Looking for free kids’ activities to use during lockdown or self-isolation? We found a few that might help you navigate the chaos of self-isolation.
We’re used to juggling as a remote company. But none of us have ever had to juggle work and childcare like this before. And it’s a learning curve, to say the least. Fortunately, lots of organisations have stepped up and provided free or cheap resources, kits, or apps that are available online.
Most of the free kids’ activities we found are suitable for infants and children of primary school age. We also found a few that you have to pay for, but we decided to include them since they’re good value for those who want to spend a little.
Free Activities On Tablet: Apps and Games
Free kids’ activities are fairly easy to find online. A few brands have pushed out extra content during lockdown and extended their trial periods.
- Cbeebies: The Cbeebies website has tons of activities and games for little ones, including interactive Mr Tumble songs that entertain my one-year-old for a few precious minutes at a time.
- Khan Academy Kids: This educational app for Android, iOS, and Amazon devices is suitable for children aged two to seven. Our tip: exit the initial maths sequence and head to the library to choose stories, videos, reading and creative activities too.
- Minecraft Education Packs:
Until 30th June, your children can explore virtual copies of real-life worlds in Minecraft, including the International Space Station. They can also learn how to make Redstone creations and learn about fractals with free lessons in Minecraft – ideal for your budding gamer. Update: A bunch of these education packs are still live in July, and a few more have been added since we originally wrote this article.
- Times Tables Rock Stars: Access to this interactive maths site costs just £7.20 a year for up to three children. Check with your child’s school first, since they might be able to give you a login for free.
- The Maths Factor: Carol Vorderman’s maths challenges and videos are currently free to use. Suitable for kids age 4-12.
- Toca Boca: Alongside the full range of free Toca apps, there are a couple of apps you’ll have to pay for that I felt deserved a mention in this article. Both Toca Lab: Elements and Toca Blocks have kept my son and daughter entertained for many hours, without the risks that you might encounter with multiplayer gaming. Toca Elements is a gentle, child-friendly introduction to the concepts underlying the Periodic Table.
Activity Kits and Downloadable Packs
Making and doing helps to pass the time. Most kits here have to be paid for, but we did find some free kids’ activities that you can download.
- Bloomsbury Downloadable Activity Packs: Colouring packs and activities based on popular children’s stories. Suitable for 0-11 years.
- KiwiCo [not free]: My 6-year-old son is a huge fan of Kiwi. He gets a crate each month containing a project to make and some activities and stories to read. There are other crates for younger/ older children. We like it so much, we paid upfront for the full year. You can pick just one crate if there’s a particular activity you fancy. Use our link to get $10 off*
- MEL Science [not free]: Get chemistry experiments delivered to your door. The full chemistry kits are designed for kids age 10+ (or younger if strictly supervised) and come with a VR viewer and safety goggles. For little ones aged 5-10, there are easier and safer kits called MEL Kids.
Free Videos and Challenges
Harness the power of YouTube to encourage your kids to take on a challenge, learn about animals, invent a new gadget, or start learning sign language.
- Chester Zoo Live Tour: Chester Zoo broadcast a live tour on their Facebook page in late March. All of the videos are available watch any time on their Facebook page.
- Edinburgh Zoo Live Cams: Keep an eye on the pandas and penguins with these live cams at the zoo.
- History Hit: Archived videos on everything from the Romans to the Windsors, suitable for older primary kids and teens. Free to access for 30 days.
- HomeTasking: Alex Horne of Taskmaster has created a series of video challenges on Twitter. Find him at @alex_horne and follow the #hometasking hashtag to join in.
- Innovation Ben: Join Ben the inventor for his #LockDownSTEMChallenge videos. Kids can join in and make their own inventions with objects found around the house.
- Learn BSL: Pick up a new skill while school’s closed with these free British Sign Language lessons on YouTube.
- Mystery Doug: Doug answers questions sent in from young children and explains the science behind them. If your kids are driving you crazy with ‘why?’ questions, this is the perfect channel. Also available on Kids Youtube.
- Science Max: My son’s favourite science YouTube channel. Science Max does large scale experiments on YouTube suitable for kids aged 5 and up. Also available on Youtube Kids.
Free Kids Activities Outdoors
Now the weather has picked up again, it’s a great time to take advantage of these free kids’ activities outdoors, with lots of inspiration available online.
- 15 Seeds to Harvest in Less Than a Month: Let the kids grow their own veg. Easy to start with just paper, egg boxes, and seeds.
- Maddie Moate: CBeebies presenter Maddie has a library of science, crafts, and outdoor activity videos available to stream whenever you need a little quiet time.
- The Muddy Puddle Teacher: Outdoor activities for all ages, from babies through to 11-year-olds.
Free Music Activities and Apps
Free music apps help to pass the time and teach your kids about musical gadgets that they may not have heard of before.
- KORG Kaossilator: Korg’s experimental music app is available free for a very limited time. You’ve missed the Android version, but the iOS app is still free to download until 31st March.
- Messy Goes to Oki-Do Music Maker: This free iPad app is actually a cool little sequencer for kids that they can use to compose their own songs.
- Minimoog Model D: Let your kids try a virtual version of the world’s first portable synthesizer. This app is iOS only, and it’s free for a limited time.
- Myleene’s Music Klass: Myleene Klass teaches musical concepts and plays the piano to entertain your kids.
Free Lesson Plans and Resources
- I See Maths: Free maths lessons online for children in year 3 to year 6.
- KiwiCo Online: Activities for kids aged 2-12. Colourful project sheets help kids to craft, make animations, devise magic shows, and even build their own musical instruments. The page also has some hand blog posts for parents.
- Khan Academy: Basic example timetables to help break up the day.
- Top Marks: Lesson plans and topic ideas, including some handy tips for easter learning aimed at kids aged 6-11.
- Twinkl: Free resource packs, educational games, and lesson plans for those attempting homeschooling for the first time. There are plans for children aged 4 through to KS4, as well as SEND resources. Use the code CVDTWINKLHELPS to access everything free for the first month.
- Virtual museum tours: Travel and Leisure has compiled a list of museum and gallery tours including the British Museum, the Pergamon in Berlin, and the Guggenheim in New York.
Audiobooks and Podcasts
- Audible: Access a virtual library of children’s stories free of charge. All stories can be played on desktops, laptops, or mobile devices. Your first ebook is free during the trial.
- Elevenses with David Walliams: A new 20-minute story read by David Walliams every day at 11 am.
Free Coronavirus Support for Kids
- The National Autistic Society has some very good tips to help autistic adults and children through the next few months, including ways to communicate and manage exposure to the news. These tips will be helpful for many non-SEND children too.
- Tech Will Save Us has put together a list of resources to help you talk to your kids about coronavirus and create routines that will help them stay sane. They’ve also created a home learning e-book.
Ad-Free Baby and Toddler Apps
- Baby Games: Free from ads (but with some in-app purchases), this is one of the few Android apps that our baby daughter enjoys using. The first words section is a little wacky, but the fireworks and balloon-popping games might buy you a few minutes to make a much-needed cup of coffee.
- Toca Boca: All of the Toca Boca apps are pure genius with cute graphics and music that won’t drive you mad. Some aren’t free, but you can grab a pack of the best freebies if you download Toca Life: World for Android or iOS. Other freebies worth getting are Toca Boca Dance and Toca Kitchen 2.
It’s going to be a tough few months for many parents, but we found that relieving some of the pressure to ‘home school’ really helps. Keeping kids engaged with educational apps, videos, and games is going to be a real lifesaver in the weeks to come, and we’ll keep updating this article as we find more.