The school year is over for North Texas students, and as if parents haven’t had enough to do teaching their home-based pupils in recent months, now comes the prospect of how to keep them busy and learning this summer. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered!
We’ve compiled a list of free or inexpensive virtual resources — from visiting some of the world’s most famous art galleries and museums to learning experiences and activities to keep the kids moving until school starts again. All you’ll need is a smart device and, in some cases, a free app.
Museums and Exhibits
Calling all Potterheads!
If you have Potterheads in the house, hop on the Hogwarts Express and check out the British Library’s virtual exhibit Harry Potter: A History of Magic, staged to celebrate the 20th anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s first book in the series. Here you’ll be able to tour specially curated exhibits ranging from astronomy to potions, charms and even the care of magical creatures. Be sure to check out videos created just for the exhibit, including four lessons in Muggle Magic for the aspiring magicians. A perfect family journey from your very own home.
Travelin’ Back in Time
If a trip back — way back — in time is your kids’ idea of fun, check out the Metropolitan Museum’s #MetKids online resource featuring tons of opportunities to time travel from 2000 B.C. to present day, and every period in between. Or take a trip to Africa, Asia, or the Middle East and discover sports, games, mythology and inventions of this big world of ours. The Met also offers a zoomable discovery map of art spanning 5,000 years. Best of all, you don’t have to purchase a ticket to pack your bags.
Explore Your Inner-Archaeologist
Since a trip to Washington, D.C. is probably not in the cards for a family vacation this summer, be sure to check out The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History’s virtual tours where your children can hunt for giant mammoth fossils, learn all about the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth, and explore early life in the oceans. Be sure to check out the virtual tour tips to make the best of your at-home exploration.
Need more inspiration for family virtual museum tours? Check out this article from Pure Wow, detailing some great journeys you can do from your home. Our favorite may be the tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium where your kids can watch live webcams of their favorite sea life.
Summer is also an ideal time for kids to continue learning outside the classroom. The good news is that there are almost limitless opportunities for children to learn a new skill like coding or hone their math, science or language arts understanding before the next school year kicks off. Here are a few of our favorite summertime education sources.
Coding for Kids
Coding allows your child to creatively express him or herself, laying a foundation for computer programming careers like game or website development. A number of free resources exist online to help kids acquire the skills they need. Code Wizards HQ has consolidated a list of free coding apps and websites for kids, including this free CodeCamp website and Khan Academy’s computer classes, including programming and coding.
In addition, The EduTech Post offers 24 free websites for kids, covering aspects of learning from logic building to systematic thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity. Their list includes some great free coding for kids websites like Code.org, Tynker.com, and Scratch Junior.
Learning Games, Reading and Videos
But coding is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to virtual learning opportunities for kids. Sesame Street offers hundreds of the show’s clips and play games that help younger children learn letters, animal sounds, rhymes, colors and more. The Art tab up top opens the door to a virtual coloring book, allowing your kids to express themselves by choosing their favorite colors and drawing on each scene, using the mousepad to guide them.
Another great resource for younger kids is the Khan Academy Kids app. Videos help kids learn to write their letters, so basic math, and enhance their social and emotional development. The site is well designed with bright colors that make learning fun. The app is available only on iPad and iPhones. The app is ad-free and offers tips and tools for parents and caregivers.
For kids Pre-K to 9th grade, Scholastic offers its “Learn at Home” virtual classroom to keep kids reading, thinking and growing. The site offers daily classes that are adapted for the child’s age and learning level. This source offers lots of activities for kids, including read-alongs for the younger ones and science and history lessons to keep older kids engaged. The site allows the user to select lessons based on the child’s age, and includes resources for teachers and parents.
The folks at Funbrain have compiled a variety of learning resources — from online books to games, videos and a virtual playground — for kids in grades 1-8. The site allows kids and their parents to search for grade-appropriate activities and learning opportunities. PBS Kids is another great educational resource serving up great kid-focused shows, play games and fun projects like building a vehicle to stop an egg from breaking when it slides down a string and smashes into a wall.
With most team sports postponed, many parents are looking for other ways to keep their kids active this summer in a safe and fun way. Although home-based activities may not be a substitute for meeting their teammates on a ball field or at a swim meet, there are some great ideas for parents online and enough to keep the kids moving all summer.
GoNoodle recently launched a Games app, available on IOS, Android, AppleTV, Fire and Roku, that’s free and ideal for getting kids moving by doing things they love. Designed to get kids off the couch to play, GoNoodle Games involve lots of fun movement for younger bodies while also engaging their minds. All you’ll need is a smart device and the free app. Perhaps best of all, the games are designed to “tire kids out” according to the company’s gaming head.
Cosmic Kids Yoga
How about some playful and healthy screen time? With the mantra of making your kids stronger, calmer and wiser, Cosmic Kids Yoga offers tons of videos, with interactive adventures to build strength, balance and confidence in your kiddos. The popular YouTube channel gets kids moving with 10-30-minute yoga sessions featuring cute characters like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Betsy the Banana and even Trolls. Instructor Jaime makes exercise fun so kids will want to do it.
PE with Joe Videos
PE with Joe features popular British YouTube host Joe Wicks’ workout videos for kids. His goal is to get younger folks moving with 30-minute weekday sessions that start with a warm-up followed by strengthening and conditioning exercises that will get the kids off the couch. His workouts are so much fun that you’ll probably want to join in the fun. Joe recently added some high-energy tunes to his more recent workouts, so join in the fun and stay fit this summer in the comfort of your own home.
SpiderFit Kids Facebook Live
Founder Brett Klika hosts 20-minute Facebook Live workouts each weekday that are also posted on Instagram. The workouts are great for kids age 5 and up — with Brett often adding healthy challenges like eating more veggies. He makes exercising fun for the whole family, and believes that improving the health and fitness of youngsters lays the framework for a happy, healthy, pain-free adulthood. We could agree more!
Videos and apps can provide endless hours of fitness for kids and their parents. But don’t forget about some old-school activities you may have enjoyed as a kid. How about playing catch in the backyard? Or taking a walk on a nearby trail or local park. The possibilities for your children’s fitness this summer are virtually endless.