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

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Free online activities for older kids to keep learning at home

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  / all Unsplash

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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