No school, no activities and no play dates makes for a lot of hours to fill for families with children sheltering in place during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you are looking for some fun media to help keep kids entertained while homebound during this extended period of social distancing, consider some of these great sites and online activities. This list will keep growing, so please send your favorite links to [email protected].
At-Home Scavenger Hunt
Rescue an abanoned astronaut – right in your own home – receiving clues and solving puzzles from San Francisco’s Adventurous, which has created an indoor version of the scavenger hunts it offers in several Bay Area locations. Puzzle kits, $15, including pre-cut paper crafts, are mailed to your home. Just text your confirmation code to start getting clues and instructions. All profits are being donated to the nonprofit Direct Relief.
Augmented Reality Story
Silicon Valley dad and author Steve DeWinter created the Hidden World Augmented Reality Interactive Story to get kids like his son off the couch and outdoors during the coronavirus shelter in place. The web app, which can be accessed from any smartphone browser, is free, but donations are appreciated. The interactive story rewards players as they move around but doesn’t track any information about players. The first story offered is Dino Park.
Golden Gate Park Virtual Concerts
Golden Gate Park is celebrating its 150th anniversary with a series of virtual concerts streaming live here. There will be music and comedy concerts on May 16 and May 30, that will celebrate the park through a virtual experience. On Saturday, May 16 at 5 p.m., viewers can enjoy a livestream special production of 2019’s Surrealistic Summer Solstice Jam, celebrating the music of 1969. The two-hour special virtual concert will feature Bay Area music legends that include: Norman Greenbaum, Country Joe McDonald, New Chambers Brothers, It’s a Beautiful Day, Ace of Cups, as well as founding members of iconic Bay Area bands like Jefferson Starship, Sly & The Family Stone, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Santana, Jerry Garcia Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Rat Dog, and The Sons of Champlin. On Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m., Debi Durst, executive producer of Comedy Day, has compiled a special concert of Comedy Day Classics, that will showcase comedians who have performed in Golden Gate Park throughout Comedy Day’s nearly 40-year history.
Oakland Museum’s New Offerings
The Oakland Museum of California is moving online, from virtual Friday Night parties with playlists from its favorite DJs to at-home learning resources and more.
Video Chats with Something Extra
AT&T is sponsoring free use of Caribu, the family-activity video-calling app, through May 24. The app uses books and activities to help little ones stay engaged while video chatting.
If movie night just isn’t the same without friends, try a Netflix Party. This new feature from Netflix allows you to synchronize your viewing with others and communicate in group chat windows.
Just because the local zoos are closed, doesn’t mean you can’t check in on the animals. The Oakland Zoo has live web cams on its elephants, sun bears, black bears and condors. The San Francisco Zoo has been posting animal videos on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to keep fans connected. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has its own live cams featuring sharks, sea otters, penguins, jellyfish and other sea life. And further south, the San Diego Zoo, often called the world’s best zoo, has live cams of numerous species and archived footage of its famous pandas who returned to China in 2019.
The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is live streaming performances and sharing learning activities.
Is your little one missing their favorite storytime? Be sure to check if it’s gone online. Charlie’s Corner bookstore in San Francisco and Linden Tree Books in Los Altos are among the bookstores and libraries across the nation continuing their storytimes online. Catch the Linden Tree storytime on Facebook Live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm and Sunday at 11am. Charlie’s Corner is sharing its storytimes on its YouTube channel, streaming live daily at noon and 3pm.
Speaking of storytimes, celebrities such as Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf from Frozen), Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner are raising money for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry by reading children’s books to kids online. Search #SAVEWITHSTORIES on social media to watch and follow. Save the Children says the money raised will help feed families struggling because of school and business closures, and support programs helping kids make up for lost classroom time. To make a one-time $10 gift, text SAVE to 20222.
Dozens of celebrities have been filmed reading children’s books for Storyline Online. Created by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, this award-winning children’s literacy website breaks down the grade level for each book and offers supplemental curriculum.
Children’s authors, too, have been live streaming storytimes to help kids combat quarantine boredom. Mac Burnett, the Oakland author behind the Jack books and other titles, has been reading to kids at 12pm via Instagram Live, and those videos remain available for followers to view for 24 hours.
Lunch Doodles w/ Mo Willems
In partnership with The Kennedy Center, the author of the Pigeon books, Mo Willems, is teaching kids how to draw and make art. Download the daily activity sheet, or grab some paper and something to draw with to join in on the fun every day at 10am in California. Share your doodle online with #MoLunchDoodles.
Regretting not hitting the library before the closures? Many libraries have ebooks and other early education resources online. The San Jose Public Library lets you apply for an e-library card online if you don’t already have an account. Check if your local library does the same.
There’s also digital library sites like the San Francisco-based SCRIBD that offer unlimited reads and audio books for a small monthly price.
Audible, Amazon’s audio books site, is streaming free for kids throughout the school closures.
The Berkeley-based Creston Books has curated a fun activity pack for kids.
Download free copies of American Humane’s Humane Heroes book series and their companion lesson plans for inspiring stories about animal rescue, rehabilitation and conservation.
Virtual Museum Visits
Take the kids on a tour of some of the most famous museums in the world from behind a computer. Here, in the Bay Area, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has games, science experiments, live web cams and a video library of cool academy moments to explore.
The Exploratorium in San Francisco has dozens of activities, videos and suggested websites to share, including those that explore the science of viruses and how they impact us.
And the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose’s virtual museum is staying connected by regularly sending out an email of fun and educational at-home activities to subscribers.
More Bay Area Destinations
Visit Fairyland online and download a seven-page coloring book filled with park icons like Ching Ling the Happy Dragon and Oswald the Bubble Elf.
The Tech Interactive has put together lesson plans for at-home activities and learning.
The Junior Art and Science Center in Oakland is live streaming and archiving storytimes, song circles and workshops. Request a virtual birthday party with a JASC instructor.
Bay Area Children’s Theatre has a interactive online playground called Creativity Corner that encourages them to use their imagination and connect with other kids.
Virtual Circle Time
Join Learn to Play Preschool’s circle time on Facebook Live every weekday at 8am PDT and enjoy the songs, stories and games your preschooler is missing from the classroom. Note its Facebook page and website have a lot of resources.
Virtual Art Class
Artist Sam Price is live streaming collage-making classes for the Palo Alto Art Center every Friday at 11am. Find past classes or view new ones here.
Activity Hero has free online kids’ art classes, plus music classes and “Little Medical School” classes for ages 4-14.
The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts is offering virtual arts lessons for kids and their families at 1pm daily on Facebook and YouTube through its Let’s Be Creative program.
Get a Zoom Room
You can also host your own circle time with your friends of any age with Zoom, a video conferencing service born out of San Jose that allows for multiple participants.
Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir is holding virtual concerts in May and June on its You Tube channel. Jazz and Beyond – A Virtual Concert will premiere on May 16 at 7:00 pm. It will feature the top two performing department choirs. Alongside vocal jazz, lighthearted contemporary works, and the latest a cappella stylings, the talents of individual singers in solos, duets, and small groups will be showcased. Spring Sing! – A Virtual Concert on
June 6 at 3:00 pm will feature 10 choirs with singers from ages 6 to 18 coming together to celebrate the year of accomplishments and acknowledge the graduating seniors.
Magical Bridge Foundation is hosting family-friendly performers on its Facebook page daily at 12 p.m.
Music Matt—a preschool music specialist named Matt Fernald—is partnering with Golden Acorn Music is live streaming and archiving 30 minutes of children’s music on weekdays, and sharing links and resources.
Storytimes, concerts and other entertainment are part of the Wide Open School free platform of home schooling resources curated by the editors at the San Francisco-based Common Sense.
Visit PBSKids and find a free 24/7 live stream of programming for young kids, plus other free resources to keep them entertained like games and on-demand educational videos. Sign up for the daily newsletter to get activities and tips delivered to your inbox.
Ranger Rick Online
School closures have prompted the National Wildlife Federation to remove its paywall and give free access to Ranger Rick online and the digital editions of its magazines through June 30. Follow its Facebook and Twitter feeds for fresh ideas and activities that connect kids to nature.
Sesame Street Online
After 50 years, Sesame Street is still one of the best entertainers and educators of young children. In response to the crisis, SesameStreet.org/caring is sharing special new content including learning activities and Muppets sharing messages of love and kindness, hand washing and staying healthy. The Sesame Workshop has also added more free on-demand episodes on PBSKids and has dozens of free Sesame Street ebooks available on major ebook platforms.
Find original series and documentaries of the educational sort streaming for free at the Smithsonian Channel Plus.