For many Austin families, summer came before we expected it. Not the summer of pool parties, sprinkler playdates, and sparklers with neighbors after dark, but the summer of lots and lots of unexpected family togetherness. When you add in anxiety about the state of the world, an open-ended call to socially isolate, and the pressure of juggling homeschool and work, many parents are left wondering just how they will make it through these next weeks, possibly months.
If you are one of the lucky ones, your child’s school has provided you with resources for learning at home. However, even after schoolwork has been taken care of for the day, it is likely that you still have time on your hands. Thankfully, a number of organizations have created fun, engaging activities for families to enjoy together at home during these unusual times. Gather your loved ones and check them out!
Podcasts can be a lifesaver when you need a minute to make a phone call without being interrupted, or you’d just like to enjoy lunch together without the usual fifty questions. They are also a great way to unwind and connect at the end of the day. Not only does sharing a podcast and encouraging discussion afterwards help parents and children bond, it is also a sneaky way to strengthen your child’s comprehension and vocabulary.
- Circle Round – Created by parents of young children, Circle Round adapts folktales from around the world for kids aged 4 to 10. Each episode ends with an activity intended to encourage deeper conversation between parents and kids.
- Peace Out Podcast – A short story podcast for kids, which helps them calm down and relax by through visualization and breathing exercises. Great for learning mindfulness and self-regulation!
- Story Time – Original bedtime stories are released every two weeks, but these engaging stories can be listened to at any time of the day. Prior episodes are also available.
- Short and Curly – A fun-filled ethics podcasts for kids and parents with “curly” questions that spark thoughtful discussion. Kids aged 7 – 12 will especially enjoy this podcast.
Wow in The World – Each episode highlights exciting new research about space, dinosaurs, animals, technology, or human origins, and is communicated in an entertaining way.
- Sesame Street Podcast – Lovable monsters teach lessons of friendship, reading, patience, and caring.
Your family may be stuck at home, but these online resources provide you with the ability to virtually escape. There is something for everyone – you can tour an art museum, spy on animals at the zoo or take drawing lessons from an award-winning author and illustrator. Let your child choose what interests him and follow his lead. Showing you care about what your child is interested in sends a positive, loving message that he matters. We can all use a boost of security in these uncertain times!
Ranger Rick – The National Wildlife Federation has made all of its Ranger Rick digital magazines and content free to families through June, as well as its curricula, activities, and projects for the Eco-Schools program. www.rangerrick.org
PBS Kids – Sign up to receive a daily email full of activities and tips for playing and learning at home. In addition, the PBS Kids Games app offers nearly 200 educational games, which can be downloaded for offline play. www.pbskids.org
Fun Brain – Kids can sharpen their math and reading skills with fun games from this educational website. www.funbrain.com
Seussville – The parents section of this Dr. Seuss-themed website is loaded with activities, crafts, printables, recipes, guides, and themes to keep little ones busy for hours. www.seussville.com
San Diego Zoo – The San Diego Zoo Kids website offers animal stories, videos, crafts, and activities, conservation projects, games and more. www.kids.sandiegozoo.org
Yellowstone National Park – Take a virtual fieldtrip to this national park to see a mud volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, and so much more! www.nps.gov/yell
Tour a museum – Travel + Leisure has curated a collection of some of the world’s best known museums. Now you can explore famous artwork with your children, without leaving the safety of your living room. https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems – Grab some paper and pencils or crayons and join Mo Willems, author and illustrator of the popular Elephant & Piggie and The Pigeon series, to explore ways of writing and drawing. Episodes are posted each weekday at 12 p.m., and then remain online for streaming afterwards. https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/
Audible – The audiobook service is offering free streaming of a select number of children’s stories, across six languages. The service will be available “for as long as schools are closed.” www.stories.audible.com
These are unchartered waters for most of us. The best we can do during these unusual times is to try our best, and to remember what, at the end of the day, is most important; to provide a sense of loving connection for our children during a stressful time. Let’s all lower our perfection bars just a little bit, do what we can, then snuggle up to connect with one of these cool podcasts or online adventures. This too shall pass!
Alison Bogle is an Austin-based freelance writer and mom of three. She is also featured on FOX Good Day Austin every Thursday morning to talk about topics from Austin Family Magazine.