With more than a dozen states announcing school closures due to coronavirus (some lasting as long as 6 weeks), millions upon millions of kids are currently out of school. If you’re wondering what on earth you’ll do to keep them occupied, read on for a list of free resources and ideas that you can do at home!
As of Friday, all schools in PA shut down for two weeks. My son is in high school, so he’s pretty self-sufficient. He’ll do what he always does when he’s home- play video games and watch anime! Others aren’t so lucky.
When Maryland closed down all of their schools, my 5-year-old niece was thrilled at first. She thought it meant lots of time for lots and lots of big play dates. Yeah, sorry Abs, that’s not how this is gonna work. 🙁 Now, my bother and sister-in-law are struggling to come up with ideas to keep two very young kids (my nephew is 3) occupied for the long haul.
Usually, they’d take them out. They’re a very active family and live in a super kid-friendly area. Their schedules are typically jam-packed every weekend and holiday. While they live in a beautiful neighborhood within walking distance of a huge (and gorgeous) park, it’s not like they can spend all of their time outdoors.
I know many (many, many, many) families are in the same situation and asking the same question, “What on earth are we going to do to keep these kids occupied???” With that in mind, I’ve rounded up a list of free resources and ideas that will help fill up at least some of those hours.
Free Online Resources to Keep Kids Occupied During School Closings
First, Amazing Educational Resources already shared a MASSIVE list of educational companies offering free subscriptions to keep kids learning during school closures, so I recommend checking that out if you’re specifically looking for ways to homeschool your kids through the coronavirus shut down.
Lauren at MidgetMomma also created a list with some different free educational resources, so check that, too. She also has:
- A list of virtual aquarium tours to take with kids
- Virtual zoo tours to take from home
- Famous Landmark tours to take at home
- …and a lot more. Basically, a one-stop spot to find your educational needs.
This list is all about keeping kids occupied during their “fun” time. Not that learning can’t be entertaining, but it’s not like you can turn school closures into an 18-hour homeschooling day. Or, at least, you shouldn’t! Kids need to just have fun and unwind, especially during such a stressful time. So, here is a list of FUN AND FREE things kids can do online.
FYI, this post contains affiliate links. While the resources I’m sharing are free, a few of them do take you to places where you can also buy stuff. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Free printable activity sheets
While you could just search Google or Pinterest for free printables, a lot of links are spammy, loaded with ads, virus-ridden or just plain crappy. I vetted all of these below for you. 🙂
I also tried to avoid sites that offer free printables with strings attached (like newsletter signups or email collection).The first ten are from right here on Pretty Opinionated.
- How to Train Your Dragon Coloring Sheets & Activities
- Grab This Free Printable Spring Adult Coloring Book (No Strings Attached!)– A little something for you AND the kids!
- She-Ra Printables
- Printable Activities from The Deep
- Incredibles 2 Printable Activities
- Open Season: Scared Silly Printable Games and Activities – there are a bunch, just click the pictures in the post.
- Wreck-It Ralph Printables
- DuckTales- Woo-oo Printable Games and Activities
- Tangled Printables
- Cinderella Coloring Pages & Activities
- Crayons & Craving’s full category of printables
- The Spruce Crafts has everything from connect the dots to color by number and more.
- And Next Comes L has 100+ Free I Spy Printables
- “Build a Unicorn” printable template (scroll all the way to the bottom)
- Printable LEGO Workbook
- Simple Everyday Mom has list of the best free Disney Coloring Pages
- Musings of an Average Mom has a list of free Harry Potter printables
- Super cute free unicorn coloring pages
- Free printable bingo games from superheroes to LEGO to bugs & more
- Star Wars Bingo Games – 12 printable cards + a calling sheet
- Farm Bingo Games and more from Birthday in a Box
- Printable Spring Bingo – you have to scroll about halfway down, below the newsletter signup there’s a link to grab this particular set with no strings attached.
- Coloring Rocks has tons of free word search games for kids. Just click each picture for the larger version. Easy peasy, and the site loads super fast!
- Raising Our Kids has a very large selection free printables for kids (just click the one you like, then click the pic to grab it)
- Scholastic has a decent selection of “no strings” printables sorted by age groups.
- Education.com’s worksheets are mostly purely educational, but they do have a good selection of connect the dots and some other “just for fun” printables.
- Mr. Printables has a nice clean site with well-organized and easy-to-grab printables.
- Kids Can Have Fun has what appears to be hundreds of printable games and activities, all well-organized and easy to grab.
- KrazyDad has a lot of neat printable books of mazes (and other stuff, too) that are organized by difficulty level. His site is totally ad-free and super fast!
- Busy Bee also has a lot of mazes, organized by category.
- Birthday in a Box has a bunch of free coloring pages to match their party themes, including Disney and Nickelodeon themes. .
Also while not free, CreativeFabrica has a TON of coloring pages. Technically, it’s a resource for graphic designers and people who sell coloring books, etc. However, if you do sign up, you can download anything you want.
If you decide to do it, just get the Graphics & Crafts subscription for $19 a month (you can cancel any time), unless you actually need fonts, of course.
Free online books for kids + fun reading challenges
Most of this section is adapted from my “free places to find books for kids online” post, but I checked them all to make sure it’s up to day.
- Amazon’s free kindle section for children’s books (Also, Freetime Unlimited is only $2.99 a month, worth checking out)
- This GoodReads list focuses entirely on free Kindle books for kids age 7-12
- Nook has a good selection of free books for Teens. Just use the Nook app on your table.
- Overdrive- You’ll need a library card to access OverDrive, but your kids may have an account through their school. I just found out that mine does.
- FreeKidsBooks.org offers books for ages ranging from toddlers to teens.
- Simon Teen publishers offer a small selection of their books for free on Riveted.
- Read.gov has a large selection of classic books without worrying about malware, ads, etc.
- While, like Read.gov, LoyalBooks only offer classics and public domain books, their site is a little more kid-friendly.
- Epic has a free one-month trial to their service. After that, it’s $7.99 a month, which is super reasonable. I reviewed them here in case you’re curious.
- eReaderIQ has an updated list of books giving away free copies on Kindle.
- FreeBooksy does the same as the above.
- KidsWorldFun has a selection of free animated books for kids (or you can download the PDF and just read them)
Take reading to whole new levels of fun with one of my reading challenges! Check out:
- The 2019 52-Week Challenge – you don’t have to do the whole challenge, just use it to find some ideas to adapt into a reading challenge for kids
- 2020 52-Week Challenge – it has different ideas than last year’s, so grab them both.
- Around the World in 80 Children’s Books
- Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge with all 408 books prominently seen in the series
Free (and legal) places to watch kid’s shows and movies
Sometimes, kids just need to unwind with a good movie! Below is a list of streaming services that are either totally free or offer a decent free trial (two weeks or more).
- Kabillion has dozens of popular TV shows for kids up to age 12-ish, all completely free. Stream them through your Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and more. I reviewed them here if you’re curious!
- Vudu -Selection of shows and movies for free as long as you’re willing to sit through ads.
- TubiTV -Quite a few popular shows & movies, including some decent anime selections for teens.
- PopcornFlixKids -Older movies and shows. Not the best selection overall, but still, a few good flicks mixed in with the obscure.
- YouTube Kids – Some cartoons, plus music videos, craft tutorials and more
- Pluto.TV– Selection of family-friendly free on-demand movies, plus a bunch of “live” channels that you can watch for free without cable.
- Hoopla– If you have a library card, sign up and get access to movies, books, and more. The selection is just so-so and I think you can only borrow like 4 titles a month, but I’ve found some good stuff on it.
Good free trials
While Disney+ only offers a free one-week trial, most of the other streaming giants are a little more generous with their trial runs.
- Hulu offers a full one-month trial. The nice thing? That applies to both the ad-based and no-ads plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to apply to the Disney/Hulu bundle plan.
- Likewise, Netflix offers a full 30-day trial.
- Amazon Prime’s free 30-day trial includes their video service, so if you’re considering Prime, now’s a good time to grab it. Plus, once there, almost all of their channels have a free 7-day trial. I recommend staggering them. Cinemax this week, HBO next week, etc.
- For anime lovers, Crunchyroll has a 2-week trial of their premium service. After that, it’s a reasonable $8-ish a month (with tax). Totally worth it, according to my son.
Check out Flixed for a massive listing of pretty much ALL of the streaming services (plus a short review of each). I also recommend JustWatch to help you actually find what you want on all those services.
As you can see, there’s plenty of fun ways to keep kids occupied during school shutdowns, and I didn’t even touch on crafts to make, games to play, or educational resources. 🙂
What are you doing to keep kids busy during school shutdowns? Share below!