No one was prepared for France to close schools until May 11th. Families have been tasked with home schooling and finding activities to do for kids at home.
The most challenging aspect we’re finding is maintaining social interaction and stimulation for our sons, while keeping on top of homework and our own day-to-day work.
My Big List of Activities, Games & Ideas for Kids in Lockdown
Children are isolated from their school friends and many are now away from structured classroom learning and social support from peers. I know that the social and economic impact on many families will be significant, so I’ve tried to include as many free activities as possible in my list.
There is a mix of activities – some require access to devices and internet; others are old-fashioned traditional fun.
Also, there may be people who are running low on art materials, stationery, paper and other craft equipment so I’ve included ideas for creativity and learning where you can use what you may already have at home, or reuse/recycle packaging.
Some people are single parents, some have large spacious gardens and others are living in apartments, some people do not have extended family networks here, some parents are feeling the increased burden of family responsibilities. We are all coping in our own ways and will all look back on this time differently – as surreal, challenging, bonding or stressful.
The most important thing to remember is to look after your family’s physical and mental wellbeing. That may mean allowing extra screen time occasionally, letting your kids set up a parkour course in the living room or giving in to a session of ‘The Floor Is Lava’.
I hope that by writing up this list I’ll give you some material in one place that will give you hope that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, whether that is one week or one month away.
Now, is the time to improvise, get silly, have fun – whatever you need to do to get through with some semblance of sanity!
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list because otherwise I’d have 5000 pages of content 🙂 I have looked into each resource listed here to check they are age-appropriate and not dodgy sites. Here’s my list of resources to help entertain, educate or make things a bit more fun for your kids:
ART, CRAFT & DESIGN
BDnf is a fun French program where primary and secondary aged children can design their own comic book. Bande dessinées (BDs) are popular in France, so it’s a good way for kids to create their own story and learn about design elements. The download is available for Windows, MAC, iOS and Android. Find out more information here: BDnf, la fabrique à BD
Dinosaur obsession rules in our house with my youngest son! Busy Bee Kids Crafts has great dinosaur activities for kids including colouring pages, dot-to-dot challenges and mazes. They also have other craft ideas on the site too. The dinosaur activities are best suited for children up to 7 years. The link to their dinosaur-themed activities is here.
Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas is a great Facebook group with so many excellent ideas for arts and crafts, making things from recycled items and more! Lots of inspiration for kids of all ages. Join the Facebook group here: Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas
Hello, Wonderful has a great list of ’50 easy indoor activities’ using materials you’re likely to already have at home such as toilet rolls, straws or pillows. Suitable for toddler age upwards. Find the activities here: 50 Plus Easy Indoor Activities by Hello, Wonderful
Scouts UK has a cool page called ‘The Great Indoors’ with lots of ideas for indoor activities. Even better, at the bottom of the page you can click on ‘Find more activities’ to go to a gigantic list of fun ideas for all ages. Find the ideas here: The Great Indoors
Sparketh is offering 30-days free membership to their online art portal. Children aged 6-18 can enjoy up to 1000 art tutorials for free ranging from animal drawing classes to manga lessons, painting classes, portrait lessons, cartoon drawing and more. The filter function is useful whereby you can search for lessons based on ability level, duration and even materials. e.g beginner, 10 minute lesson, ink drawing. Click on this link for the Sparketh Art Courses.
The Art of Dr. Seuss is a reference site for the history of the artist and digital collections of the Dr Seuss portfolio. A good website for older kids interested in the crazy illustrations of Dr. Seuss! I also checked out another recommended Dr. Seuss website, Seussville, but found this somewhat disappointing as it only has 3 games and is mostly just links to buy the Dr. Seuss books. However, Seussville has a great gallery of the characters. Learn about The Art of Dr. Seuss here.
For beginner and intermediate level artists, kids can look at the Thrive Art School on YouTube. Beginner tutorials include how to draw tropical fish, parrots and castles. Intermediate tutorials include how to draw an octopus, a water lily and sailing ship. Video instruction is found here: Thrive Art School free art lessons
BAKING & COOKING
My kids have always enjoyed baking and helping out in the kitchen – measuring, tasting and stirring things! Here’s a few easy recipes to try during confinement. My youngest son is obsessed with baking, so all of these recipes are suitable for toddler age upwards (always supervised by an adult).
BBC Good Food is a great resource for easy recipes for kids. Over 65 child-friendly recipes including rice paper wraps, simple iced biscuits, homemade fish fingers and easy banana pancakes. BBC Good Food Kids Cooking
Jamie Oliver is a good resource website to get kids cooking. The instructions are easy to follow and recipes don’t usually need lots of ingredients or fancy equipment. Recipe suggestions include everything from snacks to family meals. Get kids cooking with Jamie Oliver.
Little chefs can try their hand at making cookies and cupcakes, thanks to easy recipes from Nicolas Baygourry, the Pastry Chef at Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. Get the recipes here: Nicolas Baygourry’s Cookies & Cupcakes Recipes
Raddish usually delivers monthly cooking kits, however they have set up a website section for families who want free online cooking classes. Recipes include guacamole, blueberry pancakes and gluten-free cinnamon buns. Get cooking here with Raddish Kids.
My kids love pizza! Local French Riviera blogger Your Guardian Chef has easy pizza recipes for kids to make at home. Use your imagination for toppings! Your Guardian Chef’s Child-Friendly Pizza Recipes
Audible has an amazing selection of audio books that you can listen to for free and stream them on desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Titles include collections for Little Listeners up to Teens. Popular themes are included such as Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter, Little Red Riding Hood, Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter. Most of the audio books are narrated in English, however there’s a small selection available in Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. Listen to the books here: Audible Stories: Free Audiobooks
FNAC has a large catalogue of children’s ebooks available for free download. Titles include classics such as ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, through to French animated stories, novels and fantasy. The selection covers all ages from kindergarten to teens. See FNAC’s book list here: FNAC Livre Jeunesse Ebook gratuit
Funbrain has pages of resources for ages 3 to 13. While the website has games and videos, I’ve included it here as an online reading resource with book titles including ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, ‘Stink and The Great Guinea Pig Express’ and more. Find the online books for kids here: Funbrain Books
For a range of ebooks that suit ages 3-11 years, visit Oxford Owl‘s library. You have to set up an account first to access the downloads. Titles include ‘The Frog Prince and other tales’, ‘Downhill Racers’ and ‘Treasure Island’. Register here for Oxford Owl.
Celebrities are jumping on the reading train and lending their faces and voices to narrating children’s books with Storyline Online. Titles include ‘A Bad Case of Stripes’ read by Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin, ‘The Hula Hoopin’ Queen’ read by Oprah Winfrey, and ‘Arnie the Doughnut’ read by Chris O’Dowd. Suitable for ages 5 upwards, find the library here: Storyline Online
ENVIRONMENT & NATURE
Blue Marine Foundation has a whole section of educational activities including a marine conservation app, underwater quiz, a ‘get drastic with plastic’ work sheet and a geography challenge. Click on the link to find the info: BLUE Digital Education
Explore.org have a number of live cam feeds for children that are interested in wildlife, nature and the environment. Live web cams feature African wildlife, birds, cats, rainforest cameras in Central America, jellyfish, seals, orcas, penguins and polar bears. Watch the planet’s wildlife here: Explore Wildlife Webcams
If you’ve ever wanted to see the aurora, Lights over Lapland and Explore.org have Northern Lights webcams and Aurora virtual tours set up so you can sky gaze from wherever you are in the world. See the aurora here: Lights over Lapland Virtual Tours and Explore’s Aurora Borealis webcam
NASA Climate Kids has games, videos and activities so kids can learn more about plants, the weather, water and energy. Best suited for kids from primary school age up to teens. Visit their page here: NASA Climate Kids Earth Science Page
National Geographic Kids is a wonderful resource with games, fun facts and videos about nature and wildlife. Best suited for kids from primary school age up to 12. Explore the resources here: National Geographic Kids – Animal World
Switch Zoo is a really cool resource for learning about wildlife and habitats – we love it! Also available as an app which has bigger animations and more selection of animals. I recommend the ‘Build a Biome’ section for younger kids as it’s a short duration and great for teaching younger kids about animals, plants and different climates for habitats. There’s also other cool features such as making new animals by switching animal bodies, sorting animals by what food they eat and memory games. The only downside is the pop-up ads on the online website, but if you can look beyond those then Switch Zoo gets a thumbs up in our house!
FRENCH & ENGLISH CLASSROOM RESOURCES
While most schools have given children homework to see them through the confinement, here’s a few additional sites to refer to if you need them.
Arcademic has tons of online games to improve skills and knowledge with language, maths and geography. While it has a lot of US-based content, there’s enough to keep any child aged 5-11 years engaged and interesting in learning via games. Arcademic Online Skill Builders
BBC Bitesize is aimed at students following the UK curriculum, so is best suited for those families who want to keep up English language and UK lessons. It has a ton of free online lessons covering ages 3 to 16+ and every subject you could think of such as maths, English, language learning, music, geography, history, physical education, art, design and science. New lessons are added daily. Get the daily lesson plans here: BBC Bitesize : Homeschooling
Editions Rosace has released a free 48-page cahier d’activitiés (PDF download) for children aged 3-6 years that covers handwriting, maths, drawing etc. French language. Download here: Editions Rosace Cahier Activitiés Maternelle
Fiche Maternelle is an educational resource aimed at maternelle-aged children, with the occasional work sheet for CP age. There are plenty of free downloadable work sheets that cover handwriting practice for the alphabet and numbers, basic maths, phonics and science. All sheets are in French language. The best aspect of the work sheets is that they are visually fun, so younger kids stay engaged. Download the free work sheets here: Fiche Maternelle learning pages
KidooLand is a well-known company on the French Riviera for their English and French play groups, as well as their holiday programmes. Refer to their Facebook page for regular activity ideas and fun workshops that include song, dance, crafts and fitness. KidooLand on Facebook
Ma Médiathèque has a large database of digital French learning resources available via the ToutApprendre app including over 100,000 classroom exercises for primary age upwards, language learning, gaming, first aid tutorials and pedagogic lessons for kids aged 4-12. Download the Toutapprendre.com app on the AppStore or Google Play.
Outschool offers live online classes for youth aged 3-18 years. Classes cost $USD5 upwards and cover subjects such as maths, health and wellness, science and nature, coding and tech and more. The search functionality is excellent, so you can filter down to your own needs such as age, one-time classes or a short course, subject or duration. You need internet access to join the classes. Check it out here: Outschool Online Classes
Papa Positive is a popular website with educational activities for children covering a range of topics. The site has everything from origami tutorials to colouring pages, links to learning resources and suggestions for home play and development. French language. Get the Papa Positive archives and activity links here.
Aimed at ages 3 to 15, Scholastic has launched a learn-at-home site with 20 days+ of video learning and hands-on projects to keep kids active and thinking. Topics include life science, nature, communication skills, gaming and technology. All lessons are in English language. Find the remote lessons here: Scholastic Learn At Home
For preschool age to 8 years, Starfall is targeted at an American audience (therefore in English language). It’s a useful website to help teach kids to read, learn basic maths concepts and have fun with songs and holiday-themed lessons. It doesn’t have tons of resources, but it’s bright and colourful so particularly good for younger kids with short attention spans. Find Starfall’s Online Learning here.
SplashLearn is a maths tool for ages 3 to 10 years. Based on an American curriculum, kids can practise their maths skills for geometry, addition, multiplication, algebra and more via exciting game challenges. SplashLearn can be accessed by parents registering an account for free.
Turtle Diary is another American site with activities for kids aged 3-10 years. Interactive games in English language and hundreds of downloadable work sheets cover world knowledge, word games, maths, social studies, animals, science, puzzles. Fun challenges include sorting recycling, money games, geography quizzes. The downside is the online site has a few pop-up ads, but nothing too annoying to stop using the site. Get the Turtle Diary Online Learning here.
Worksheetfun has lots of printable sheets for kids to practise maths, handwriting, phonics, spelling, pattern recognition and more. I find these are most suited to younger kids at preschool and kindergarten age. All in English language, find the sheets here: Worksheetfun FREE printable worksheets
GEOGRAPHY, CULTURE & HISTORY
For free online history resources, turn to BBC History for Kids (their Hands on History and History for Kids section have information about Romans, Vikings, archaeology and world history), History for Kids has cool stuff about the Middle Ages, Egypt and Ancient Greece, and
Google Arts & Culture has always been a winner in my books. Travel around the world and visit museums and landmarks such as the British Museum in London, Palais of Versailles in France, Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Taj Mahal in India and the Colosseum in Rome. Explore here with Google Arts & Culture.
Seterra is a huge site with all sorts of free geography quizzes covering topics such as capital cities, islands, latitudes and longitudes, countries and the solar system. Best suited to age range of older primary school kids and upwards. Get the link here; Seterra is also available as apps: Seterra Geography: Free Maps & Quiz Games
Street Art with Google is a glimpse into street art with audio descriptions for global cities, and over 5000 examples of graffiti and street art around the world from Portugal to Argentina, France to the United States. More suited to teenagers than younger children. See Google’s Street Art gallery.
Children can test their geography knowledge with World Geography Games, a free online site with quizzes relating to continents, world capitals, world flags, seas, mountain ranges and more. Test yourself here: World Geography Games : Online Geography Quizzes
YouVisit has a virtual tour that is narrated and offers a cool experience for visiting Machu Picchu while based at home. Visit one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites here: YouVisit Virtual Tour of Machu Picchu
HEALTH & FITNESS
Captain Fantastic is hosting daily online fitness classes each morning, followed by dancing and singing in the afternoons. Tune in here: Captain Fantastic online children’s fitness & entertainment
We have been loving Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube! Jamie has fun themed yoga sessions that are suitable for toddler age upwards. Themes include Pokémon, Harry Potter, Frozen, Minecraft, Spiderman, Trolls and more. Check out Cosmic Kids Yoga here.
I know everyone has been raving about Joe Wick’s fitness classes, however Get Kids Moving is so much cooler! Created by Glenn Higgins, the YouTube videos combine exercise with superhero moves. If you’ve got THAT child who wants to sleep in their superhero outfit, this is the one to tune into! Who doesn’t want to do a fun fitness class with Jedi training, the Avengers, Fortnite or Spiderman? Workouts average 5-10 minutes so are great for short attention spans. Check the sessions out here: Get Kids Moving: Free Kids Workouts
GoNoodle is a combination dance and exercise YouTube channel, however they incorporate so many movements into each video that I’m listing it under the Health & Fitness category. Fun and contemporary, it’s a great way to get toddler age to older primary school kids up and moving. Get moving here with GoNoodle.
For relaxation and mindfulness meditation for kids, YouTube has lots of fantastic resources ranging from short guided meditation sessions to marathon 8-hour videos with soothing music to encourage children to relax or sleep. Try New Horizon’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation for Kids, or 321 Relaxing who post soothing music with underwater scenes of fish and coral reefs.
Kids who love puzzles can jump onto the Lovatt’s Puzzles website where there are online puzzles such as Sudoku, word searches and crosswords.
Oceanco has a series of online puzzles to solve including some of their latest yacht fleet. Challenge your family here: Oceanco Fleet Puzzles
PBS Kids has a lot of online games for kids ranging from pure fun games to educational challenges that involve concepts for science, nature, maths, emotional skills and language learning. Here’s the link: PBS Kids Games
The RNLI has a good database of education resources with colouring pages, interactive quizzes and posters that teach kids about water safety and lifeboat rescue. Suited for youth aged 3-18 years. Head here for the downloads: RNLI Youth Education
Comedian, actor, writer and Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams has a whole host of free fun activities on his website, The World of David Walliams. The free downloadable activity sheets are all inspired by his books. Check them out here: The World of David Walliams Activities & Resources
Unicef’s Distance Learning Solutions has a big list of educational resources for language learning, history, STEM subjects, earth sciences and digital storybooks. Check it out here: Unicef Distance Learning Solutions
If you have a child who always asks ‘But, why?’, then Wonderopolis is the website for you! Aiming to spark curiosity in children, the site is aimed at kids of all ages. They have a ‘Wonder of the Day’ and kids can ask questions that get answered around various topics such as science, arts and culture, maths, technology and social studies. Join the world of wonders here: Wonderopolis
If you have older children who are interested in music, Berklee Online has a collection of free music resources including 12 sample lessons that cover everything from guitar ensemble techniques to film scoring, music theory and vocal production. You can also get free mini lessons and handbooks with theory about songwriting, music publishing and more. You have to create an account to access the free resources: Berklee Online Free Music Resources
Funky Moves offers online dance classes for kids, teens and families for just £5 per class. Classes are run via Zoom so you need an internet connection. Kids classes have different sessions for children aged 2-12 years. Teens classes are hip hop only. More information is here: Funky Moves Online Dance Classes
Buddy magicians will love ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic‘ based on the British Library exhibition from 2017. It’s available through Google Arts & Culture and features manuscripts and drawings by J.K Rowling, illustrations by Jim Kay from the Harry Potter series and sections about subjects taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry such as Potions, Alchemy, Charms and Care of Magical Creatures. Explore Harry Potter’s online exhibition here.
The Haschak Sisters are four teen sisters who are hugely popular with 7.8 million subscribers on their YouTube channel. They sing and break down dance steps in their videos. Tune in if you have a tween/teen daughter who likes pop music: Haschak Sisters
Kidz Bop is a YouTube channel by kids for kids with fun dance tutorials. Easy to follow for both genders and dance along to, most of the videos are 5 minutes or less in duration so kids don’t get bored. Dance along here: Kidz Bop
Theatre fans can get active with Official London Theatre who are hosting #WestEndWarmUp every Monday and Wednesday, led by West End performers. Follow them on Instagram to see the west end moves: Official London Theatre : WestEndWarmUp
Strictly Come Dancing star Oti Mabuse has uploaded themed dance classes for kids on her YouTube channel. Classes are better suited to older primary kids as the duration is 25 minutes-plus for most lessons. Themes include Frozen, Trolls, The Greatest Showman and Moana. Get your groove on here: Oti Mabuse Kids Dance
TeachRock is one of those cool sites that you wish was around when you were a kid! They have free files for all age groups covering music history and music exploration for subjects such as The Beatles, the birth of rock, hip hop and more. Rock out here: TeachRock Distance Learning
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Primary and secondary school children who are interested in coding and computer science, can get free virtual coding sessions via Amazon Future Engineer. My 9-year old loves the simple instructions for the Hour of Code: Dance Party (make sure your child watches the short instruction videos first that explain how to set the codes). Go to Amazon Future Engineer’s free online coding for kids.
But Why is a child-friendly podcast where inquisitive kids can send in a question to be answered. Previous questions (just the type of questions that every parent has heard before) have been “Why do baby teeth fall out?” and “Are llamas ticklish?”. Listen in on Apple Podcasts.
The Cosmic Shambles Network creates digital content, podcasts and fun stuff exploring science concepts, art, music and more. If your child has a curious mind, check out their ‘Stay at Home Festival’ that can be viewed on their website or see it on YouTube. More details here: The Stay At Home Festival by Cosmic Shambles
Sydney Krawiec is a US-based youth services librarian who has created a digital Harry Potters Escape Room, inspired by J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. The game can be played individually or as a group with puzzles to solve to get out of the room; best suited to older primary aged children to early teens. Here is the link to Hogwarts Digital Escape Room.
NASA Space Play has games and crafts where kids can learn more about Earth, the Sun and the solar system.
National Geographic Kids has easy science experiments for kids to try at home – how about a colour explosion using food colouring, milk and dishwashing liquid? Get the instructions here: Easy Science Experiment for Kids
Science Kids has fun experiments, games, quizzes and facts about science and technology. The science experiments are simple and use items you may already have at home. The quizzes are aimed at primary school age. Recommended for toddler age to early teens (all experiments should be done with adult supervision). Science Kids: Online Science Experiments
While I don’t intend to give professional advice about special education, many students with special needs are now facing new challenges with schools being closed, routine changes due to isolation and no accessibility to teacher aides. Here are a few recommended resources and tools; however customised learning is recommended dependent on your child’s individual needs.
Flamingo Chicks offers free online inclusive classes for children with special needs to explore dance and movement with their peers. They also have sensory activities and suggestions for play at home. Find their virtual classes on YouTube or at this link: Flamingo Chicks at home
LetterSchool is offering a free trial for their literacy programme. It encourages letter recognition by tapping and tracing colourful animations. See the site here: LetterSchool
SoundingBoard is only available from the AppStore, however it’s a free app (with in-app purchases). This app is aimed at children who are unable to speak (or have limited speech), persons on the autism spectrum and adults with special needs. This augmentive and alternative communication (AAC) app has preloaded boards; you can also customise symbol boards with your own messages; users press on the images to prompt a verbal message. Go to the AppStore link for SoundingBoard here.
Teach.com has a detailed list of digital resources for students with autism. English language only. Find the list here: Digital Resources for Students with Autism
Text-to-speech (TTS) is an assistive technology that may help special needs students learning at home, because it reads digital text aloud. Here’s some links where you can go to activate features like this on your desktop or smartphone:
For Android, text-to-speech needs to be activated under Settings. The steps are here: Android text-to-speech
For Chromebook accessibility features such as text-to-speech, go to Settings: Turn on Chromebook Accessibility Features
For Windows 10, under ‘Control Panel’ then ‘Ease of Access’: More about Windows 10 Accessibility Features.
For voice control, vision and hearing accessibility for MAC and iPhone, iPad, iTouch, refer here: Accessibility Support Apple