We are all in new, unchartered territory with COVID-19 shutdowns across the nation. It’s easy to feel a bit of panic hovering at the back of our throats thinking about extreme social distancing (read: shut-in at home) with kids who thrive on the routine and structure of a school week.

The COVID-19 shutdowns present a challenge for keeping kids occupied. Curated list of ideas, links, and resources to stay busy and connected.

We’ve pulled together a list of resources and ideas for keeping your family occupied and connected during the COVID-19 shutdown. We tried to find sites and links that won’t require a ton of singular attention, as many of us are also trying to work from home. *Warning, this post is very link-heavy. We’re hoping to speed your access by doing so. Please feel free to share your ideas or additional links in the comments at the end.

Keep Their Minds Sharp

An accessible website in many public and private schools across the country, BrainPop offers activities by grade level and by topic of interest. They are providing free access in the event of a school closure, which at this point is almost nation-wide.

Scholastic’s Learn From Home website has four categories: PreK and Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6+. Each section has one week of content for students — with 15 additional days on the way.

Many families are setting up charts and visual schedules for their children to set expectations and manage screen time.

If you don’t mind paying a subscription fee, ABCmouse.com offers a wide variety of learning games, from pre-school through age eight or 2nd grade. They also have some physical fitness activities for busy little bodies who need to move to learn.

IXL.com offers learning activities through the 12th grade. You may have to start a membership account, but many public schools provide the site to their families, so check in with your teachers for information.

Khan Academy offers free math reinforcement by grade level. Students can navigate the site for additional practice on previously learned skills and concepts. Families can create free accounts for their children.

Over the weekend, KidsActivities.com released a lengthy list of all the educational websites offering free subscriptions and accounts for use during the school closures. Keep scrolling all the way to the end of their post for additional activities to try with your kids at home, too!

Of course, there’s a balance to be struck between online learning and excessive screen time. It’s okay to play around with the amount of online time that works best for your child, your whole family, and your routine. It might take a few days to figure out your sweet spot. Many families are setting up charts and visual schedules for their children to set expectations and manage screen time.

For the Animal Lovers in Your House

The Cincinnati Zoo is offering a Facebook Live event every weekday at 3 p.m. They will highlight an amazing animal each day and include a fun activity to do at home. The goal is to “make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational.” They started the fun on ¬†Monday, March 16, at 3 p.m. with the first Home Safari featuring Fiona, the hippo.

The Cincinnati Zoo is offering a Facebook Live event every weekday at 3 p.m.

The San Diego Zoo Kids site is full of fun activities, videos, animal stories, and games. Check your local zoo for other special online events during the shutdown.

PBSKids – always a reliable source for fun learning – offers a great variety of animal-themed games and crafts, aimed for ages eight and younger.

Keep Your Bodies Moving

GoNoodle is full of catchy songs and fun dances that will get your kids’ heart rates up and get that heavy-work sensory movement at the same time.

Similarly, KidzBop offers “kid-approved” music to which you can host a kitchen dance party. However, not all of the offerings on the site are free.

Learning Station Music has downloadable music, a subscription channel, and youtube videos from which to choose while you are movin’ and groovin’.

…keep your kids’ bodies limber and loose while teaching mindfulness and helping them focus.

Cosmic Kids Yoga has a fun website and an app to keep your kids’ bodies limber and loose while teaching mindfulness and helping them focus. Verywell Fit online magazine offered this list of The 8 Best Online Yoga Classes for you and your older kids to consider and try together.

Start a family soccer game. Switch up the teams to keep everyone focused on the fun and not taking sides. If you are runners, start a running challenge or a family track and field series. Even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood – keeping your 6 feet away from the neighbors, of course – try to incorporate physical activity daily.

Read Together

Start a daily (or twice daily if need be!) family book club. Choose chapter books that will appeal to the ranges of ages and interests in your crew, but also consider stretching them a bit with new subjects or genres than they’d choose on their own.

If you have a range of reading skills in your home, you can take turns reading, act out scenes of plays. Listen to audiobooks together if that feels more accessible to you and your family.

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Check out our blog on Diverse Books for Kids for more ideas to read together!

If you do your family reading time twice a day, maybe start with a classic in the morning like Little House on the Prairie, the Narnia series, or The Call of the Wild. Then do a graphic novel or trending young adult book. Common Sense Media has a list of graphic novels that look interesting. Their site also offers other great book lists by genre and age.

For families with older kids, use the reading time to also work on comprehension skills, interpretation of themes, and other literary skills that they learn in school. It might be a stretch for us parents, but it’s also a great time to connect with what goes on in your kids’ minds when they read.

You can find many of these books on Amazon and if you have a Kindle or the Kindle app, there are great daily deals that will offer new ideas and some really low prices, to boot! (Don’t forget, if you use AmazonSmile, you can choose Creating a Family as the charity of your choice. We’d be so grateful if you did!)

Listen Up!

The family that podcasts together learns together, right? Here is a list of popular educational podcasts, gleaned from moms in my circles. It’s obviously not exhaustive but as with any internet search, once you start looking, the field of ideas widens almost exponentially.

Wired.com online magazine recently published this list of the Best Podcasts for Kids (2020), with a little bit of something for everyone. Common Sense Media also has several interesting lists to reference.

Other Online Resources

This resource starts online, but once you find an activity you like, it will quickly move you off the screens and into the world of crafting together. Check out The Best Ideas For Kids’ 100+Indoor Activities to get you started!

Chris Field – Serial Disruptor (author, motivational speaker, and business consultant) is hosting a series of online adventures for families to enjoy together. Head to his Facebook page (click on his highlighted name) at 3 p.m. (EST). There’s some excellent variety listed in this first week – it looks like you can have a lot of fun, virtual travels together.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has collaborated with Mo Willems to create Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. What a fun way to connect with your kids while you draw!

Do an online Art Tutorial with McHarper Manor at 1 p.m. (EST) daily. The event link (click on the highlighted name) gives the details about supplies and upcoming projects.

We love this list of Virtual Field Trips that we found on social media. There are links included and the document will open in Google Docs. Have fun seeing the world from the comfort of your couch – or your porch if the weather is nice.

A Word To Parents

Finally, if you are parenting a child who is easily dysregulated by interruptions to routine or by significant changes like this shutdown, take care of yourself! You are doing extraordinary parent duty right now, and you have to invest in YOU. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Try to find time to settle your heart and mind and push fear away.

I found this graphic on The Foster Life’s Facebook page. It’s an encouragement and challenge at the same time.

Don't let this CoVid-19 shutdown become trauma.

We are all in this together. Please, reach out if you are struggling. Connect in the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group if you need more ideas, need to vent, or just need to hear others’ stories of the shutdown experience. We will welcome you with open (virtual and socially distant!) arms.

Image Credit: Brian; Wesley Fryer;¬† Cincinatti Zoo’s Facebook page; www.familiesonline.co.uk; The Foster Life