Ideas for keeping kids educated/entertained at home

Ideas for keeping kids educated/entertained at home

Like many of our readers, and like working parents all over the world, I’m now trying to figure out the work-while-home-schooling thing.

Three days in, I’ve never felt more appreciation for teachers and early childcare educators and carers. With three kids in the house — one primary school aged, a pre-schooler and a toddler, it’s challenging at the best of times. Throw in the need to get some educating done while also desperately trying to pivot a business in order to keep it running — all while being stuck in the home — and we’ve entered a world of chaos we never thought possible.

But we’re also well aware that we’re far from alone, and we’re extraordinarily lucky at this point to even have the opportunity to keep thinking about working at all. We also have access to computers (certainly not everyone’s experience) and ok-ish WIFI.

So yesterday I was able to put the call out to our readers regarding ideas for educating and entertaining kids during this period — and I received a huge number of ideas, so thank you!

I wanted to start listing out some of these ideas below, and will build on the list throughout the week. You can send your own ideas here. We’re really keen on FREE options, bu some of below are paid.

As it currently stands, this list works more for younger kids than teenagers, but we’ll aim to improve on that. Also, please forgive typos, mistakes etc — if ever there was an excuse, it’s right now.

In addition, we’d love to see more government-support offered for parents at home, including support that can make some of the subscription-based programs provided for free. Also, how about broadcasting lessons on free-to-air television?

Home obstacle courses: 

Obviously this is a little easier if you have a backyard, but still possible in a living room (hopefully the downstairs neighbours will be forgiving). Rearrange some furniture, put out some cushions,  and get creative in investing an obstacle course. Do some timed laps and see if they can improve. Outside, include runs and rocks to jump over, position balls that need to be moved from one bucket to another, and back again etc.

Create daily tick-a-box task lists

We create to-lists for ourselves, why not our kids? We’ve started doing this in our house, creating a range of activities that need to be completed during the day in order to get to something they really want to do at 5pm. Our activities include things like reading, writing, ‘special topics’ (we determine something different each day), sport, cleaning up etc. They tick the boxes as they go.

Scheduled lunch and snack times 

You could even get creative with your own form of school bell here, or set up an alert system regarding when to move from one activity to another. Three days in, I’m finding that scheduled snack and lunch breaks, including ‘crunch & sip’ like they have at school, are essential for preventing the constant ‘i’m hungry!’ remarks and feeling like you’re spending the entire day in the kitchen.

Kinderling Kids Radio 

We’ve been huge fans of Kinderling Radio in our family for some time, especially on long drives (which we’re now not currently doing). You can stream it through your phone or a digital radio or other device. We often have it on in the background at home, and enjoy their mix of kids songs and regular music that selected specifically because it has lyrics or a beat that appeals to kids. They also have regular story books read by different Australian personalities, including Fran Kelly and others.

IXL

This is a subscription service, offering plenty of options for learning maths and English at home, particularly for primary school aged kids. It has the option for for audio questions (although the sound is a little stilted), meaning that younger kids still learning to read can access the questions. They currently offer a very basic free option, from there it’s a monthly payment

Cosmic Kids Yoga

Yoga to help your kids get “stronger” and “wiser”. What’s better than that? They use stories and characters to help kids connect with the moves. There are heaps of videos to chose from with more constantly being added, and different playlists depending on what your child prefers. Harry Potter Yoga. Star Wars Yoga etc. Looks like it’s free, with options to support via their Patreon page.

ABC Reading Eggs

Great resources for pre schoolers — although there are options for kids aged two to 13. Plenty of games and activities and a rewards-based system which the kids enjoy. The program also includes a library, where kids can click buttons to turn the page and have the books read to them. It’s accessible via a subscription. We’ve received a subscription free through our childcare, I wonder if support may be offered to make this free for kids during this period. We will see.

Minecraft Educational pack 

Released for free by Microsoft and Mojang, the pack includes a number of free educational lessons for kids stuck at home, They’re available in the ‘Minecraft Marketplace, in the new education section. Play with your kids and/or with others virtually.

Zindzi Okenyo, on Instagram

This is so wonderful. Every day on Instagram at 4pm, the ABC’s Zindzi Okenyo is reading a new story to young kids. She does it again at 7pm for older kids. Great idea and an excellent opportunity to connect in real time!

Some ideas from Chloe Hawcroft (thank you!), who notes that “creativity is born out of boredom)

  • Get kids involved in food prep and simple cooking. She suggests ‘Vegemite scrolls’ using puff pastry sheets, melted butter, parmesan, a smear of Vegemite, rolled up and baked for 15 minutes (until they look cooked)
  • Balloon ‘hop’ (we call it balloon tennis in our house), kids love hitting a balloon around the house and not too much can go wrong!
  • Circulate toys, bring out old toys that you thought they’d never play with again
  • Create cubby houses with cushions and sheets over couches, chairs etc. Create a reading corner for older kids
  • Keep those cardboard toilet roll holders once the precious toilet paper is gone! Turn them into various objects, like roller coasters, sliders, swords etc. Get kids to create their own amusement parks with different facilities around the house
  • Use iMovie of a similar app and get kids to create their own short movies (this can lead to hours of fun)

Code Camp World 

An awesome program for kids of a wide range of ages learning the basics of coding. Looks like they are offering free trials for a period.

The 30 day lego challenge (thank you Jean!) 

Print out this one page PDF, stick it on the fridge, and get the kids to cross off each day as they complete the challenge. My kids just did day two as I’m writing this piece, and have completed the mission from NASA to build a new rocket ship and created their own lego rollercoasters.

Pack a school lunch in the morning

Just like you’d do at school! Get the kids involved (you will have a little more time to do so) and they get to take some responsibility for how they want to eat throughout the day.

Ted-Ed@home

You’ve heard of the ‘ideas worth sharing’, how about the ‘lessons worth sharing’? This resource has been quickly launched in response to the pandemic and has a huge range of lessons for all ages presented in the slick/smart way you’d expect. Parents have the option to create lesson plans and also to get their kids involved in creating. I’ve started sampling and so far it appears to be free (with registration). You can also get their daily newsletter here. (thank you Danae!)

Nano Girl’s Lab

We spent some time trialling this offer yesterday, and learnt some pretty interesting things about hand washing and COVID-19. After watching the video, we also went and did our own experiment with pepper and water, to see for ourselves just how soap helps disperse the germs. Nano Girl offer some free videos, but this is a a paid service, with different video lessons provided each day.

Australian Children’s Television Foundation 

The ACTF have been in contact to let us know about content on their home learning page, as well as newsletters and social media resources for parents seeking options. They suggest television shows for learning that you can stream online, and offer ‘support questions’ parents can use to help their kids in the process. All partnering libraries will be free until April 16. Janine Kelly from ACTF has also shared these seven free (and educational) ways to entertain your kids at home.

Twinkl.com.au

Twinkl has made all their teaching and learning resources free until mid April, with the code CVDTWINKLHELPS. They have daily timetables to support learning, and plenty of teaching resources that align with the Australian curriculum, from early childhood to year ten.

Online class catchups (thank you Natalia) 

Is this something you could set up with your class, even through a smart phone? This could be an option for parents to work together to schedule twice weekly times for sharing videos through WhatsApp, Zoom or something else — perhaps offering a theme each time such as: dress ups, story time, show and tell, puppets, cooking basic meals, homemade instruments, craft.

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