Ok, folks. This is not your standard April guide, OBVIOUSLY. All events are cancelled, of course. I still haven’t quite gotten past the surreal feeling. I know how we got here, but at the same time, how did we get here?
I’m using this guide as a place to round up a bunch of activities and online events for those of us who are staying home right now. But I would also like to emphasize that there is no need to become Activity Mom all of a sudden. If these ideas help you and your kids get through the day easier, that’s great. If it just feels like added stress, forget about it! Let them watch Frozen II six times in a row. These are unprecedented times. We’re just doing our best while we try to figure out our new normal.
Take care of yourselves. Be smart and stay home as much as possible. Things could get gnarly by the end of the month, but we have to work this out as a group. And if you are any kind of essential worker out there right now, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for keeping things running and keeping us safe. Bowing down over here, big time.
As always, don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter and have our Collin County guides sent straight to your inbox.
Note: Y’all, this is such a weird month that for the first time ever I’ve made both the Dallas guide and the Collin County guide mostly the same. Just a heads up since I usually keep them fully separate.
- Plano Libraries are closed but they’re still doing virtual story times on their Facebook page. Check out the video section for a roundup of crafts and previous story time sessions.
- KERA just launched KERA Learn!, a new lineup of curriculum-based television programs supporting at-home learning for students in more than 120 school districts across North Texas for K-12th grade. All these free programs and resources are aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.
- And don’t forget to check out this incredible list one of our senior contributors, Julie, made of creative and educational websites for kids.
- For the month of April you can get a bunch of free shows, docs, and movies on HBO GO, HBO NOW or On Demand. Click the link for a full list of what’s available.
- Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project from Craftwhack has been VERY enjoyable for kids of all ages based on my (extremely small-scale) survey. All you need is a sheet of paper and some drawing materials. Art for Kids Hub also has lots of tutorials on this kind of project. Here’s a cute Easter one.
- How to Sound like a Dog in 14 Languages :: Illustrator James Chapman covers the way animal sounds differ across languages. Poke around on his site to see different popular character names translated, different expressions from around the world, and more…
- If you’re leaning into screen time right now, you won’t hear any protest from us. If you’re trying to limit it but still throw the kids a bone, how about an animal live stream? Here are my faves: San Diego Zoo (pick your animal); the Jelly Cam, Moon Jelly Cam, and Sea Otter Cam at Monterey Bay Aquarium; and the “Currently Live” section at Explore.org.
Note: The Monterey Bay Aquarium also just added a bunch of learning-at-home activities and games that look great.
- For local zoo action, the Dallas Zoo started a Bring The Zoo To You program with virtual visits, chats with zookeepers, activity ideas, printables, and more. Also cool: The Cincinnati Zoo does a Home Safari Facebook Live at 3pm each day with a different animal visit and activity idea each time. You can see all the past ones at the link.
- Audible :: Big collection of stories for kids, free to stream on any device for as long as schools are closed.
- Libby :: Speaking of free books, get the Libby app (by OverDrive) to borrow e-books, audiobooks, and magazines from your public library. You can sort by genre and what’s available, and it tells you how long you can expect to wait if you place an item on hold.
- Scavenger Hunt Color Wheel :: Really love this idea from Amy O’Neill on Twitter. Look for objects around the house in each shade of the rainbow. Arrange them for a pic! Check out Amy’s, it’s beautiful!
- Alphabet Scavenger Hunt :: Find something in the house that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Do it together or send older kids around with a phone and have them photograph each item.
Hint: This kind of phone photo challenge is a great way to get kids out of your hair for a bit. “Take a picture of 10 things smaller than an apple. Take a picture of 10 things for each color of the rainbow.” Etc., etc.!
- My favorite home videos are from the time I set up a camera and let my kids record their own makeup tutorials. They were age 3 and 5. My son smelled everything before deciding what to apply. Highly recommend this activity, and you can share it with grandparents for a pick-me-up.
- It’s very hard for me to believe that kids these days know about Charlie Brown and Snoopy. But maybe that’s my blind spot. The Peanuts gang has teamed with Young Minds Inspired to provide a bunch of educational in-home activities for grades K-8. It looks quite good, actually.
- If you’ve never checked out Gourmet Makes, now’s a perfect time. See Claire attempt to recreate all kinds of snacks from scratch: Doritos, Oreos, Lucky Charms, Sour Patch Kids. It’s a delight.
- #GadBookClub :: Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) has been reading children’s books aloud. He does a livestream each evening but then posts the video to his feed, so don’t worry about missing it.
- Similarly, Voice Actors Read is a new Instagram page dedicated to daily children’s story times and music. And children’s book author Oliver Jeffers has a good one going each day, as well.
- NASA Kids’ Club :: NASA has a bunch of educational games and activities for kids from preK to 4th grade. We’re definitely going to make straw rockets and have a launching contest at some point.
- Highlights Kids :: This has been a good one for us. They’ve got a bunch of learning-at-home ideas, but we get particular mileage out of Hidden Pictures (and My First Hidden Pictures). You can set it to show pictures of the hidden items or just the names, so it’s good for a wide age range. Visually scanning for information is a great learning skill to practice!
- Get old-fashioned with My ’90s TV! We’ve told our kids what TV was like back in the day, but now they can see for themselves. Here’s My ’80s TV! if you want to go even further back.
- Art Museums :: Google Arts & Culture allows you to virtually visit a ton of art museums around the world. It’s truly an amazing resource. WHY was I not aware of it before??
- The Laurie Berkner Band is getting involved, posting video performances of children’s music every weekday for Berkner Breakfast (7am) and Berkner Breaks during the day.
- Cosmic Kids Yoga :: Yoga, mindfulness, and relaxation designed for kids ages three and up. You know it, you love it. More than homeschool, right now I’m focusing on my kids’ mental wellness, as they are surely picking up on our heightened stress levels despite my best efforts.
- Parry Gripp MEGA PARTY dance party playlist. You may not like it, but THE KIDS WILL.
- Jackbox Games :: In light of recent pandemic events, they’re giving away Drawful 2 for 3 weeks starting March 20. It’s a super fun game, and you can play remotely with family & friends!
- We’re all well aware of GoNoodle at this point, but if you haven’t checked them out since we’ve been homebound, I recommend it. Their Good Energy at Home section, in particular!
- Lunchtime Doodles :: Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus) leads weekday drawing classes from his home with a nice, chill vibe.
- Art Lessons :: More art classes!
– Wendy MacNaughton is an art teacher/illustrator who does a daily Instagram Live drawing class M-F at noon.
– Carson Ellis has a Quarantine Art Club offering daily prompts on IG.
– Draw Everyday with JJK are great daily instructional videos for learning how to illustrate a story or comic. Best for slightly older kids.
– Drawing with Toddlers is a daily Instagram Live series with children’s book illustrator E.B. Goodale on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30am.
- Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants, Dog Man) just launched Dav Pilkey at Home, featuring creative project ideas and a new drawing lesson video every Friday morning.
- Harry Potter at Home is another new one! Bringing Hogwarts to you with crafts, puzzles, quizzes, articles, etc. for both first-time readers and longtime stans.
- Since puzzles are having a real moment right now, I wanted to shout out Serious Puzzles. They are open for online orders of puzzles and board games and seem to be very transparent about how they are helping their employees and keeping them safe. I like it!
- If you’re competent in the kitchen, give yourself a challenge and use the oldest thing in your pantry. I was making soup the other day and wanted to thicken it with some cornstarch. Just out of curiosity, checked the expiration date – 2013!!! Thanks to Google, I learned that unless there’s bugs in it, cornstarch basically lasts forever. So yeah, I used it.