You’ve probably spent a lot of time figuring out how to keep the kids busy and entertained this summer while making sure they’re safe during the pandemic. If you’re worried the summer slide might be even worse than usual, we’ve found free virtual fun ways to help the kids learn new skills, volunteer and stay entertained this summer—all while respecting social distancing guidelines, and without spending a dime.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
With Varsity Tutors, kids and teens ages 5-18 can enroll in weeklong, interactive sessions through August. Classes range from making a LEGO movie and playing chess to coding and learning human anatomy to creating a hands-on science lab and learning about dinosaurs—and some even have celebrity teachers. Each session starts on Monday and ends on Friday. New classes are added daily—you just need to reserve a spot. At School on Wheels, older kids can volunteer tutoring services to others. After applying online, kids will do some training before they’re matched with a student. Ages 12-15 may tutor with an adult family member or guardian and ages 16-18 can become peer tutors. Volunteers are typically asked to dedicate one hour per week between 3-7 pm. Sign up now. at schoolonwheels.org.
Thanks to UNICEF Kid Power, kids can spend their extra energy with free dance, yoga and activity videos. They can play UNICEF Kid Power Ups to unlock food that’ll be delivered to malnourished children—that way, your kids can be empowered to help others in a time when they might feel out of control. They can also try the Kid Power Exchange to plant trees, give meals and gift supplies to local doctors. Try it now
GAME AND LEARN
PBS Kids offers online games on topics like feelings, math, coloring, adventures, teamwork and more for ages 3-9. These programs offer entertainment and education on things like problem solving, measurement, healthy habits and vocabulary. The website, pbskids.org, has a daily newsletter with activities and tips for kids to play and learn at home. Camp Wonderopolis uses Maker experiments to explore interactive STEM and literacy-building foundations. Kids of all ages will learn science and reading comprehension, plus build vocabulary and literacy skills. They’ll select an avatar and visit six different tracks of exploration, plus use Wonder Cards to test their memory and share experiences on the Wonder Wall with other campers. Camp topics include music, construction and engineering, health and fitness and more. Ages 2-7 can hop on the Khan Academy Kids app (it doesn’t have ads or require a subscription), which uses animal characters to encourage drawing, storytelling, coloring and other activities that teach reading, language, writing, math and stimulate skills like social and emotional development, problem-solving and motor development.
Combine music, science and color theory with this experiment, inspired by The Sound of Music. With a few glass bottles and food coloring, your kids can fill the bottles and create colors, then use utensils to gently tap the glass and perform their own version of “Do-Re-Mi.” Full instructions here.
TURN ON THE RADIO
SiriusXM will host Camp KPL throughout the summer, each weekday from noon to 3 pm, with shows available on demand for two weeks after. The series will host outdoor activities, creative projects, play family-friendly music and more. There’ll also be a daily storytime, a kid’s comedy club, Guinness World Record challenges and daily missions. While SiriusXM is typically a paid service, you can access four months for free.
OPEN A BOOK
Using Start with a Book’s summer science programs, download toolkits that include fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, vocabulary and writing prompts. Programs include topics like space rangers, river rangers, literacy in the sciences and DIY space camp (with categories like archaeology, flight, bees and more). Download an adventure tracker and reading log. If you have a library card, you can download the Libby app and access your local library’s e-books and e-audiobooks from your devices. Once you download the app and enter your barcode, see which perks and resources your library has available, like magazines, movies or music. If you’re looking for more resources, like animated books or educational shows, your library code will also grant you access to them on theKanopy app.
CODE ALL SUMMER
TAKE A TOUR
Programs like Google Arts & Culture provide virtual tours of museums, parks and natural icons. Your family can visit Yellowstone National Park or the Champs-Élysées without leaving home. Disney World is also serving up 360-degree street views on the Disney Parks website and virtual theme park rides on the Virtual Disney World YouTube channel. Check out live streams from aquariums or zoos, too, like the New England Aquarium or the Bronx Zoo.