Stay home, stay safe

Minnesota schools are closed. Our students may finish their current school years at home.

How can parents balance work, parenting and e-learning and keep their sanity while cooped up?

Here are a few options, including educational screen-based activities and some unplugged activities for kids as well as whole families, now spending way more time together.

Keep this guide: When all this is all over, you can use these resources to enrich your kids’ weekends, summer vacations, breaks, sick days and more.

We'll be adding more resources as the weeks go on, so check back! 

Academics

Thanks in part to the world of home- schooling, the Internet is packed with many free enriching lessons. And some sites that usually require a fee are free temporarily in the wake of coronavirus.

AmazingEducationalResources.com: Discover a massive list of resources, updated daily to support families and teachers during the coronavirus outbreak.

KhanAcademy.org: The gold standard in free online learning, this nonprofit organization may be most known for its STEM programming. But the site offers just about every subject you can think of, including new stay-at-home schedules created to help during COVID-19.

Scholastic: This educational publisher just released a special Learn at Home site at tinyurl.com/scholastic-learn with day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking and growing. Younger kids can explore Scholastic’s Bookflix for free — username: Learning20; password: Clifford.

Lessons: We love the Colored Counting Blocks activity for preschoolers from writer and former teacher Rachel Berg Scherer. It's downloadable (along with A Journey Through Time) here.

Recess

It’s an odd season to be outdoors. We’re as likely to get snow as we are to find rain puddles. So what can you do?

Ninja course: Have the kids haul out all their outside toys, including sleds, to make their own obstacle course. They can even incorporate random items from your garage or shed. But there’s one important rule: They have to put it all back when it’s done.

Treasure map: Give the kids a large piece of paper and have them draw a map of the backyard or any large area where you want to do a treasure hunt. (Parents can do this step — and make a copy for future egg hunts or scavenger hunts.) Then give the kids exactly 25 colored popsicle sticks to hide in the yard. (Any smallish objects will do as long as they stand out in the dormant landscape.) Have the kids mark the items’ locations on the map as they go. When they’re done, you get to seek and find. They can use their map to give you hints about the ones you miss.

garden

Plan a garden: Order free seed catalogs such as Burpee, Territorial Seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and others. (Find a list of 40 options.) And then let the kids circle all the things they want to grow — or at least what they say they’d be willing to eat! 

Build a raised-bed garden: We're working on a modified version at of this raised-bed garden (similar to the ones pictured above). It can be easily wrapped in rabbit fencing to protect food crops, cuz hey #selfsufficiency, right? 

Music

Study folk music: The Okee Dokee Brothers offer an ad-free YouTube channel with 40-minute adventure movies, music videos, humorous shenanigans and interviews, too.

If you want to get academic, you’ll find a 14-page downloadable study guide to help kids learn not just about the band’s adventure albums, but also about the history of folk music, a look at classic American outdoor destinations (for that day when we can travel again) and more.

Okee Dokee Brothers

Virtual concerts: NPR Music is compiling a growing list of live audio and video streams from around the world, categorized by date and genre (including opera!), with links to streaming platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Some are free; others are ticketed or “pay what you can.” Also, NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts are some of the most intimate video performances around and they’re free.

Reading

Read together: With all you’re juggling now, try not to give up your routines, especially nighttime reading. If you read just one book a day to your kids, you can count that as a success when you go to bed, no matter what else happens.

Everyday Beautiful blogger Stephanie Weinert shares two positively genius tips for reading to restless kids and includes her top 10 read-aloud books for families as part of a “quarantine ideas for kids series.”

ebooks: You may not be able to visit your library, but you can check out some of the thousands of ebooks ready for download. In Hennepin County and St. Paul you can gain access through an app called Libby; the Ramsey and Dakota County systems use cloudLibrary; Anoka County Library offers its own app. Many systems also allow you to stream free movies and educational videos, too.

Theater

Put on a show: Got any budding thespians in the family? Collect all the puppets and stuffed animals in the house (OK, maybe not all). Move the couch away from the wall, jump behind it and you have a puppet theater.

Make them practice their “show” for an age-appropriate amount of time before requiring an audience.

Get inspired: Children who might enjoy performing something scripted should check out tinyurl.com/kids-plays for collections of skits, poems, jokes and short plays; or they can get inspired by the Story Pirates podcast or YouTube Channel, in which kids submit stories that are then acted out by improv pros — or even animated into cool cartoons. See storypirates.com.

Art

Stock on hand: Now’s the time to crack open those arts and crafts kits the kids got for the holidays. If you’re like most families, you might be amazed to discover all the art supplies you’ve had stashed in the closet! Just the novelty of discovering items long forgotten often can be enough to get kids inspired. If you really need original ideas, there’s always the amazing local grandparenting blog, GrandyCamp, with crafts and activities that work just fine for parents, too.

Lunch Doodles: Mo Willems, the award-winning creator of the beloved Elephant & Piggie book series, has responded to school closures by offering Lunch Doodles. Every day at lunchtime, he releases a new drawing lesson via a video filmed in his studio — a gift from a creative genius to families across the globe.

Virtual museums: If you can’t get to the museums, let the museums come to you. Travel + Leisure magazine offers a collection of virtual tours you can take through the greatest museums in the world. If you want to stay local, you can explore images of the collections at Mia and the Walker.

Games

Board games: Dig out the ones you haven’t touched in ages. Make the kids read the directions to each other and teach themselves how to play. Need something fresh? Check out our latest toy test recommendations, including games kids can play solo!

Family trivia: Kahoot is a fun app that allows you to make your own quizzes that then play out on the TV like classic bar trivia. Kids can write questions like, “What’s mom’s favorite food?” or “Where did we go last summer?” After you’re finished writing your quiz, the multiple-choice questions will pop up one by one, and anyone with a device can log in their answers.

Exercise

Kid yoga: It’s important to keep moving during social distancing! Cosmic Kids Yoga, which is based on storytelling, is free on YouTube and includes tons of themed options just for kids.

Home workouts: It can’t all be about the kids. With local gyms taking a break, you need to take care of yourself, too.

Get out for a walk or run (alone or as a family) and check out our “Sweat on demand” resources for cardio and strength-training videos you can do at home. 

Many streaming workout subscriptions are offering extended free trials during this time. Here's a look at some of the most popular compared side by side.

Culinary arts

Cook: Staying in requires a little bit of pantry cooking, so why not explore Minnesota Parent’s list of always-short recipes for soups, sweets and more? Get the kids involved in simple cooking projects such as make-your-own mini pizzas or cutting everyday foods into cool shapes with cookie cutters for snacks. (Think cheese and meat slices or tortillas/bread and more.) Find more super-cute ideas on the kids’ page at foodnetwork.com.

Bake: It’s amazing how much more interested kids can be in making food when the result is a sweet treat! Take an inventory of your pantry, go to allrecipes.com, click “ingredient search” and enter “flour” and a couple of others. Let everyone sort through the resulting recipes and pick one that sounds best. You might stumble upon a new favorite, or you might just make pancakes (without a mix) or traditional chocolate chip cookies with customized mix-ins. Either way, you win.

Curated content

Talk to your remote: If you have the Xfinity voice remote, you can say “education” into it to access Xfinity educational content for all grade levels, created in partnership with Common Sense Media. You can also say “educational content for kids” into a voice-activated Apple TV remote to bring up educational kids shows, or ask your smart speaker to read you books in your digital collections, such as Kindle.

Kid content: CommonSenseMedia.org offers a wealth of resources for families who need educational, age-appropriate media options. But the site also includes a COVID-19 page with coping/calming strategies for families and resources to keep kids entertained, engaged and learning while they’re stuck at home, such as movement-based apps, mental-health apps and even the best podcasts for kids, including selections for bedtime!

Science podcasts: Kids and adults can learn science facts together with Brains On! — an award-winning science podcast for inquisitive minds by American Public Media, which recently released an episode about how the coronavirus spreads. And check out NPR’s Wow in the World, featuring science stories that range from everyday human biology (why some people have blue eyes) to major events in outer space (asteroid explosions).

Travel virtually: Take a trip to Yellowstone, the San Diego Zoo or even Mars at tinyurl.com/30virtualfieldtrips.

Kindness

If you have to go shopping: Grab extra staples such as cereals, personal products and more and bring them home to assemble a box to give to your local food bank or shelter. Folks in need in good times are certainly in need now. Read about what's needed (and what's not) at Second Harvest Heartland here.

Help a neighbor: Jump on Nextdoor and offer to pick up groceries or supplies for an at-risk senior on your next trip out.

When doing art projects: Keep seniors in mind. Find an assisted living or nursing home in your area and create day-brightening handmade cards or postcards for the residents. See Pinterest.com for ideas.


Minnesota Parent editor Sarah Jackson, associate editor Ed Dykhuizen and Charmed blogger Christina Ries created this list. See Christina's list of survival tips — from her family of six — here.

Please send your Stay-Home Survival Guide ideas to editor@mnparent.com with the subject line #stayhomemn.