Start a coronaproject: 17 ways for kids to grow during lockdown

Start a coronaproject: 17 ways for kids to grow during lockdown

A coronaproject is basically the best way to make the most of a really tough situation. No kid enjoys being stuck at home 24/7 with their family, least of all older kids. It’s sheer torture, really. We get that. Newsflash: we’re not having the greatest time right now either, kids.

This is where a coronaproject can help make the days go by faster. It’s basically finding something to build on each day during isolation. It might be a fitness challenge, or learning something new. It can be anything that will give you a really nice ‘before’ and ‘after’ (BAA) comparison when the COVID-19 bans are lifted and we’re all allowed out.

The thing is, you don’t need to do A LOT each day to achieve a good BAA. “Take a habit you want, make it tiny,” says BJ Fogg, behavior scientist and researcher at Stanford University and author of Tiny Habits – The small changes that change everything. “Find where it naturally fits in your life, and nurture it’s growth. If you want to create long-term change, it’s best to start small.”

He advises people to start with three very small behaviours, or even just one, that you can do in less than thirty seconds. So, if you want to get super-strong, you start with just one push-up. If you want to play Beethoven, you start learning your very first note.

Fogg advises mastering each push-up or note before moving onto the next, but for the purposes of a coronaproject, let’s take it day by day. Do one small thing each day until you master it, then the next day you can move onto adding another small thing. 

Here are some examples of a coronoaproject your kids might like to get stuck into. It’s all about optimising the time we have doing not-much-at-all at home. It’s a great idea to make a short video journal each day, monitoring your progress.


This is helpful too: 40+ free online activities for kids


Find a coronaproject to build on

1. Learn a language

Learning a language is quite possibly the coronaproject we all need. The world is coming together more than ever and languages are our way into different cultures.

You can use apps like Rosetta Stone (free for students until end-June) or Duolingo to start from scratch learning a new language. Set yourself a goal of a word a day (the BJ Fogg approach) or 5 or 10 words if you want to speed things along. Each of these apps has a daily program that you can stick to. Rype is another good program that guides you through (it’s only free for 7 days though, so learn fast!).

2. Push-up challenge

I did this last year as a 100 day challenge, going from WTAF-zero push-ups to doing 100 pushups in a row. Then I stopped and now I can do about 10 push-ups without wanting to kill myself. I think I am ready to build up to 100 again – maybe you are too? This website will help you get there, building on what you can already do and working you up to doing 100 push-ups within six weeks.

We’d better all check our perfect push-up form before beginning. This video is worth watching over and over… 🤪

3. Read 10 books

Make a pile of 10 books you want to read… this might be a virtual pile, if your library has already closed. Hopefully you’ve got some books at home, plus you can order a few in from an online bookstore like Booktopia.

Start at the top of the pile and get reading. Make it a daily habit – maybe 20 minutes in the morning after breakfast and before school; 20 minutes at night before lights out. See how fast you can get through your book pile. If you’ve got a friend who also enjoys reading, you can challenge each other to see who can read all the books first. No cheating!

If you’re not a keen reader, or just want to start smaller, commit to reading a page a day until the first book is finished. Then move onto the next… Don’t just make this a coronaproject, though. Reading is a project for life.

PS – you can get loads of kids’ books via Audible for free for a while.

Having ‘no time’ has been the perfect excuse not to have a go at something we know is going to be really tough.

4. Master an instrument

Many of us have ‘always wanted’ to learn an instrument. Having ‘no time’ has been the perfect excuse not to have a go at something we know is going to be really tough. Now we have time, so no more excuses. Here are some good lessons in some common ‘gunna learn’ instruments.

The key here is to commit to daily practise, not just as a coronaproject, but forever. Find a good time to fit it into your regular schedule. If you’re doing school online at the moment, practising during recess might work for you. Don’t try to go in too hard, either. The BJ Fogg method would suggest that five minutes a day, every day, for weeks is far better than 20 minutes every now and then for a week until you give up because it’s all too hard.

5. Beep test

The beep test is an ingenious torture tool that helps you get stronger, faster and fitter. You set up two points, about 20 metres apart and basically try to run between them before the next beep sounds. The beeps can stay the same distance apart (it’s only you who gets tireder and slower), or you can set it to speed the beeps up to really test yourself. You can set the beeps to match your level of fitness, and increase their speed as you get stronger and faster.

Of course, you can use the beeps to challenge yourself to do anything between the beeps – getting X number of burpees done between beeps is particularly excruciating. Download a beep test app to get you started.

6. Take up ballet (or another style of dance)

Coronaproject for kids - ballet lessons at home

Kathryn Morgan is a former soloist with the New York City Ballet. She has over 300 videos uploaded to her YouTube channel taking you through every aspect of ballet. This one is really for those who have done ballet before (so definitely for anyone who is unable to attend ballet classes right now, but wants to keep on dancing). Lazy Dancer Tips or Holistic Ballet are for the rest of us. Daily exercises that should take us from ‘what’s the point’ to ‘pointe’ in no time.

Other dance styles to explore (I’m ever hopeful that my whole fam will do some line dancing as a coronaproject, but so far… it’s a hard no):

7. Learn to draw

There are worse ways to spend your days than creating a picture a day as your coronaproject. You can find loads of drawing classes online to help you build skills. Some of our favourites include:

Skillshare has loads of art classes on offer. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial to see if it’s for you. To match up with the self-reflection that these coronatimes have brought to us all, I would recommend:

It’s nice to have a drawing book dedicated to any of these projects. That way you get to keep a memento of your drawing skills improving.

The world’s great chefs are all stuck in lockdown too, and they’re making dinner.

8. Become a better cook

Could this be the ultimate coronaproject-that-keeps-on-giving? Set the kids the goal of learning X number of dishes during the COVID-19 lockdown. The world’s great chefs are all stuck in lockdown too, and they’re making dinner.

Of course, being taught how to cook via television and video is nothing new. I work for SBS Food, so I’m constantly exposed to amazing cooking shows you can stream for free. Current faves include:

Cooking is a great coronaproject

9. Write a short story

Or even a novel. Creative writing is best performed as an everyday skill. You build on your writing each day and just get better at it. Imagine starting today and having some fully-developed stories to your name at the end of the quarantine period.

The best course around for adolescents is Allison Tait’s Creative Writing Quest through the Australian Writers’ Centre. It’s a bit exy at $245, but the course is self-paced, so kids can take their time. You get real-life feedback from a top author, too. This is one of the only online Australian creative writing classes aimed at kids.

If you don’t mind a course that’s pitched at adult-level, you can work through the basics for free online. Try one of these:

10. Learn photography

Take up photography for a photo a day

If you’ve got a digital camera kicking around, the kids might like to take their iphoneography to the next level. They’ll be able to capture what it’s like living with social distancing while they’re at it.

A good way to make this a challenge is to commit to taking a photo a day. You can upload it to Instagram or an app like 1 Second Everyday (perfect for budding videographers too). If you’re stuck for ideas of what to snap a picture of, join an Instagram Photo a Day community.

11. Start sewing

Another life skill that seems to have skipped our generation. Perhaps our kids can bring it back? It’s actually very frustrating having to pay someone to hem a skirt or sew on a button. Really simple things that are pretty easy to do. It’s time to learn how to do these tasks so they can just be… done.

Made To Sew – has a really simple beginners sewing course via YouTube. It’s good for hand sewing, or machine sewing, if you happen to own a sewing machine (many of us have a dusty one somewhere).

To set this up as a challenge, get some basic skills under your (hand-crafted, of course) belt, then try making everything on one of these lists:

12. Do the splits

There are certain things we can all do as little kids that we stop doing and then just can’t… like the splits. Work your way up to a full split during the coronacrisis and then do the splits every day for the rest of your life. That’s how you stay amazing!

The YouTube video is very motivating, but this article will better help the absolute beginners. Mind you, it’s going to take a lot longer than the COVID-19 lockdown for me to get my legs doing anything resembling the splits!!

Beginning of the lockdown = no pizza oven. End of the lockdown = do you like pineapple on your pizza or no?

13. Build a pizza oven

Build your own pizza oven during COVID-19 lock-down

We all say we want our own woodfire pizza oven, but none of us wants to lay down around 1000 bucks to make it happen. Well, we don’t have to. With kid-power as the driving force behind this coronaproject and a few materials from the hardware store (get in while it’s still open!), we are set. This step-by-step tutorial is good, even for total beginners like most of us.

Beginning of the lockdown = no pizza oven. End of the lockdown = do you like pineapple on your pizza or no?

14. Sing, sing, sing

Every time someone says “I can’t sing”, somewhere a little birdie stops singing. Because just like that little bird, we all have pure, natural, beautiful song within us. It’s time to let your inner-birdie out. Start with some singing lessons:

Then join one of the glorious online choirs springing up everywhere. Couch Choir is a great place to let your song out.

You can meet up with them on Facebook here. #goals

15. Send a letter a day

The lost art of letter writing deserves a revival. Especially as we are all online a lot A LOT right now. Get out the paper / card / postcard and pen and write a letter a day until the coronacrisis is over. Write to your gran, your friends, your teachers, the neighbour, your cousins… or a complete stranger. You can match up with a pen pal here or send postcards with your deepest, darkest secrets here.

16. Become a runner

This is an especially good one for anyone who rejoiced when they realised the cross country would be cancelled this year due to COVID-19. Gasp, it’s way too soon for our kids to stop running a measly three to five kilometres. We want to be running those kinds of distances daily into old age. Like we do. Ha! Maybe we need to make running our coronaproject too?

The Couch to 5K app is justifiably famous. This UK NHS guide to using the app should be too. Now, the only thing to do is to actually get off the couch and begin.

17. Crochet a blanket

Coronoproject - granny squares

I’ve always wanted to learn how to crochet, but it’s not something I’ve ever managed to do. Pip Lincolne from Meet Me At Mike’s has the simplest crochet tutorials to start us off from scratch. In 10 lessons she takes us from a ball of wool and a crochet hook to a thing of beauty. You could commit to crocheting one granny square a day during the coronacrisis to end up with a blanket by the end. Let’s hope you finish with a lap blanket, rather than a super king…

What’s your kids’ ultimate coronaproject?

More to help you through right now:

Feature image by Andrea Piacquadio; ballet by Kyle Head ;  cooking by Dane Deaner; photography by Christian Wiediger; pizza dough by Nadya Spetnitskaya; crochet by Pip Lincolne

Keep busy and growing during COVID-19 lockdown

How to support learning from home when you’re working

How to support learning from home when you’re working

We’ve all been thrown well and truly in the deep end right now. How are we supposed to support learning from home when we are, in fact, working from home ourselves? We’ve been doing it for a few days now and day one I. was. done. So done.

But I can’t be done. And you can’t be done either. Because this thing is just getting started. The kids are going to be learning from home for weeks, maybe even months. So, day two I took a deep breath, did some research and put some systems in place. Days 3 and 4 have been much, much better. I hope these tips help make learning from home easier at your place too.


This should help too: 40+ free online resources for older kids


 

11 tips to support kids learning from home

First of all, keep in mind that we aren’t teachers and this isn’t forever. If you don’t have the time or skills to provide a robust home curriculum for your child, don’t sweat it. We are living through extraordinary times. If it turns out to be weeks worth of excess screen time, then so be it. Some kids will be self-motivated to get on with things, others won’t be able to muster the energy to open a book. We get what we get. Please, don’t beat yourself up.

Most of us have work obligations to attend to every day and it’s impossible to closely monitor what the kids are up to at any moment. Talk to them about giving their best. The responsibility to make this work is really on them, sad but true.

1. Start with the school

Some schools will be providing every class online, some will only be able to offer a few. Check with your kids and the school what the set up is. With a bit of luck, Google Classroom and Zoom, your older kids should be able to work relatively independently most of the day, following their regular timetable.

If your school hasn’t been in touch with information and instructions, send in an email to request clarification. Try not to call the school as they are currently inundated with confused parents (and who can blame us, but I promise, it’s not the fault of the individual school).

2. Keep to a timetable

If your school is running their regular timetable, this will be all done for you. If not, try to work out a timetable for your family that covers the basics. Divide the school day into each subject and give your child access to resources that will help them in that subject. If you have the time, it would be great to schedule exactly what the kids should be studying each day. But most parents will not have the time (or possibly even the skills) to do this. A broad outline works just fine during these challenging times.


It all starts with the routine: How your family can survive self-isolation without killing each other


3. Ban things outright

I’ve banned the word ‘stop’ in my home. Otherwise my three just scream ‘stop, stop, stop’ at each other all day every day, like that’s ever the way to bring something to a close. I think I must have overdone the ‘stop’ training when they were little. Anyway, it drives me bonkers, so right now it is a word that is in the freezer.  My point is, you will have your own stupid-thing-that-drives-me-to-the-brink and now is the time to outright ban it. Gone.

4. Carve out some space

In our experience, learning from home is noisy. There’s the Zoom conferencing. There’s the discussions over Facetime with classmates. Even with headphones on, it’s noisy. So if you can find a private, dedicated space for each person to work from, that’s ideal. Of course, in some homes the only possibility is everyone around the dining room table, and that’s okay too. Just get some rules in place for noise levels and do remember to pack away school stuff at the end of the day to provide some closure.

At home learning tips to get by

5. Pack a lunchbox

Maybe you’re relishing a few weeks off lunchbox duty, but I found I missed it. I am not always free at the kids’ school lunchtime to whip up a sambo. I’m sticking with packing them a lunchbox the night before, so all of their tomorrow food is taken care of. Then I don’t have to think about it again.


Great ideas for lunches here.


6. Stick with bedtimes and wake times

It’s still a school day, so school night time bedtimes are on around here. Once school holidays roll around, we’ll let up on the timings. Until then, we’re sticking with getting as much sleep in as possible and waking at our regular time in the morning.

7. Set some projects

When kids are learning at home it makes you realise that there’s a lot of down time in classes. All the time it takes to move from one class to another (high school), settle the class, transition from one activity to another – your kid doesn’t have that at home. So there will be times where they are idle and most likely moaning about being bored.

Have a few ideas up your sleeve for them to work on within each subject to keep them occupied. You’ll find loads of ideas here, but to summarise per subject:

8. Get off screens at break times

During break times, the kids need a break from screens. Online learning is a killer on the eyes. Get them to write a list of things they like to do that don’t involve a screen (some will struggle) and get them to pick one off the list to do each lunch time. Many of the activities should be active. The only exception to the no screen rule should be using Zoom to conference call a bunch of friends to eat lunch with.

Remember to go outside during learning from home

9. End the day

Create some rhythm in their day by having a little ritual to end the school day and transition to the afternoon. This could be as simple as coming together to eat something small for afternoon tea. Or something more elaborate like heading out for a walk around the neighbourhood. You could even just play a simple music tune that everyone loves and encourage a bit of dancing. Whatever it is, do something. Otherwise, the days just blend into nothing.

10. Check on the kids

We made sure the kids know that their learning right now is their responsibility. Their teacher will be expecting them in the Zoom classroom for each lesson, ready to go. Homework is still being set, as far as I can tell. So, my kids can pretty much get on with things. However, I am still checking in regularly. 

  • To see if they need any support
  • To see that they are actually working on school stuff
  • To help them feel less isolated

Take it from someone who has worked from home for nine years: it can be a long, lonely day by yourself at your desk.

11. Screens down, go outside

Kids will be sitting on their butts in front of a screen all day for school. They don’t need a load of extra butt-sitting-screen-time outside of those hours. My kids DO NOT like this rule, but I think it’s necessary to stop them turning into the size of a barn during the COVID-19 crisis. So, it’s screens down after the school day and outside for at least a couple of hours. My kids are going for long walks, exercising with our punching bag, swimming in the pool, shooting some hoops, taking a guitar outside to practise, weeding the garden (thanks kids), etc. 

12. Stay in touch

Your school should be in touch regarding their plans and what is expected of your child. We’ve had emails from the majority of our kids’ teachers, but not all. Don’t hesitate to contact individual teachers if you’re not sure of the work your child is expected to do. If you don’t think online learning at home is working in some subjects, you also need to let the school know. Our kids only get one chance at this year of education, so we need to support them to make the most of it.

Feature image by bruce mars; Girl at computer image by Tran Mau Tri Tam; skateboard  by shawn henry

The best tips to support kids learning from home

“I need your best right now”: How to ask kids to step up

“I need your best right now”: How to ask kids to step up

These here are troubled times and many of us have some very troubled kids on our hands. It’s hard to shield them from the COVID-19 news, and as the kids get older we need to ask ourselves if it’s even wise to. 

“COVID-19 is contagious … and so is mood,” says author of The Elite and psychology consultant Dr Jo Lukins. “If we are overly anxious our children will pick up on those cues, which is unlikely to be helpful for them. Educating our children as best we can is important.”

Dr Lukins advises us to remind our kids that feeling worried and concerned right now is perfectly normal. The fact that we are “all in this together” is actually a really good time to appeal to our children’s sense of community and tap into their innate kindness.

“We each have a job to do right now to look after ourselves, so we can look after others,” says Jo.

Ask kids to step up during COVID-19

Ask kids to step up when things are down

Considering the stress that our society is currently under, it’s more than fair to ask kids to step up and give us their best right now. This is possible for kids of all ages, but especially true for older kids. In the middle of everyday battles with our adolescents, we can sometimes forget just how capable and understanding they can be. Right now, we are asking them to look beyond their own needs and care for the needs of others.


Related: Life got easier when I tried unparenting


 

“It is entirely possible to encourage our teens to step at a time of crisis because this aligns with their natural tendencies and stage of development,” says Rachel Tomlinson, Registered Psychologist and founder of Toward Wellbeing. “As our children develop their desire to become autonomous and responsible increases. This is particularly strong in our teenagers, a normal part of their development is to become independent. Part of that is learning how to make good decisions, problem solve and essentially step up their responsibilities in preparation for being capable young adults.”

Asking for our children’s best can take many different forms, but looking after the home and each other is a good place to start. Families will be spending a lot more time together at home over the coming months, so pitching in to make home as comfortable as possible is more important now than ever.

“Always think about the strengths and abilities of your child when you think about ways that they can step up,” says Rachel. “When a young person is able to step up, achieve and take responsibility they feel pretty good about themselves. Taking on appropriate responsibilities improves self esteem as well as self efficacy – the belief in themselves as being capable.”

Giving specific instructions

When we ask kids to step up to help or support, we need to be as specific as possible. Tween and teen brains are not yet wired to ‘see’ the big picture, so kids are unlikely to just pitch in and get things done simply because they need doing.

“The prefrontal cortex of the brain is still putting on a few of the finishing touches during adolescence,” explains Rachel. “It’s the part of the brain that deals with logic and reasons, so that’s why we sometimes scratch our heads or don’t understand why our kids don’t “think” before they act… it’s not their fault, their brain is still working on that area of skill.”

By asking kids to contribute and be responsible, and offering them specific examples of how they can do so, gets them practicing and using that part of the brain.


Helpful: 16 powerful TED Talks for parents of teens


 

Instead of, “please clean the kitchen”, try saying, “please empty the dishwasher, sweep the floors, and wipe down the benches.”

Instead of, “look after your little brother while I work”, try saying, “can you please spend half and hour kicking a soccer ball around the back garden with your little brother while I get this important report done.”

Instead of, “stop fighting with your sister”, try saying, “I know it’s frustrating spending so much time together, so I want you to each write down three things you love about each other before saying another mean thing.” Or something like that, anyway!

How to ask kids to step up and give their best right now

Helping out versus full responsibility

When we ask kids to step up, we are asking them to take responsibility for not only themselves, but the happiness of others. Having set chores to do is one thing, but taking full responsibility for an area of family life is quite another. This might be things like:

  • keeping the kitchen tidy throughout the day;
  • walking and feeding the family pets;
  • making meal plans and ordering food online;
  • keeping younger children occupied;
  • keeping the laundry from piling up;
  • stripping and washing the family’s bed sheets regularly;
  • dusting and vacuuming rooms used frequently.

The best thing about giving them reign over a particular area is that he kids will need to completely own it, no excuses.

“They will also feel a sense of pride in helping contribute to the family,” says Rachel. “So there are potential benefits of strengthening relationships with your teen by working together for the same cause.” She also notes that it will give us plenty of opportunities to appreciate our kids’ hard work and tell them how amazing they are.” Noted!

All in this… separately

One of the key pain-points for families right now is sibling conflict. Spending lots of time together can be kryptonite for sibling harmony.

“My kids don’t get along at the best of times,” says Mumlyfe reader, Jillian, whose family is one week into their self-quarantine after arriving home from a holiday. “Right now they are literally spending 24 hours together and the stress is diabolical.”

An obvious solution is to give the kids their own space at home, but in Jillian’s case, a tiny inner-city apartment that doesn’t even have a balcony is making that impossible. “We are literally in each others laps half the time, never mind trying to do work or schooling. We usually spend a lot of time out of the home because it’s just not big enough for a family of four, but here we are…”

How to ask kids to step up during COVID-19

This is exactly the time when we need to ask our kids to step up. Asking them to rise to support family harmony during such a difficult time might surprise you.

“Reading the kids the riot act had no impact whatsoever,” says Jillian. “I felt like I was simply being an angry referee all day, every day. It wasn’t until I sat them down and calmly asked them to help me, their father and each other out during this crisis that I started to see results. We agreed some ground rules together as a family and I’ve asked them to stick to those rules like glue.”


Try this: How to have a family meeting


 

One of the rules Jillian asked her children, ages 11 and 14, to abide by was to consider the other first before saying or doing anything. “How will this make Ryan feel?” she explains. “Will this make Ava’s day better or worse? Am I being selfish right now? What should I do to make this situation better?”

Jillian is very happy to report that while fights are still erupting each day, they are diffusing much faster. She gently reminds her children what was agreed as a family and they work to curb their temper and try to put themselves in the others’ shoes.

Getting buy-in

This collaborative setting of family rules is critical for kids of all ages, but especially adolescents. “If you can involve them in the process then they will be more engaged and have “buy in” or commitment because they have been given an opinion and a choice,” says Rachel. In order to ask kids to step up, Rachel suggests this approach:

  • Sit down as a family and talk about roles, what does everyone see as being their role and why?
  • Do they have any preferences for things they definitely “do” and “do not” want to be responsible for?
  • It’s important to also think about the emotional supports you provide for one another and how every family member can take responsibility for their actions and behaviours.
  • Talk as a family and set some ground rules/expectations in advance – times might get tense due to fears and worries, so try and do the negotiating beforehand when things aren’t so heightened.
  • Consider your kids’ strengths and your own when considering different activities they might take ownership of. Are they a great cook? Maybe they could scour the internet for recipes and get creative when cooking for the family? Are they really creative and could be in charge of entertainment for the family?

In other words, think of ways to utilise the kids’ passions and skills to help everyone out. Then regularly notice how amazing they are being right now.

How are you all doing right now? Will you ask kids to step up now you need them to?

Feature image by Annie Spratt; Heart by Kelly Sikkema; hammock by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

The kids doing school from home is going to kill me

The kids doing school from home is going to kill me

Day one.

Day, f’ing ONE.

I am no longer worried about coronavirus coming for my kids. I am coming for them myself.

Look, tomorrow I will rally and get a grip and do all the things I know I need to do to making our at-home school thrive. Tomorrow.

Today I just want to wallow in the yelliest day I’ve had in ages and feel sorry for myself.

How on earth I am meant to work from home AND assist three kids doing their online schooling? I do not know.

It’s early days, of course. The school is working hard to get their systems in better shape than they were today. I know they are. Didn’t help today, though. Today I was interrupted every five minutes by one child or another with some tech or school problem that I could not solve.

It was eye-opening to learn that my youngest doesn’t know what her timetable is.

In her defence, she’s been a high schooler for all of five minutes. Being able to do it all on her own from home is a lot to expect. My heart knows that. My head just wants to blast her for interrupting me to ask me why her art teacher isn’t on the Zoom conference yet. Judging by the shit that went down between the online class in her absence, I’m not surprised the teacher dodged the Zoom conference. Year 7 kids are brutal.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my eldest suddenly IN LOVE with school for the very first time. If he has one more “this is stupid, I’m going to school” rant, I will have to take him down. I cannot take another outburst of unrequited school love. I just can’t. 

My middle kid can’t do her woodwork assignment from her desk at home, so that’s a mini-crisis all on its own. She also just wants to go to school to SEE PEOPLE. MY PEOPLE. This from my very shy kid who only recently discovered that she rather likes being social right in time for COVID-19 to socially distance her. Life, huh?

Did I mention my husband is working from home at the dining room table? Right in the middle of everything with his headphones on, having very important meetings? That’s going well, too.

The dog keeps barking non-stop because, I dunno, he feels left out.

See, aside from the interruptions, that’s the thing. I can hear everyone doing their own thing all day when I am used to very pleasant silence with added bird song. My brain cannot seem to function listening to 23 kids year 7 kids Zoom conferencing, a video recording for a science project, a ranting “I neeeed school”, hip hop music AND a very important meeting, all at the same time. Plus the dog. The bloody dog.

How are we meant to get through this? I have a job! Sob! I have a life! Abandoned!

Look, I understand this is a very teeny, tiny problem in the scheme of things. I’m grateful we are all healthy. I’m grateful we have jobs. ALL the gratitude, I promise. But just for today, on day f’ing one, let me have my little rant. Let me be frustrated. Let me get it all out.

And tomorrow, I’ll pull my head in and stop being such a dick.

How is ‘home schooling’ going at your place?

PS – I’m gathering some great tips for helping the kids do school at home. I’ll start trying out them out from tomorrow and will keep you posted.

Feature image by engin akyurt 

PS – We looooove you teachers. We miss you already!!!!!

40+ free online activities for older kids [that are nicely educational]

40+ free online activities for older kids [that are nicely educational]

The world is in lock-down and kids everywhere are spending way more time with their family than they ever wanted, or believed possible. With a bit of luck, this enforced learning from home might help them see school in a much more positive light. It’s tough learning from home! The good thing is that many, many businesses are being exceptionally generous, providing free online activities for older kids to get stuck into.

Take the directive of your student’s school first and foremost. Most will have online learning via Zoom, Education Perfect (free for all schools until 1 May) or Google classroom, etc. They may well fill the whole school day in this way, so don’t fret too much beyond that for your kids. Leave them with plenty of chill time.

If you want some additional educational resources to help engage the kids in learning, here’s what’s around.

40+ FREE online activities for middle and high school students

Free online activities for older kids

Art and music

Don’t underestimate how important art and creativity are during times of stress and confinement. Making art has been shown to  improve mental health, boost your brain power, help manage pain and even improve your immunity. So make sure the kids take advantage of these free online activities for older kids to give their creative brain a workout.

Pixar in a Box

This gem is a Disney-sponsored collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy that takes kids on a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar artists do their jobs. It’s a full course in movie making with modules like the art of storytelling, the art of lighting, colour science, rigging, effects, sets and stages and more.

Artventure

You can do a 48-hour free trial of these online art classes for kids, run by Australian artist Kirsty Shadiac. You don’t need to provide any payment details, so there’s absolutely no pressure to sign up after the trial. Worth a try!

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are live-streaming upcoming scheduled performances. Each performance is then available to listen to online. Great for background music while the children do their lessons.

Virtual art gallery tours

Your student can marvel at some of the world’s best art collections without leaving home.

The Google Art Project

Free online activities for older kids - Tower Bridge

Google partnered with more than 1200 cultural institutions from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art and to provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. Kids can do virtually anything – like view street art in New York, renaissance art at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, take a trip to the Taj Mahal, or cross Tower Bridge in London.

Stay at Home

Concerts and gigs all over the world have been brought online after being cancelled in person. This online music festival and events calendar will have your student exploring all kinds of music from classical to punk to indy to hip hop. Have a listen.

Chrome Music Lab

Open the website and start experimenting with rhythm, chords, sound waves and more. As long as you have the web browser Chrome, you can use this awesome music lab.

Learn guitar

Andy Crowley will teach you the basics of guitar in 10 minutes over 10 days. It’s for absolute beginners, so if you have a guitar hanging around gathering dust, now is the time for the kids to brush it off. 


These tips will help you get set up at home for online learning.


STEM activities

The great thing about Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects is that they can be super fun. Experiments that (kind of) explode. Towers that (hopefully) won’t fall. 1000 year old bones. It’s all here.

Virtual museum visits

Take a tour of some of Australia and the world’s greatest museum collections.

Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

Dig out the LEGO - free online activities for older kids

Sarah Dees has been running FFFBG for a decade. I remember when it was just ‘Frugal Fun for Boys’ as Sarah had four boys close together, followed later by a little girl. Her kids are now 16, 14, 11, 10 and 6 – so her site is very much for older kids as well as young. The activities on her blog have always been fun and interesting for all kinds of kids, so tell the kids to get stuck in.

Virtual Endevour

At Australian National Maritime Museum you can take a free, curriculum-led virtual tour of the HMB Endeavour from anywhere. Students will be guided through the historical context of James Cook’s scientific voyage.

Visit NASA

Explore space from a confined space via NASA’s Langley Research Centre Virtual Tour. You can click around a map of the facility and learn what each area of the centre is developing and discovering. You can also download an app that provides an immersive learning experience and ignite curiosity in the next generation of explorers.

Sydney Observatory

Night sky - Sydney Observatory

To help kids learn about the southern night sky, Sydney Observatory provides an audio guide/podcast, transcript of that audio, and a sky map or chart each month. It features a monthly podcast, sky chart and online guide written by Sydney Observatory astronomers.

Mystery Science

This British site is aimed at K-5 students is currently offering free membership. It covers the full primary school science curriculum (UK, but very similar to Australia’s national curriculum modules).

Code.org

The bees’ knees of coding sites for kids of all ages. Kids can code a dance party, code Minecraft voyages, or use coding to address world problems like ocean health. You’ll find plenty more resources for at-home coding that will peak kids’ interests on the site.

Reading, writing and languages

Literacy has never been more important than in this age of online interaction. You need to be able to write in a way that clearly gets your message across, and comprehend what others are writing back to you. So, try to incorporate socialising into reading and writing projects and you’ll be half-way to engaging the kids already.

Audible

Audible have opened their entire kids’ library for free while schools are closed (in the US). Kids up to 13 years are catered for in the kids’ section, so it’s quite wide-ranging. Wimpy, Wonder, Baby Sitters, Dork Diaries, Goosebumps – it’s all here and all free for the time being.

Creative writing prompts

Creative writing ideas for kids - prompts to get them writing in a new creative direction

We created this list of 30 cool writing prompts that will get the kids brains buzzing with creativity. A writing prompt helps them get the words out.

Your Kids’ Next Read

This online Facebook group has loads of reviews and suggestions for books for kids. Recommendations from members are summarised at Children’s Books Daily. If your kid loves reading X, this group will help you find Y. Right now they are giving away a book a day for 30 days, too. If you do decide to buy new books for the kids, please buy from Australia site Booktopia – if you use this link, Mumlyfe will receive a small commission (it doesn’t cost you any extra, but helps us out a lot!)

Goodreads

Older kids should join the Goodreads community – they can connect with friends to share book recommendations and reviews. You can also check out thousands of reviews from the Goodreads community. Writing short reviews for the books your student is reading is excellent practise for English assignments. This is one of those online activities for older kids that they’ll stay with for life.

Duolingo

Kids learning languages can practise their skills using Duolingo. It’s a terrific program that offers virtual incentives and rewards as you learn.

Rosetta Stone

Students can access Rosetta Stone for free for the next three months. This languages website has been a leader in the field for years – providing an immersive language course with feedback on pronunciation and progress data reports.

Words with Friends

This online version of Scrabble (best played via the app) is fantastic for improving spelling and vocabulary. It will also help kids stay social right now.

Maths

Free online activities for older kids - Maths

While maths is technically covered in STEM above, it really deserves it’s own category. You can’t ever practise maths enough. Hopefully one of the programs here will be the key to unlock your child’s passion for maths. I’d start with Eddie Woo…

Maths Online

We really like this online maths tutoring program, it really helped my kids with their maths (my review is here). It runs to Australian school curriculum and it really clearly aligns with what the kids are learning in school. While it’s not technically free, you can do a free trial to get started. There’s no obligation to buy beyond that.

Mathletics

Again, not free, but you can do a free 48-hour trial to see what you think. Mathletics is used in plenty of schools, so see if your child already has access via their class. It’s aligned to the curriculum in each state.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy’s free online learning covers most school subjects, but they are particularly strong in Maths. Sign up, select up to 10 courses and hit go.

Matific

During COVID-19 crisis, Matific is free for 60 days. This K-6 program is one used in many Australian public schools, so it’s worth checking out. It’s got loads of interactive maths games and practise exams, as well as a detailed curriculum to follow.

Maths Snacks

Another one for primary school students, Maths Snacks is all about fun games that helps students practise maths concepts. One of the many online activities for older kids that incorporate maths games, so do a quick Google search for loads more!

WooTube

Aussie teaching legend Eddie Woo guides high school students through trickier maths concepts with ease. Eddie is a maths teacher at Cherrybrook High School and his videos are from actual maths lessons in his classroom. His enthusiasm and passion really do make maths more fun. We have Eddie’s latest book and it’s a good one.

History

online learning for older kids - history

History can teach us so much more than simply what happened in the past. Understanding the past opens kids’ futures.

Bunk History

An American focus, but Bunk History is fantastically engaging on every topic from modern history. It uses video, articles, podcasts and more to unravel history and talk about why it matters.

Big History Project

Big History Project is a free, online social studies course that emphasises skill development as students draw connections between past, present and future.  More than 1,600 teachers and 80,000 students teach or take the course each year. 

Heritage on the Edge

This Google Arts and Culture project looks at the impact of climate change on world heritage buildings, monuments and sites.

General learning

Online learning for older kids

These sites offer overall programs in every school subject. Some are just really very interesting information about the world at large. There will be something here for every student.

Scootle

Check with your student as they might have access to this online learning portal by the Education Services Australia.

Scholastics Classroom

An online program of learning for kids of all ages, including years 6 – 9. Each week they post another five days of curriculum, so it’s really straightforward and easy for kids to access and use alone.

FutureLearn

At FutureLearn, universities from all over the world offer free courses with 14 days access. You can upgrade to spend longer on a topic.

Khan Academy

You can learn pretty much everything about anything at this free online learning academy. We covered the maths topic above, but there’s also excellent modules for arts and humanities, science and engineering, computing, and economics and finance.

TED Ed

TED Talks are our jam, so I was thrilled to find TED Ed – educational talks to help kids discover and create. You can pick from a list of subjects, or just check out the talk of the day. Each talk is under 10 minutes, to these are bite-size lessons to break up the day.


Check these out too: 16 inspiring TED Talks for kids


TinkerLab

The free online activities at TinkerLab are aimed at kids aged 2-12.  Start with 28 science projects for kids or 50 drawing prompts or get the kids involved in the TinkerSketch monthly art challenges.

Newsela

Newsela is offering free access during US school closures. This website was started by a group of educators and parents who weren’t satisfied with the quality of content students are exposed to in US schools. The site is full of information that goes deeper on subjects that enrich student education and enhance teacher resources.

IDFA films

One of the world’s largest documentary archives is currently streaming 200 titles to watch for free. Choose a subject and start streaming.

The Kids Should See This

Free online resources for high school

Videos for curious minds selected from all over the web. Covers all school subjects with some decent life lessons in there too. How to keep calm under pressure, anyone?

BBC Bitesize

Aimed at a UK curriculum, but still relevant for Australian students, the BBC delivers small programs to support learning in all areas. We particularly like the ‘functional skills’ section that details how to do everyday things like balance a budget, read a payslip, listening without interrupting, making a complaint and so much more.

Crash Course

A super-fun YouTube channel that aims to educate kids (and their parents) on everything from anatomy to world history.The philosophy course is particularly good right now. This is one of online activities for older kids that the whole family can get stuck into.

ThoughtCo

The ‘world’s largest education resource’ is surely needed right now. The categories are Science, Tech, Maths; Humanities; Languages; and Resources. A quick squiz of the homepage right now:

It’s pretty clear you can find everything you could ever wish to know right here.

BTN

We used to watch Behind the News in class when I was in primary school. How’s that for longevity? The ABC’s kids’ news channel still delivers current events and news in kid-size format. This is where kids can find out more about coronavirus, social distancing and what it all means to other students.

Can you recommend other free online activities for older kids for us?

Feature image by Annie Spratt; Tower Bridge by Charles Postiaux; LEGO by James Pond; night sky by Arnold Dogelis; Maths by Annie Spratt; pencils by Sharon McCutcheon; magnifying glass by João Silas; flamingos by Sergi Ferrete  

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