Everyone was stuck indoors in 2020, and that included kids. Several schools were closed for the rest of the year and many parents found themselves with children and teenagers at home in need of something to do. Since many of the closures began in early to mid spring, a lot of kids didn’t even have the outlet of playing outside, instead being relegated to indoor activities and the exclusive company of parents and siblings. Sure, school continued online, but many schools simply mailed out weekly assignments.
To top it off, parents and some siblings were considered essential workers at the time, while others were stuck at home right beside their kids because they worked in more leisure-oriented professions. Still others were able to work from home, but bored kids need attention that gets taken away from work time. When everyone is unable to go out, and parents need a time-out, the Internet has your back.
There are a lot of things for people to do on the Internet, but kids need more than social media and binge-watching shows. Here are some kid-friendly things to do online, both with them and when you need some time alone.
Playing games online isn’t just about entertainment. Video games can also teach life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving. Even the simplest games can help with hand-eye coordination. While the popular titles can provide these benefits, there are a lot of games that are both focused on learning and able to keep kids entertained. There are also mouse-driven browser games for preschoolers to learn about things from numbers and shapes to sounds and words. Age-appropriate skill-building games can be found all over the web by diligent parents.
Being socially isolated means everyone is going to miss their friends and family, whether there is a pandemic going on or it’s just really rainy outside. Kids off from school long-term, such as during vacation times, can talk to each other with video chat using online apps like Skype and Discord. In fact, most messenger apps, both on the computer and on smartphones, have some sort of video component. The fact that these apps are so prevalent allowed many families to keep in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as enabled many other activities that would have otherwise been cancelled. Kids need social contact with both family and friends, especially during times of isolation, and video chat gives them a fun way to do that.
Got some balloons, rubber bands, popsicle sticks and other household items? The Internet has a variety of science experiments that can be viewed online or even conducted at home. Goopy explosions, microwave messes, and projectile pandemonium can all be fun for kids to watch the pros do in online videos. At home they can follow instructions to build their own wheeled vehicles, explore the universe, or delve into the mysteries of light, air, and water. Even Google Maps can take them to other moons and planets in our solar system, but NASA or Khan Academy can teach them what’s there and how to find it all in the night sky. Some of the experiments can be done without parental supervision and some are so fun that parents will enjoy them as much as the kids.
All over the Internet, teachers have set up sites to share ideas about how to make education fun. This has resulted in a lot of free online resources that can both keep kids entertained and give them learning experiences that will last a lifetime. Some of these have printable resources, like coloring pages or lists for scavenger hunts, so kids can have a great time at home while their parents can work on adult responsibilities. Sites like these also have arts and crafts or coloring projects that can bring out your child’s creative side. Homemade flashcard projects can teach them new words or concepts, even in new languages. Some sites produce educational shows on a variety of topics, from foreign languages to science to history.
Did we say no binge-watching? Some shows have great value for kids, even if they’re not directly educational. There are a lot of online videos aimed at reviewing kids’ products, such as toys and games. Equipment such as bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades and scooters might be played with and tested out, often by or with other kids. Gaming playthroughs have become a whole genre of their own, with different personalities commenting on video games as they play them and lead other players through them. Parents need to use their judgment with these videos because some of them can be too edgy for younger viewers, but there are reputable personalities out there with solid reviews that can help kids decide what they like.
In school, kids are taken out on field trips to experience firsthand art, culture, history and more. A planetarium could introduce them to the stars, while a living history museum can teach kids how people lived in different eras. However, when everyone is stuck inside for a snow day or under blankets eating chicken soup, places like these are not out of reach. Many museums offer virtual tours, where online visitors can look at the exhibits from the museum’s website. They can also interact with them in ways not possible in person, such as short videos or point-and-click interfaces that reveal details about the exhibits. Astronomy and science displays can take kids on a trip through space, the human body, or the inside of a tornado. Living history museums also have an online presence that allows kids of all ages to go on the tours. Often, the actors from living history museums have also filmed their presentations for the Internet, where they can be enjoyed from afar.
Sometimes we have to work from home while the kids are off, and they’re just as bouncy as any other day. Sometimes we might wake up and find they’ve been wide awake for hours unsupervised, and for unwary parents this could lead to disastrous results such as unexpected purchases or exposure to undesirable elements. It seems like if we don’t watch kids every second, they might stumble into something they’re too young to see. Parental controls can be a parent’s best friend, especially with younger children. Your provider can give you controls that allow you to block adult content and known malware at the DNS level, while other controls limit downloads, purchases, and permissions such as location. Allowing the kids to do things online doesn’t have to mean allowing them to go unprotected.
Thankfully, international pandemics don’t happen often, but sick days, snow days, and school vacation days do. Summer vacation can be weeks of kids being home while parents have to at least keep them entertained, if not navigate around them entirely while trying to meet hectic work schedules. The more fun things kids have to do, the less opportunity there is for mischief or tragedy, and reliable high-speed Internet can be invaluable in this regard. To find the right connection or simply compare yours to what’s out there, tell us your zip code. We’ll show you all the providers in your area and their rates, so both you and your kids can take advantage of all the entertainment the Internet offers.