Surviving quarantine with kids: free or fun kids activities & learning!

This post is intended to be your go-to for keeping sane, keeping kids busy, getting some control and routine in your day, remembering to have fun, and share all these resources with all the other unintended homeschoolers this world is now full of.

So, please, share this list. Let me know if a link is broken or if there’s something new to add to it. This list will be updated frequently as the amount of great resources are added to our virtual worlds.

Note: This list will not be full of homeschool curriculum and programming since I’m a pretty strong believer in our kids not needing us to recreate the school system at home. Instead, I think right now we’re all in survival mode… doing whatever our family (and we) need at this moment to support ourselves and our loved ones the best we can and in the best ways we see fit.

So, you do you and hopefully you’ll find some resources here to help!

toddler playing while a mom works on a computer from home near by

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How to cope with working from home and a house full of kids

Well, spoiler alert, this post isn’t going to actually answer that question. Who really can? Geesh!

This is such a unique and unprecedented time in our recent history. And, each and every one of us (and our family units) are managing this situation differently. Some of us have older kids to help with the younger or spouses at home to help. Some of us have color-coded schedules and sticker chart reward systems. Some of us are drinking wine at 11am and using sticky notes to remind us to shower.

It’s a crazy world out there. It’s probably a bit of a crazy world in there where you are too, right now, in some ways?… right?

Here, at my house, as I write this, one child in in the bathroom trying to wash off all the ink that has somehow managed to get all over his hands and arms, one child is standing 2 inches away from the television eating a banana that I have no idea where she found, another child is trying to learn a new song on the piano which involves yelling at me every 3 minutes to ask if that note sounds correct…. and my hubby is in the kitchen trying to use the food I’ve rationed out for some semblance of a regular family meal.

And, I imagine this is what a lot of families look like right now… we’re surviving. So, here are the resources to help when your family train makes a stop in crazy town.

But first, if you just need something quick and right now…

If you’re just ready for the good stuff and don’t even have time to read this post, you definitely need to grab this now. It’ll keep the kids busy and learning and playing while you actually get a few minutes to shower before the zoom meeting.

image of indoor nature activity printables for kids

You’ll get indoor and backyard scavenger hunts, a kid’s nature journal, a nature reading bingo, some jokes, an activity jar, play suggestions, even a virtual vacation activity.  Really, this is the answer to having your kids be a bit busy connecting with nature so you can find a few minutes to actually sit down and enjoy your tea and that juicy book that hasn’t been opened for a few days!

Free On-line inter-active programming (and learning) for kids

Khan Academy

Join Khan Academy here

Khan Academy is a free on-line learning resource for all grade levels. With Khan kids can join various curriculums at their grade level and progress through learning lessons with videos and interactive activities.

Currently both my 7 and 12 year old are doing Khan’s computer programming course. The quality of the videos and teaching is much higher than I expected and the kids are eager to do more and progress through the lessons. I have appreciated that this course is keeping my kid’s attention and is so well done that they don’t need much assistance from me at all to go through the units.

Learning account with learning progress for each child

Scholastics – Learn at Home

Visit the Scholastic’s Learn at Home Page Here

I don’t know if this will be available after all the world is done ending, but in the mean time, this has been a pretty cool on-line activity for my kids.

Their content is presented in an on-line magazine format with informative articles and accompanying videos. Each article is followed by an activity suggestion which encourages kids to do an age appropriate ‘learning’ task like math, writing, science, history, or critical thinking.

Tip: kids can have the articles read aloud instead of them reading the content.

The article topics are pretty cool too: Star wars filming locations, Alcatraz, is video gaming a sport, building with dominoes, and edible art – some of the topics we’ve appreciated.

YouTube Channels for learning and fun

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

Here’s the Youtube Playlist for Lunch Doodles

Every day the Pig and Elephant author, Mo Willems, has been sitting down to encourage, teach, and inspire kid’s creativity. My kiddos (ages 5, 8, and 11) have all been watching these together and it’s lead to some pretty cool drawings and quiet creative time.

Science Mom

Find Science Mom on YouTube here

These videos are super long and super engaging. I think they’re probably best for early elementary, but I haven’t watched all her videos so I could be wrong. Science mom is currently doing one a day during the quarantine and these episodes are almost 2 hours in length. So, if you’re looking for something to keep kids occupied for a while, check these out!

I really appreciate the effort that goes into these videos as well as how well she incorporates so much learning in each. She’s definitely passionate about science!

Cosmic Yoga Kids

Visit Cosmic Yoga on YouTube here

This is a very popular kids yoga program. The videos are colorful, engaging, and my kids really enjoyed this until about age 7. There are all sorts of themes, but the general format is that kids are encouraged to act out the story being told while doing kid-adapted yoga poses and movements.

Crash Courses

Visit All the Crash Courses on YouTube here

This channel is amazingly full! Like seriously, there’s a lot of content here. And, it varies widely in topic and age appropriateness.

These videos might appeal to kids which unique interests or who like learning specifics and details. A few that we’ve found interesting are the crash course lessons on film history, world mythology, and gaming.

Cincinnati Zoo – Home Safaris

Since the zoo had to close the zoo keepers have been doing a daily Facebook live where they help us get up close and personal with different animals at the zoo. I’ve watched a few different zoos and I am enjoying the ones from the Cincinnati zoo the most. The videos are about 20 minutes each.

The zoo keepers have also been suggesting some activities to accompany the lives which younger kids might enjoy participating in.

Did you know a hippo can poop on average 23 pounds a day? No, you didn’t, did you? I didn’t either until I met Fiona and her mom in this video below;)

Goodnight with Dolly

Have Dolly Parton read your kids a story here

Now, I’m definitely going to say that the first person that should be reading bedtime stories to your littles is you, but if you’re looking for a little help in that area, well, Dolly Parton seems like a good second choice!

I don’t know what books she’ll be reading over the next few weeks, but she started the series off by reading The Little Engine that Could… and she’s even in her jammies in bed while she does it!

Kid’s activity ideas and resources

Feeling stuck at home and inside with your kids can start to get out of hand quickly. Maybe your day starts with happy-face pancakes and singing show tunes in the kitchen. You’ve done your math homework and encouraged them to do some reading, but before you know it you’re yelling at your kids for the 14th time for them to go brush their teeth, there’s a box of cereal leaking it’s contents all over the counter top with a trail to the tv, and the kids have decided now’s the perfect time to turn the living room into one giant blanket fort, which of course requires all the kitchen chairs, your bed’s duvet, and for some reason every single stuffy your child owns. … and you’ve got a zoom meeting in 7 minutes!

Having a few “busy” activities on hand is helpful when things get a bit… crazy.

Here are a few quick tips for keeping kids busy so you can take care of business:

1. Try to keep some sort of daily routine. That routine will look different for each family. But, you and the kids will cope better if there’s a sense of what to expect as each day progresses.

2. Gather up all the kid’s activities into a few common areas… collect the puzzles, games, activity books, and craft supplies together so you can easily see what the options are. However, do not have these in an open area where the children can always see them. Instead, start using play rotation or scattering.

3. Scattering and toy rotation. This works best for preschoolers, but will also work for older kids if you know their interests well. The main principal here is that kids are less likely to make big messes and will spend more time occupying themselves with certain toys or games if they don’t always have access to everything at once. So, instead, pull out a few games, toys, books, or activities each week and leave these in an accessible place while all the other activities are tucked away.

kids playing monopoly

4. Use quiet time (if you don’t already do this). Quiet time is just that… a time for kids to play and entertain themselves quietly. If this is new to your kids they’ll likely struggle at first with learning what to do with their boredom. You can help them through this transition by pulling out ‘special’ activities for them to do during their ‘special quiet time’. Older kids can use this time for independent learning, school work, and reading.

5. Encourage outside play, everyday. Send them to the backyard, to the patio, and if they’re old enough, for a bike ride around the block. Again, you can use toy rotation for outdoor play if that helps keep them entertained with less need for ‘entertaining’ on your part. (Here’s a post with more details on backyard toy organization and toy rotation)

6. Don’t be afraid to use video games and the Netflix Nanny when needed! Remember, these are ‘extraordinary times’, right?

Subscription Boxes for kids

If you’re still wanting something new, special, and entertaining, this is the perfect time to check out some of the great subscription boxes available! And, just because they’re subscriptions doesn’t mean you have to commit to getting them all year long. Most will allow you to cancel after having received the first box and some will allow you to just purchase once.

Note: Do pay attention to shipping details like where they’ll ship, when they leave each month, and also consider your opinions and comfort levels on using the postal system.

Top kid’s and family activity subscription boxes worth checking out:

Note: Currently (as of April 3, 2020) Cratejoy is having a 40% off sale on many of their boxes if you purchase a 3 month plan. However, I could not find details on when this sale would end. Use CAMPCRATEJOY for this offer.

We Craft Box: Monthly craft projects

Together Unplugged: play, create, read, learn, goal-set, laugh, team-build & celebrate with your family.

Finders Seekers Mysteries: a do-it-yourself escape room game with clues and riddles to challenge the whole family!

Green Kids Crafts: Educational, do-it-yourself STEAM projects using only sustainable materials for kids ages 2 – 10+

TheraBox: Because not everything should be for the kids! A box mindfully curated by therapists to reduce stress & increase joy through self love.

Pinterest Boards full of activity ideas:

Pinterest is a treasure chest of ideas…. I’ve heard it described as catnip for women… I’m still trying to decide if I should be offended by this or not;) Either way, there’s so much on Pinterest that it can be a bit challenging to not easily get swallowed up or overwhelmed.

Here are a few of my favorite activity boards if you’re needing somewhere to start:

All the goodies available for the Take Them Outside Community

By joining the Take Them Outside Community, not only will you start receiving a weekly mini kick in the butt to get you and your kids outside and enjoying nature, you’ll also get access to the super secret awesome printables library too.

You’ll get scavenger hunts, conversation starters, nature reading challenges, outdoorsy games, and more!

a clipboard holding a nature scavenger hunt sitting on the ground against a log

Podcasts, Audio books, and other booky pleasures

Stream Audiobooks with Audible

Access Audible Stories Here

If your kids love listening to stories you can get all sorts of audiobooks with Audible’s free Stories service. It was super easy to join – I didn’t have to enter any information at all, I just clicked play, and that was it!

I was surprisingly impressed with the selection. Titles ranging from Beatrice Potter to Harry Potter!

Amazon Kindle E-Books

Visit Kindle Unlimited Here

I don’t enjoy reading books on a device. I like to hold my book and read it in the bathtub. But, if you or your kids are desperate for some reading and you know how to read e-books on your device, perhaps now’s the time to sign up for a free trial Kindle Membership.

Family time fun

I’m assuming you already have all sorts of ways to have fun together… but, here are a few last things that might be helpful.

Card Games – Rule Directory

You probably have some decks of cards laying around somewhere, right? But, I bet you can’t quite remember all the rules?

Visit Bicycle Cards to browse through their huge directory of card game rules.

Cards against Humanity – Family Edition (currently free for download)

If you’ve played this game, you know it’s not appropriate for kids. But, they’ve now made one that is! And, as to be expected it’s full of bathroom jokes. Reading through, it feels like they just followed a pair of 10 year old boys around for a day and then used all the phrases and topics they talked about to make this set!

Really, this isn’t going to be for every family, but for some of you, it’s perfect! Oh, and you’ll need a printer at home to make this game… or spend an hour or so making DIYing it if you don’t.

Download and Print Cards Against Humanity Here

Get moving together

I’m all for getting outside for family walks and bike rides. But, that’s not possible for all of us right now. And, if this is you, do make sure you’re still moving together.

Here are a few easy no prep ways to get kids moving inside:

  • Put on that sweet 80’s soundtrack and have a dance party
  • Have family relay races passing off a stuffie as team members make the loop
  • Roll a dice and do that many laps up the stairs or push ups or jumping jacks
  • Pull out the nerf guns and sunglasses and a chocolate bar (the chocolate bar is for sharing after the war is over as reward for every single bullet being picked up off the floor)
  • Or, find some on-line exercise videos to watch. There are tonnes.

P.E. with Joe

I’m putting this one under family because these are intended for everyone to do. I haven’t tried one yet, but the do look like a great workout. These are by Joe Wicks, the Body Coach on YouTube. And, he’s starting streaming a live half hour movement class for kids and adults.

They’re simple and you don’t need any equipment. (If you need to convince younger kids to join, he even dressed up as Spiderman for one of them). And, I love that he’s donating all the ad revenue from these videos to the UK National Health Services.

Lastly, this is no where near a complete list of resources. If you have any other suggestions you think should be added to this please contact me or add it in the comments below.

Thank you again. Take care of you and yours… and your neighbours too.

kids playing a board game with text overlay reading staying sane during quarantine for families

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