Free and Unique Educational Resources for Your Kids During COVID-19 School Shutdowns

I work from home. Not just because of this COVID-19 weirdness, but all the time.

I (naively) thought I would be fairly equipped for what we’re experiencing. But, alas, I am not. Honestly, I am busier than I’ve been in a really long time keeping up with work, occupying my son so his brain doesn’t rot from watching YouTube gamers and unboxing videos, coordinating work-from-home schedules with my husband, and corralling the dog who, like me, is thrown off by the people-y-ness of our normally quiet work from home situation.

Early on, I thought I’d get to catch up on some scrapbooking. Instead, I’m starting to drink mid-afternoon and watching as the condition of my house further deteriorates!

 

Educational Resources: an example of a schedule

Seriously, though, after a week of spring break, I went into last week with (what I thought was) a great plan (see above) that would keep my son occupied in at least moderately educational pursuits. We’d have theme days and keep up his schedule of specials, and I’d still get in a good 6-7 hours of work each day.

However, by Tuesday mid-day, I had totally abandoned this plan. What I needed were more things that my son could do independently to keep busy. It’s tough to get much work done in 10-15 minute increments between interruptions!

So, I have spent several evenings scouring the internet for resources. I know, I know, there are a billion lists out there of things to do to “homeschool” (fully acknowledging that this is not homeschooling!) / school at home / un-school / nurture / occupy / etc. your children. My hope is that this list contains some unique resources you haven’t seen before, emphasizing independent activity and organized by topic. Bonus: these are all either completely free or are offering a free trial during COVID-19 school shutdowns!

Educational Resources

Reading and Literacy

  • Scholastic Learn at Home: New lessons each weekday with reading, videos, and activities (pre-K-grade 9)
  • ReadingIQ: 7,000 books, 700 audiobooks. Free 1-month trial (ages 2-12)
  • Audible by Amazon: Audiobooks sorted by age. Bonus: there’s a section of classics that will appeal to adults, too! Free as long as schools are closed (all ages)
  • Josh Gad (voice of Olaf!) reading books archived and updated daily (all ages, who doesn’t love Olaf?)
  • Seussville: Dr. Seuss-related activities (toddlers through early elementary)
  • Storyline Online: Celebrities reading books (all ages)
  • Story Time From Space: Astronauts read books from space (all ages)

Math

  • Math Playground: Free math games and videos (grades 1-6)
  • Math Chimp: Math videos, games, and worksheets (grades 1-8)
  • Coolmath.com for all ages, Coolmath4Kids for 12 and under, and CoolmathGames: These sites have math games, lessons, quizzes, brainteasers, manipulatives, and more. Something for every age!
  • Bedtime Math (APP): Mini daily math lessons (ages 3-9). Or check out MiniMath for preschoolers. Just search in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store!

Science

Social Sciences

  • World 101: Explore the world by region or global issue (seems like high school level)
  • iCivics: Many social studies/government scenario games (elementary school level)
  • Carmen Sandiego: Blast from the past, anyone? Games, videos, activities, and resources about geography, culture, diversity, and more! (elementary through high school)
  • Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government: Join Ben Franklin in learning all about our government (sections for ages 4-8, 9-13, and 14+)

Educational Resources

Art

  • Google Arts & Culture: Curated content from Google focusing on art, architecture, cultures from around the world, landmarks, museums, and more (all ages)
  • Art for Kids Hub: Video art projects sortable by type of project and child age (all ages)
  • TheColor.com: Free online coloring site (all ages)
  • Artrageous with Nate: YouTube channel with art lesson videos as well as art history videos (all ages)

Music

  • Chrome Music Lab: Lots of cool interactive music modules! (all ages)
  • MusicTheory.net: Basics of staffs, notes, rests, rhythms, etc. (all ages)
  • Classics for Kids: Music, composers, games, etc. to learn about classical music. There’s also a good blog post with additional resources. (grades K-5)
  • Incredibox: Your kids can make their own music. Hard to describe — you just have to see it! (all ages)
  • San Francisco Symphony: Kids can discover, listen, play, perform, conduct, and compose music! (ages 8-13)

Physical Education

Foreign Language

  • Fabulingua app: Teaches Spanish thru interactive stories (elementary ages)
  • Duolingo: Free online language courses for 35 different languages (including Klingon!) (all ages)
  • Babbel: 14 language options! They are currently offering three months free (all ages)
  • RockAlingua: Music-based Spanish learning with some free games, videos, songs, worksheets, and picture dictionaries (elementary ages)

Educational Resources

STEM and Engineering and Coding

  • TinkerCad: 3D designs, circuits, and coding – with a cool option to 3D print! (ages 5-12)
  • Scratch: code stories, games, and animations and share them. Geared toward kids ages 8-16. For kids 5-7, try Scratch Jr.
  • Aviation is Your Future: Self-paced online course for kids age 8-17. Deals with aviation terms, aspects of flight, major parts of an airplane, flight characteristics of a helicopter, and the goals of space exploration (total of six hours of video)
  • Code.org’s Hour of Code: Coding activities (all ages)
  • Pacific Science Center Curiosity at Home: Video and printable resources on a range of STEAM topics (all ages!)
  • Tynker: Fun, easy, self-paced way to learn coding. They are offering free premium access during COVID-19 closures (for kids ages 5+)

Keyboarding

  • Typing Club: Typing game with levels, badges, and stars (all ages)
  • TypeTastic: 700 games and keyboarding activities (for K-12). Free until the end of June.
  • Dance Mat Typing: Animals with British accents teach your kids to type! (elementary ages)

Educational Resources

Wellness and Mindfulness and Emotional Learning

Educational Resources

Multi-Subject Resources

  • FUNBRAIN: Educational games, books, videos, math, etc. (pre-K-grade 8)
  • BrainPOP: Multi-subject fun and games for upper elementary and middle school students. Sign up for a 30-day free trial (this will be extended through school closure). Also, check out BrainPop Jr. (grades K-3).
  • Scholastic Learn at Home: Daily lessons by grade level. Mostly science and social studies articles (can enable text-to-speech) with supporting videos, activities, etc.
  • TEDEd videos: Tons of educational videos for kids (and grown-ups!). Find a list of videos by topic.
  • National Geographic Kids: Games, videos, and activities about science, social studies, and more.
  • How Stuff Works: Just what it says!
  • Great Minds Knowledge on the Go: K-12 videos plus supporting materials: Eureka Math, PhD Science, and Wit & Wisdom lessons
  • LIVE Industry Chats: Videos about different careers (e.g., marketing, psychology, real estate, magician, etc.) as well as informational videos (World War II, drones, museum tour, virtual wetlands tour, etc). Elementary through college, each video gives  an age range. You can either register to attend live (most talks are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.) or have video emailed to you after.
  • Iowa PBS Virtual Learning Camp: Four weeks of guided online math and reading for kids ages 5-8. See the Facebook event.
  • Wonderopolis: Huge repository of answers to random questions, both articles and videos, along with thought-provoking questions and additional resources linked to each topic (all ages)
  • 450 Ivy League Courses: Free online courses in computer science, business, art and design, science, health and medicine, engineering, math, education, and more from top colleges and universities
  • edX: 2500+ college-level courses from 140 institutions across all disciplines
  • Smithsonian Institute Fun Stuff for Kids: Activities and videos across science, social studies, art, animals, history, and more
  • School Closures.org: Tons of activities which also list the level of parental involvement needed, from zero to medium to high
  • Play to Learn Preschool: Free virtual preschool with circle time and activities (preschool)
  • Pinna: Audio streaming of podcasts, audiobooks, and music geared toward kids age 3-12. They’re giving 60 days of free access with code PINNA4KIDS
  • Crash Course website & YouTube channel and Crash Course for Kids have tons of videos arranged into courses on a range of topics (all ages)
  • Smithsonian Learning Lab: A wealth of digital resources (image, video, audio, text, lessons, games, interactives, etc.) from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine major research centers, the National Zoo, and more, which can be used together, for learning (all ages)
  • CuriosityStream: Documentary streaming service 40 percent off through April 6 with code StayIn40, making it $11.99 for an annual subscription! (all ages)
  • Arcademics: Educational, language arts, and math games plus more (grades 1-6)
  • Kids Discover: Science and social studies. Free three month subscription with code FREETHREE
  • Izzit: Free videos, teachable moments, eBooks, quizzes, and current events. Topics include business, family and consumer sciences, health/PE, science and technology, math, world history, geography, economics, language arts, music, art, U.S. history, government, and civics

Educational Resources

Bonus: For Parents


What are the best resources you’ve come across to use with your kids during this time?

Sara is a NW Iowa native who moved across the state to become a Hawkeye! After her time at the U of I, she left for optometry school and residency before coming home to Iowa to start her “adult” life in Coralville. She was in clinical practice for 5 years before trying her hand at the research side of eye care, working on clinical trials in the pharma/biotech industry. Sara is a wife, mom to a 5-year-old boy, and step-mom to four teenagers! Because her son was born at 25 weeks and had a lengthy NICU stay, Sara is passionate about all things related to prematurity, especially parent support in the NICU. She loves connecting with fellow NICU moms, both online and in person. Sara also enjoys spending time with friends and extended family, reading, scrapbooking, organizing, knitting, travel, keeping up with tech trends, finding new wines to enjoy, honing her photography skills, and serving on the Family Advisory Council for UI Children’s Hospital. She’s a consultant for Jamberry Nails, too, which lets her dabble in her creative side.

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