by Marissa Marangoni
Do you find yourself suddenly working from home with a child in the house? Are you a stay-at-homer who can no longer escape to Target for an aimless stroll with your kid safely contained in a shopping cart? Are the seats at your kitchen table suddenly filled with new little bodies? Yes? Well, me too.
This whole coronavirus event has been one hell of a ride so far. It’s one I would like to get off immediately. In fact, I’m screaming and pushing the emergency button, but the carnie just keeps smiling and increasing the speed.
Though it seems like the world is on fire around us and we’re forced to keep working as if we can’t smell the smoke, there are some people out there working to contain that fire and give us a little breathing room. Breathing room comes in different forms, and the list below is breathing room catered specifically toward those caring for children during this crisis. It isn’t just your adult world that has been turned upside down; your little people are right there with you trying their best to adjust to the huge changes thrown at them as well.
Thank the heavens and Al Gore for the internet.
While Hulafrog isn’t actually an activity, it provides a comprehensive collection of local, family-friendly activities updated weekly. Currently, Hulafrog is working to put together a list of the different locally-run virtual activity options out there for children. There are some great ideas here for indoor activities and boredom busters right now.
Raising Dragons is an organization dedicated to STEAM-based learning activities and crafts for kids. The activities can be searched by subject, age group and season, and they are simple and easy to do. I am just about the least prepared person on the planet for…everything…and I have managed to successfully prepare these activities with the random junk I’ve found around my house. The real bonus here is that my son has enjoyed every one of the activities we’ve done from this site.
Does your kid need to move? Cleveland Inner City Ballet is offering virtual ballet classes every Wednesday at noon. You have to sign up through the parent portal on their website, but the classes are free, and every Monday, you gain access to video tutorials with more dance content!
Why don’t you take your kid to a concert? The Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall will play concerts just for them if you redeem the voucher on their site. You can see concerts live streamed or pick from pre-recorded shows to listen to an orchestra, see the work behind the music, or sing along with a classical soloist.
Virtual museum tours anyone? Travel and Leisure put together a great list of museums around the world that you can access at any time. Check out some mummies in London, investigate special collections in the Louvre, or marvel over some of Van Gogh’s best work in Amsterdam all from a very safe social distance.
The library is one of my son’s favorite places to go. Mine too! Until we can get back in there, the Akron-Summit County Public Library system has an incredible collection of digital resources that you can use for free. And this doesn’t just include books — you can listen to stories and watch movies and more through a variety of apps that your library card number gives you access to just for being an ASCPL patron.
If you have a kindergartner through second grader in your presence, then this one is for you. Fluency and Fitness offer reading and math skills review through movement. This is free for 30 days, so don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want to keep paying.
I have a child who has close to no chill, so I never thought it would be possible for him to even attempt yoga, but he loves this series of videos on YouTube. Cosmic Kids Yoga makes yoga accessible to most age groups of children, incorporating fun visuals and stories while teaching children basic yoga movements. The bonus here is that it might even help those no-chill kids chill. A little. Maybe.
I love lists. And I feel like every childcarer out there has probably typed into Google at one point or another, “free stuff to do with my kid,” so I’m saving you the keystrokes. It is important to remember, however, that in spite of what this list communicates, screens are not our enemies during this time.
I actually don’t know a whole lot about this site, but I have only ever heard good things about it — and I know several parents who happily pay for it. ABC Mouse offers an entire curriculum for kids from 2 through 8 years old. It looks pretty fun, too. Right now, you can get a membership with the first 30 days free — and don’t say I told you this — but if you search around Facebook and the internet, there are plenty of posts with codes that provide free access to the programming for a much longer period. The regular membership runs $10/month, but I have seen them run specials here and there throughout the year for much less.
Have some kids that love their art? Denyse Lipka Carbonel, a Cleveland art educator and artist, is offering free virtual art classes. Check her events list on Facebook for more details.
Here’s another list of different things you can do with your children if you’re stuck inside. And you know, what I mean by “do with” is you set the stuff up, and then you can go sneak Oreos from the pantry while your kids do the activity in the other room. Most of these activities are suited for younger kids, ages 2 to 5.
Do you have an aspiring chef? Spatulatta has some great content for kid cooks. The recipes are simple and fun, and they are often accompanied by an instructional video of kids actually making the food. Kids and cooking can be stressful, but if nothing else, maybe this could be the thing to get your kid to handle their own snacks, since, you know, snacks. I’m so over snacks.
The Akron Zoo is closed, but If your kids are missing the animals, they’re in luck — the zoo is running a program called Lunch and Learns every day at noon on their Facebook page. How cool is that?
Need more animals? The Cleveland Zoo is starting a virtual classroom this week. Your kids missed the first class, but you can catch the next one. If the schedule they had today applies to their future classes, you’ll be able to get a little time to yourself at 11 am and 1 pm daily with this one. And, hey, if you add in the Akron Zoo Lunch and Learn, then you’re basically ALONE for three hours!
Need to get out of the gosh-darned house? There’s really nowhere to go now except outside, so don’t forget the parks. Avoid playgrounds and other people, but trails through the woods are free to foot traffic and help exhaust that ever-abundant child energy. You know what my favorite thing to do at parks is? Tell my kid I’m going to race him to a random tree in the distance, count to three, and then let him run real far while I don’t. You can do this a whole lot of times at any of our lovely local Summit Metro Parks.
There’s more out there to entertain and educate your kids right now, friends, but hopefully, this list will give you some ideas of how to put in your workday while caring for the children in your life and provide you with ways to entertain these small people while physically isolating yourself from most of humanity.
Marissa Marangoni has been one of Akron’s unofficial Public Restroom Executives since 2015, but is now treading in the unknown territory of the coronavirus crisis. Her child is watching entirely too much TV already.