Google. For example:
- Play your favourite television game show: Just say, “Hey Google, play Jeopardy” to test your knowledge
- Gather the family around your Smart Display and say, “Hey Google, Are You Feeling Lucky?” You’ll play five rounds of trivia culminating in the final round of challenging “Guesstimation Station” brain teasers where you’ll answer questions like, “How many dimples does a golf ball have?”
- Or simply say, “Hey Google, play a game” to pick from a variety of games for your family
- Get ready for a pop quiz! Families can take an array of fun personality and math quizzes — just by asking Google
- Ever wonder what animal your sibling is? Just say, “Hey Google, Play to What’s Your Inner Animal and find out if you’re a polar bear or flamingo
- Want to test your math skills? Just say, “Hey Google, talk to Multiplication Test” to stay on top of your time tables (we’re using this one a LOT right now!)
- Chat with Pikachu! If you’ve always wanted to talk to Pikachu, now you can with Google Assistant. Just say “Hey Google, ask Pikachu Talk to talk.” Once you’ve got his attention, you can ask him to “Tell me a funny story” or “Use Thunderbolt.” Ask other questions and see what happens!
Literacy & language
Use your Instagram account and search the hashtag #SaveWithStories, where you’ll find lots of celebs reading children’s books.
Similarly, Rosetta Stone is offering three free months to students. Unlike Babbel, you don’t need school email addresses — a parent’s email address will suffice.
Storytime for the whole family with Google Assistant:
- Tell me a Story
- Want to hear a story? Just say, “Hey Google, tell me a story” and Google Assistant on your Smart Display, smart speaker or phone (Android and iOS) will read you a short family-friendly story for free
- If you’re trying to get the kids ready for bed after a long day at home, try, “Hey Google, tell me a bedtime story”
- Read along with your Assistant
- Google Assistant brings stories to life with sound effects as you read select Disney Little Golden Books aloud, like “Coco,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan,” “Toy Story 3,” “Frozen,” “Frozen 2,” and “Moana”
- To get started, just ask your Google Nest and Google Home speaker or Smart Display, “Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney” or say a specific book title like, “Hey Google, read along with Frozen 2”
- With their parent’s permission, children under 13 can also have their own personalized Google Assistant experience when they log in with their own account, powered by Family Link
If you live in New York and have a New York Public Library card, you can now download more than 300k books for free. Info here.
For less than $15, two Italian chefs — from their home in Rome, Italy! — will walk your family through a virtual pizza-making workshop. Friday night pizza was already a thing around our house and we’ve continued the tradition during quarantine, so we may just check this out to see what authentic pizza-making tips they share. Info here.
Board & card games
It must have taken someone dozens of hours to compile this Google Doc full of various board games and card games, puzzles, word games and more.
Asmodee has made a bunch of its most popular games free — just print and play here.
Science & nature
Here are 40+ experiments from Dyson to teach kids about engineering in fun ways.
Just Google any of these animals and choose “view in 3D” from the search results, and you can view that animal in your own room in 3D. Here’s what a wolf looks like in my living room, but you can’t appreciate from this picture how cool this really is (the wolf also moves, howls, scratches, etc.):
In my experience, this only works from a handheld device and not a laptop:
- Emperor penguin
- Angler fish
- brown bear
- Shetland pony
Virtual Adventures for Kids is designed for children ages 6-12 and hosted via Zoom. Topics will range from Yellowstone National Park to Simple Bike Maintenance 101 to a Virtual Zoo Tour, and lessons will last anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour. Info here.
Canada’s Wonderland is making several of its roller-coaster experiences available virtually using first-person POV YouTube videos. Turn it into a science lesson by taking about mach speeds and the engineering that goes into these rides. Info here.
Through a suite of new online, creative educational resources — built on global science and math standards — kids can discover a range of STEM careers, such as Fraud Detective, Data Scientist and Software Engineer.
Mastercard is offering this programming for free through a collaboration with Scholastic and a newly launched website: Girls4Tech Connect. Teachers and parents can now download lessons to help students ages 8-12 learn about STEM topics at home. New activities will be posted on a weekly basis on the website. Lessons are currently available in English, with Spanish and Chinese language content coming soon.
Other activities, classes & workshops
Outschool offers “fun, social and safe learning experiences” that are taught via live video chat. There are more than 10k classes led by qualified teachers. Classes start at $5/class and are targeted at the ages 3-18 crowd. Info here.
Don’t forget to access free homeschooling websites and tools for K-12 students!
Youth Leadership Camps Canada (YLCC) has run student leadership camps for 30 years and now has a virtual camp for kids online that targets ages 6-17. Activities take place daily (Eastern Time) at 10:30am, 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 8:30pm featuring legendary contributors. From journalling to games to bedtime stories, there’s quite a lot happening for free. Info here.
Check out this Hogwarts Digital Escape Room. Info here.
Learn@Home with YouTube: a new website launched this month by YouTube with free learning resources and family content. The site features channels on a variety of subjects, from math, to science to world history, with content for different age groups. When your kids are feeling restless, they can even go on a virtual field trip with videos that will take them from the sea to an opera house.
Free streaming service CBC Gem has more than 300 hours of ad-free programming for kids, including a variety of CBC Kids original productions.
Edu-tainment apps for kids
Let’s not forget about the “fun” when we’re looking for fun things to do at home for kids! These iOS apps are a great way to inject fun into content that also has some underlying educational chops. Note that while many of these apps are free right now, once COVID-19 concerns start to abate, don’t be surprised if you need to pay to continue using at least some of them. This post may not be updated when changes like this occur.
- Kinedu, an app for baby development for ages 0-4, is making its app free until April 15 globally
- Epic!, which provides more than 35,000 high-quality e-books, audiobooks, learning videos and quizzes for kids 12 and under, is now free until the end of the school year
- Swift Playgrounds is a free intro to coding app exclusively for iPad and Mac that teaches coding for kids through a world of interactive puzzles and playful characters. Geared at kids ages 8+
- Kahoot! Play & Create Quizzes is now offering its premium version at no charge. The app can create customized or topic-driven quizzes for you. Play solo or invite friends
- Budding biologists can immerse themselves in the complete life cycle of a frog with Froggipedia, and use augmented reality to view the frog’s skeletal, muscular and nervous systems
- Wannabe astronauts can check out Night Sky — an entire planetarium on iPad, helping kids identify stars, planets, constellations and satellites. They can even use AR to walk around the entire solar system
- Tayasui Sketches School lets young artists draw and paint on iPad. Kids can choose from more than 20 artist’s tools that do a pretty good job of reproducing their real-world counterparts. With an Apple Pencil, students can experiment with a number of different shapes, brushes and tools without non-essential trips to the art supply store
- iMovie is free on iPad, iPhone and Mac, and we’ve been using this with our kids for creative projects during self-isolation. It’s intuitive video-editing software with essential studio tools kids need to edit their iPhone video footage. And then it can also be uploaded directly to YouTube with your permission.
Remember that learning LIFE SKILLS are just as important right now. Baking and cooking together is a great way to reconnect with your kids during this stressful time. Here are some easy family meals that you can make together.
Apple TV+, Arcade & Books
If you haven’t tried Apple TV+ yet, right now you can activate a 7-day free trial to test out unlimited access. Alternatively, if you recently purchased a qualifying Apple device, you can actually get a free one-year subscription. This was news to me! I have an iPhone 11 and will be taking advantage of this ASAP.
Here are a few kid-friendly shows to consider:
- Helpsters: from the producers of Sesame Street, whether it’s planning a party, climbing a mountain, or mastering a magic trick, the Helpsters can figure anything out
- Snoopy in Space: Snoopy makes science fun! Joined by Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, Snoopy takes command of the International Space Station to explore the moon and beyond
- Amazing Stories: the whole family may enjoy Steven Spielberg’s new take on the classic anthology series that transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility and imagination
- Ghostwriters: ideal for older kids — when a ghost haunts a neighborhood bookstore and starts releasing fictional characters into the real world, four kids team up to solve the mystery of the ghost’s unfinished business
- Dickinson: teens can dig into this creative take on this great poet’s coming of age story
Other fun things to do at home
Need more ideas to keep kids busy? In addition to the boredom buster posts I shared from other bloggers in my homeschooling post, here are a couple more to add to the collection as you look for fun things to do at home for kids:
- This Mom Loves has shared several of the same things I do in my other post, but it’s worth checking out for some new stuff, too. Info here
- My So-Called Mommy Life lists a bunch of fun things to do at home for kids, too. Again, there’s a bit of overlap with my homeschooling post but there are new ideas as well. Info here
- Here are 60+ fun things to do at home for kids courtesy of Creative Wife & Joyful Worker. Info here
Do you know of an activity that should be added to this post? Feel free to drop it into the comments. And stay safe out there.
DISCLAIMER: there isn’t one.