Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Spring Break has begun to look more like an indefinite school hiatus. While that thought no doubt appealed to many school-aged children at first, it all seemed like a lot less fun when the reality set in. Community centres and playgrounds are shuttered as are libraries; hockey practices and karate classes are off; and even hanging out with friends is officially frowned-upon in the age of social distancing.
Worst of all, there's nothing less stimulating than sitting around while your working-from-home parents swill home-brewed coffee and stare at a computer monitor for eight hours every weekday.
With that in mind, here are half a dozen ways to keep kids engaged and active until school starts again (or at least until the school board's home instruction ramps up). As a bonus, some of these are fun for grown-ups, too.
Age range: All ages. Price: Free trial, then US$9.99 per month. Why it's awesome: If you have visions of your 10-year-old would-be rock star ripping through note-perfect renditions of Smashing Pumpkins' "Cherub Rock", Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb", and Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box", keep dreaming. They would probably much rather learn songs by Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran. Fortunately, Fender's app includes all of the above plus a lot more, and it also promises that, even if you've never picked up a guitar, bass, or ukulele in your life, you'll be mastering riffs within the first seven lessons. Right now, Fender is offering the app—which can be used on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer—free of charge for three months to the first 500,000 people to sign up. (In non-pandemic times, you can get a free 14-day trial, after which the app costs US$9.99 per month.) See try.fender.com/play/playthrough.
COSMIC KIDS YOGA
Age range: 3+. Price: Free. Why it's awesome: If you're looking for ways to get your wee ones doing something other than binge-watching Paw Patrol or running around your 500-square-foot condo screeching "Baby Shark" at top volume, the Cosmic Kids YouTube channel could be your salvation. Yoga sequences themed around popular movies including Frozen, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Moana will keep their bodies active, and mindfulness videos (on topics from dealing with nightmares to making good choices) will engage their brains. There is also a series of guided relaxations—which might help cut down on the screeching. See www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga/.
SCHOLASTIC LEARN AT HOME
Age range: Grade levels from K to 9. Price: Free. Why it's awesome: These days, home schooling isn't just for, well, home schoolers. Pretty much anyone with a school-aged kid is scrambling to find grade-appropriate materials to keep kids learning outside the classroom. Kids'-book publisher Scholastic has responded to the demand by making its online portal filled with reading materials, research projects, and virtual field trips free for pupils of all grade levels. There are currently three weeks' worth of resources on the site, providing approximately three hours of learning per day. No registration is required. The Scholastic Learn at Home portal is operated by the U.S. branch of the company, but Scholastic Canada also has its own "Things to Do" page. See classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html.
Age range: All ages. Price: Seven-day free trial, then $8.99 per month or $89.99 for a year. Why it's awesome: Without coming right out and endorsing the notion of plunking your children in front of a TV for eight to 10 hours every day so you can try to pretend that your work life hasn't totally gone off the rails, let's just say that loosening your usual screen-time limits might be a sanity saver. Disney+ has all the Star Wars movies (plus The Baby Yoda Show... er, The Mandalorian) and all the Marvel and Pixar stuff, but it also has some pretty great documentaries. Especially worthy of note is One Strange Rock, a National Geographic series from visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky that tries to make sense of all the various systems that work together to make life on our planet possible. The show is visually spectacular, and the insights of eight former astronauts (including Canadian Chris Hadfield) put everything into perspective. This one isn't just for the kids, though. Watch it with them and you might learn something yourself.
365 DAYS OF DRAWING
Age range: Tweens to adults. Price: $25.50 at Indigo.ca. Why it's awesome: With a new drawing prompt or challenge every day, British illustrator Lorna Scobie's book should buy you a little quiet time, and will provide your more artistically inclined offspring the inspiration to keep creating, even in the absence of formal school art classes. Activities include drawing an object without looking at the page, learning to create shade and tone with different materials, and prompts such as "Fill the page with leaf shapes" and "Draw an imaginary book cover". Part of a series by Scobie that also includes 365 Days of Art and 365 Days of Creativity.
Age range: All ages. Price: Free. Why it's awesome: Like pretty much every other cultural organization, Cirque Du Soleil has been battered by COVID-19. The Quebec-spawned global sensation has laid off 95 percent of its staff and is reportedly teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Nonetheless, the company has created an online portal, CirqueConnect, where fans can watch performance highlights, makeup tutorials, and workout videos; stream Cirque music playlists; and download a virtual-reality app. As the CirqueConnect page says: "Now more than ever, we want to do our little part to spread joy, even from afar, directly to your safe spaces." See: www.cirquedusoleil.com/cirqueconnect.
Disclosure: We may receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. However, this does not impact our reviews or recommendations. Your support helps us keep creating the content you enjoy.