Keeping You and the Kids Busy While Social Distancing

By Jennifer E. RSS Wed, March 25, 2020

While we all practice social distancing with schools and libraries closed for at least two weeks to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, what exactly are you (and your kids!) going to do with yourself? A lot of us have to-be-read piles stacked in tottering piles and a to-do list of tasks around the house that we may have been putting off for a while, but we all know boredom and restlessness can set in pretty easily for people of all ages.

Here’s some ideas of how you can pass the time indoors with offerings from the Free Library and from around the web:

Of course, the first place to start would be with the library’s own Digital Media and Digital Learning portals. Our collection of online databases offers the perfect opportunity to explore topics of your own interest, take a few practice tests, or learn a new language or skill.

For ebooks, both Overdrive (and Libby, Overdrive’s very user-friendly app) and Hoopla have a strong collection of Children’s material, which can either be downloaded to a device or read on the computer. Additionally, Tumblebooks provides a storybook collection of animated and narrated videos with highlighted text of picture books and early readers, as well as Read-Alongs of narrated chapter books, ebooks, and graphic novels. Meanwhile, Bookflix does a terrific job of pairing picture book favorites with a related nonfiction title, then providing online learning activities to go along with them. If you’re just interested in nonfiction, TrueFlix offers lots of subjects that you can watch and read about!

And since you’re going to be reading a lot, make sure you’re signed up for our Spring Reading Challenge! You can keep track of either the books you read or the time you spend reading, as well as complete suggested activities.

Some of your favorite and most trustworthy content producers like PBSKids, Sesame Street, and Disney have websites with games, videos, and more. Crayola has instructions for relatively simple craft projects, in addition to coloring pages for those who have a printer.

You can also find word searches, number puzzles (like Sudoku), and other puzzles to print out or you can create your own personalized challenges by visiting the Discovery Education Puzzlemaker. There’s a further list of games and fun websites, as well as suggested apps for various devices, available on the Free Library’s Kids page.

Many educational companies and websites are offering free access while schools are shut down, with everything from lesson plans to video lectures, educational games to stories, and more.

Award-winning children’s author and illustrator Grace Lin is kicking off her new podcast series Kids Ask Authors, with three episodes a week and will be accepting submissions of questions, book reviews, poems, and jokes. Other authors and illustrators can be found on the KidLitTv Youtube channel, reading their books, discussing their creative process, or giving drawing lessons. Everyone’s favorite Pigeon maker Mo Willems will be offering daily Lunch Doodles via the Kennedy Center, while Jarrett Krosoczka of Lunch Lady, Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Punk Farm, and Hey Kiddo will be offering daily instruction on drawing and storytelling for all levels. 11-year old blogger the LivBits is maintaining this every-changing document of other Children’s book creators embarking on similar projects or providing other options for readers and families.

For kid-friendly podcast suggestions, start with these lists from Common Sense Media or the Say Yes blog.

If you’re inspired to add more doodling to your family life, Kids SteamLab shares 31 Creative Drawing Ideas for Kids, or you could try scribbling on a piece of paper and having your child turn it into artwork! To literally take drawing into another dimension, these 3-D Doodlecubes are pretty cool. There are also tons of comic strip and comic book templates online (although you can easily make your own) if you happen to be raising the next Charles Schulz or Raina Telgemeier.

For a little bit more abstract art creating – not to mention a little bit of Zen – check out this easy introduction to Zentangles.

If writing is more your speed, check out this pretty extensive list of prompts to get things started. It’s a great time to start keeping a diary or journal, and any old notebook will do! Or take the opportunity to do a little old-fashioned letter writing?

For those of you missing your local storytime experience, Storyline Online offers a host of videos from well-known actors and celebrities reading picture books. It’s not quite the same as hitting up your neighborhood library, but then chances are Oprah isn’t leading your regular weekly sessions.

Perhaps you’d like to take a virtual tour of a famous museum, a national park, a Canadian Farm, or elsewhere? Or enjoy a concert from world renowned orchestras, philharmonics, and opera companies, such as our own Philadelphia Orchestra.

You should be able to practice lots of paper folding skills over the next few weeks, whether that’s by making paper airplanes or trying your hand at some origami. And perhaps you might want to hide a coded message inside one of those folds, once you’ve learned all about cryptology and decided which method is your favorite.

No matter what you’d like to learn, there are probably instructions on how to do it available on Instructables. Why not start with a classic, low-key, kid-friendly craft like tissue paper flowers, magazine beads, finger knitting, or paper baskets, and go from there? Who knows what you might have taught yourself to create by the time school is back in session!

DLTK-Kids offers a huge variety of projects as well, although these are more appropriate for your youngest learners. You can’t go wrong with a paper chain caterpillar, coffee filter butterfly, or itsy bitsy spider finger puppet. Plus, you might as well do something creative with all those toilet paper tubes! We are also very fond of making corner bookmarks, paper fish, nesting dolls, and snowflake ballerinas.

Figuring out things to do is a great crowdsourcing activity, so please let us know your suggestions in the comments!

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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BTW, we need to stop calling it "social distancing" and start calling it "physical distancing" with "social friendliness" or even "affection"
Stephen Krickl MD - North Bay Area
Monday, March 30, 2020