15 ways to keep your kids educated and entertained from home

From virtual tours of the world’s greatest landmarks to renowned academic lessons, this is how to stay enlightened during the coronavirus pandemic.

people standing at volcano in Hawaii
Children and adults alike can explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, shown here, thanks to a new virtual platform from the National Park Service. (© NPS Photo/Janice Wei)

In recent weeks, as schools remain closed in Northern Virginia for the rest of the academic year and parents set up work-from-home stations in their homes, we’ve been forced to rethink our day-to-day routines. The bright side is that this global pandemic hit us in the 21st century, a time where digital access is flourishing and information is just a mere click away. 

Whether you’re at home with little learners who have yet to master the challenges of addition or are met with bored teenagers who seek to stimulate their minds, we’ve got you covered. Find online art competitions from a local dentist, live videos of Mei Ziang (the National Zoo’s panda), free access to Ivy League courses and so much more to educate, inform and entertain everyone in your family, below.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Williems!
Daily, 1 p.m.
Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence Mo Williems is coming to your homes during this unprecedented quarantine—virtually, that is. Once a day, Williems goes live on the Kennedy Center website, giving your youngsters the chance to follow along with his drawings and create a doodle of their own. Simply grab some paper, pens, pencils or crayons and join Williems in an hour of creativity, drawing everything from a naked mole rat to a spaceship. 

Local Kids Art Competition from VK Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Peter and his staff of VK Pediatric Dentistry are offering a free, art-filled competition through social media for local kiddos to participate in during this trying time. Every other day, the practice will post a topic of inspiration on its social media accounts for kids to draw or paint, and then you can submit the final product to info@smilewithvk.com or simply tag the practice on Instagram. At the end of each week, VK Pediatric will select several talented winners. Over $500 in prizes are available. 

Activity Bundles from Robcyns
Robcyns, the Alexandria-based boutique known for its dancewear and accessories, is now offering Activity Bundles for preschool and elementary school children who are hanging out at home. The packages include items like STEAM-based games, activity pads for those practicing their ABCs, trivia card sets and more. To receive the bundles priced between $40 and $60, all you have to do is call the shop, choose curbside pickup or delivery (free if you live in Fairlington, Shirlington or Alexandria City), and you’re good to go. Searching for something specific? The staff can help by customizing bundles based on age and interests. 

National Zoo Webcams
The National Zoo may be closed, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t still check up on the animals within its grounds. Thanks to the organization’s 24/7 live webcams, the entire family can watch the two giant pandas, Mei Ziang and Tian Tian, as well as the lions, naked mole-rats and elephants roam, run and play about their enclosures. As staff is not on-site to move the cameras, there may be times where animals are not visible. 

Smithsonian Learning Lab
Consisting of 19 museums, nine major research centers, the National Zoo and more, the Smithsonian Institute is here to provide learners of all ages with the resources needed to discover together in this inconsistent time, even if it has to be online. The Lab is a free, interactive platform intended to encourage kids to discover, create and share now while in quarantine and for years to come. From video courses on language arts to tests on specific science topics, you can find it all in one place.   

As coronavirus concerns have led to the closing of schools throughout Northern Virginia, Arlington-based and nationally known PBS is taking action by debuting a weekday newsletter for parents and kids alike to stay enriched. The newsletter will include activities and tips you can use at home to keep children active, educated and entertained during the workday. Plus, PBS offers three free, educational, app-based resources—one for on-demand videos, one with nearly 200 interactive games and a third with series specifically for youngsters ages 2 through 8. 

Virtual Museum Tours
Calling all history and art buffs: Google Arts & Culture has partnered with over 2,500 museums and galleries from across the globe to feature collections through online exhibits and street views, letting users explore well-established spaces for free. If your kiddo is craving a trip to the local Smithsonian, check out exhibits from DC’s National Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collection, the National Portrait Gallery and so much more, all while staying in pajamas. Don’t know where to start? Here’s Google’s list of the top 10 must-see museums for virtually exploring. 

Ranger Rick of the National Wildlife Federation
From now until the end of June, the National Wildlife Federation is giving residents near and far free, online access to its magazine for 7- to 10-year-olds, Ranger Rick. The publication offers crafting worksheets, an educator’s guide, online games and many more ways to stay engaged in the natural world, even when you can’t step out into it. 

Access Mars
Is your kid fascinated by space? Now, thanks to the talented scientists from NASA, your future astronaut can explore the real surface of Mars via a 3D replica, exactly as it was recorded by the organization’s Curiosity Rover. As your kiddo walks along the service via a Google-Maps-like program, Katie Stack Morgan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will share must-know information about the complex planet.  

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks
The National Park Service is inviting explorers young and old to take in the breathtaking views of our nation’s National Parks. From glaciers of Kenai Fjords in Alaska to the mystifying terrain of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, kiddos will be guided by an experienced park ranger on a rare, virtual tour of several sites. Expert tip: Wear headphones to fully immerse yourself in the adventure. 

Khan Academy
While it may not be based in the DMV, Khan Academy is a great tool for little learners and teens alike to advance their knowledge on all subjects while schools in Virginia remain closed for the rest of the academic year. The free platform offers practice lessons and tests in grammar, science, writing, history, math and more for children in grades K through 12. Plus, for those practicing for AP exams and the SATs, Khan Academy has programming for you too. 

Audible Stories
As of last week, Amazon’s platform Audible launched Audible Stories, a free collection of children’s tales, including titles across six different languages, that will provide a little entertainment for young learners. Within the collection, you’ll find options for babies, elementary students, tweens, teens, and also a wide variety of literary classics for teenagers. 

Create a Van Gogh-Inspired Masterpiece
Social distancing at home is the perfect time to embrace you and your kiddo’s creativity. Lucky for you, Amsterdam’s very own Van Gogh Museum is offering free coloring pages of famous Van Gogh masterpieces, giving your aspiring artist the chance to draw the works of a true legend. These pages are great for artistic teens who want to practice their precision and consistency. 

Free Online Courses from Ivy League Schools
Whether you’re a college student who was sent home early from an academic year or an adult who is simply craving a little knowledge, the doors to prestigious education have just opened, as all eight Ivy League schools are offering hundreds of online courses to the public for free. Founder of the online course aggregator Class Central, Dhawal Shah compiled a list of more than 400 noteworthy courses, ranging from data sciences at Columbia University to political existentialism from Princeton University. The one course garnering the most attention right now? The Science of Well-Being from Yale—the university’s most popular course which begins Wednesday, March 25—and already has 1,153,774 individuals enrolled.   

Everywhere Book Fest
May 1-2
The recently launched Everywhere Book Fest is set to be a virtual gathering of all things books. For two days, the festival will open its virtual doors and release live and pre-recorded sessions with authors from across the globe, which are still being chosen. From picture books to young-adult reads, the wide variety of authors will share their insight on past and new work, as well as tips for maintaining an education while at home. Interested in joining a panel for yourself? Submit an application here.

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