Singapore’s extended circuit breaker period due to COVID-19 has been difficult for many families. Not only are we all cooped up in the house together, but the Ministry of Education (MOE) has also declared that the June holidays will be moved up to May in order to ease the burden of Home-Based Learning (HBL) for students, parents and teachers alike.
However, this also poses a different kind of problem for parents. How can you keep your children meaningfully occupied at home if there are no more HBL lessons to tap on?
Here are some wonderful free online resources that you can utilise so that the learning does not have to stop even during the early and unexpected school holidays.
Free Online Resources for Kids on School Holidays:
We know how hard it is not to be dependent on screen time, so if you need your children to take an eye break, what about online storytelling?
Here are some free online resources that allows your child to settle down to enjoy his/her favourite stories.
Audible, a company under the Amazon umbrella, has announced that their library of children’s stories will be made completely free and available to all as long as schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through Audible, children are able to stream a well-curated selection of stories in six different languages. Whether your children are looking for classics like The Jungle Book, tween favourites like Cirque du Freak or even global bestseller Harry Potter, Audible has something for everyone. The stories are free to stream on desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablets.
2. Storyline Online
Storyline Online is an Emmy-nominated and award-winning literacy website which streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Listen to books read aloud by your kids’ favourite actors, such as Kristen Bell (Anna from Frozen).
Each book even includes a supplemental curriculum developed by educators, aiming to improve your children’s comprehension, verbal and written skills.
3. Ximalaya FM
Many of us are not confident enough to read Chinese storybooks aloud to our children. If this describes you to a tee, then Ximalaya FM, available both as an app and as a website, is your perfect solution.
Ximalaya has a huge database of free online resources in the form of e-storybooks which you may even own at home. Simply type in the title of your storybook and search for the audio file. It is written in simplified Chinese (简体) and therefore is perfect for Singaporean children to navigate.
4. NLB Storytelling Sessions
The National Library Board is holding weekly storytelling sessions for children in Singapore’s four official languages – English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Each NLB storytelling session online will last between 5 to 15 minutes and will be hosted by librarians, volunteers and local authors.
Check out these links to access the storytelling sessions:
NLB English storytelling sessions (Every Mon to Fri, 6.30 pm)
NLB Chinese storytelling sessions (Every Mon and Fri, 7.30 pm)
NLB Malay storytelling sessions (Every Tue, 8 pm, and Sat, 11.30 pm)
NLB Tamil storytelling sessions (Every Mon, Wed and Fri, 7 pm)
Free Online Resources: Virtual Tours
Are field trips really out of the question? We might not be able to leave the house, but from the comfort of our living rooms, we can still visit places around the world that we might never even get to visit in real life!
Many museums and attractions have opened up virtual tours for children. From your seat in the living room, scroll through special exhibits and marvel at fascinating sights and sounds from around the globe.
Tip: Turn on the YouTube closed-captions option if your children find it hard to understand certain accents, by clicking on the CC button in the bottom right-hand corner of each video.
5. Boston Children’s Museum
The Boston Children’s Museum has been building innovative, engaging and interactive experiences for children and families for 100 years. It is a particular favourite with kids, especially the Japanese House and the Explore-a-Saurus exhibit!
They also have a great page full of daily activities that parents and children can indulge in at home during this isolation period.
6. The Smithsonian
Your children may recognise this iconic museum from Night at the Museum 2. In fact, why not make it a themed day and start by watching the movie, available on Netflix for subscribers.
Visit the Smithsonian museums virtually by clicking on “Explore & Learn/Explore interests” to see objects from the museums’ collections, with annotations. They also include a page dedicated especially to kids with a long list of museum-related activities!
7. Met Kids
Kids are certain to love this beautifully designed website that is laid out like a treasure hunt. They will spend hours poring over each red and yellow marker on the zoomable map to make discoveries all around the museum.
Check out their list of fascinating videos that cover a dizzying array of topics such as ‘How Do You Dance In Armour?’ and ‘How To Fold an Origami Samurai Helmet’. These free online resources are sure to keep them entertained!
8. National Geographic Kids
You don’t have to be a subscriber to Nat Geo Kids to benefit from the amazing range of free online resources on their website. The website is chock full of free resources, from games to play, videos to watch, to crafts to do – all the while learning about Earth and the environment.
Who knows, you might feel inspired to subscribe to the magazine. What better way to interest the kids in reading than a package addressed to them arriving in the post every month?
Fun Hands-On Activities
Many of us are leery of screen time because it involves a lot of input and not a lot of output on the parts of our children. However, the Internet is also a great resource for hands-on activities and a host of free online resources.
9. Stuck At Home Science
The California Science Center has prepared a whole bunch of activities to continue your children’s Science learning at home. Designed for families to explore, investigate and have fun learning together, all the activities make use of easy-to-find household supplies and are appropriate for a variety of ages.
Activity guides and videos are free to download.
10. The Dad Lab
The Dad Lab is a website run by a father of two, Sergei Urban. His STEM videos are particularly delightful for children to watch as they feature his kids carrying out simple but visually stunning home science experiments.
One fun and simple activity he has recently featured on his YouTube channel is cutting holes in paper with a single cut. With just a piece of paper and a pair of scissors, his children explored and puzzled over the fold and cut theorem, which states that any shape with straight sides can be cut out with a single cut if you fold the paper the right way.
11. Art for Kids Hub
The videos on Art for Kids Hub are so easy to watch and cover a wide range of topics and themes. The main draw of the website is that the dad draws alongside his kids, so that your children can see realistically what another child’s version of the drawing will look like. This is good for building self-esteem and confidence!
The site is neatly laid out by topic, ranging from Star Wars characters, folding surprise drawings, to Mother’s Day cards (hint to dads who are not sure how to get your kids started on a card for that special day)!
12. Happiness Is Homemade
One fabulous tip (since we are all stuck at home) is to keep all the boxes, cardboard tubes, plastic bottles and containers we have been piling up. Stash all these cleaned recyclable materials in an easily accessible box for your children to rummage through and create crafts from scratch!
Stuck for ideas on how to use those toilet paper rolls? Check out Happiness is Homemade for more than fifty quick and easy kids crafts that kids of various ages can complete on their own!
13. Origami Instructions
Need to keep the not-so-little hands busy? Origami is a wonderful way to introduce procedural texts to your older kids and teach them to follow written instructions with videos and photographs to help them along.
Be prepared to have a house full of paper objects afterwards!
It is crucial for children to manage their mental wellness during this period of isolation.
They have been cut off from their friends and social circles, just like you are frustrated and stressed by the thought of not being able to leave the house. Their daily routines have been disrupted and although they may not express it, they are likely to be worried and concerned about the COVID-19 news.
Check out these free online resources to help your kids keep their mental well-being in check.
14. Cosmic Yoga
Cosmic Yoga is an excellent free online resource that helps teach mindfulness to children while engaging their need for physical activity. Lesson plans and online yoga lessons are just some of the content available on their site.
The well-known meditation app Headspace now has an app for kids. Their goal is for children to be healthy and happy, not just for now but for the rest of their lives, by learning meditation and relaxation.
Explore their five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep, and Wake Up through simple, fun breathing exercises. Free trials are available!
16. The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland
Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of “The Mindful Child,” has turned her website into a database to help parents and kids coping with the pandemic.
Resources are divided into ‘Mindful Games’, with breathing exercises and creative ways to help kids stay calm, and ‘Response to COVID-19’, which has information on a “pay-what-you-can” course, hosted by a group of therapists, about how to respond to children’s needs.
Do your kids love Thor? Who doesn’t?
To help families find a sense of calm amid all the chaos (both outside and inside their homes), Chris Hemsworth’s fitness site and app called Centr is offering free guided meditations and visualisations specifically for children who might be struggling to cope with self-isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought, this is not going to work, my kids are allergic to sitting still. But to my surprise it actually did calm them down,” says Chris. “Kids are feeling anxiety and stress like us, and probably more so because they don’t understand it and it’s difficult for us to explain it to them. These guided meditations have been really beneficial.”
It is difficult to drain our children’s seemingly boundless energy when we are hardly allowed to leave the house. Furthermore, physical exercise is crucial to keep kids in shape – and to help them work off all the comfort foods we have been enjoying at home!
Try to mimic the amount of exercise your kids get on a typical day. Luckily, there are plenty of free online resources that can help.
18. Garmin Sports Sessions
Older children can benefit from the local Garmin sports sessions by the Singapore Sports Hub. The specially curated seven-minute series of programmes are great to build around your daily routines for health benefits.
19. The Ballet Coach
Sarah du Feu, an English National Ballet School trained dancer, is live streaming ballet videos on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube every weekend for various age and ability groups. The videos stay up on YouTube and are available to watch even after the live stream is over.
Kids of all ages will find the fun imaginative ballet content easy to follow along to – and parents are more than welcome to join in!
GoNoodle aims to benefit kids’ physical wellness, academic success, and social-emotional health with its movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts.
The games on its iOS and Android apps are attuned to the child’s movement and results in some pretty funky games such as Flo Yo’s Bubble Pop – children pop the bubbles and avoid sharks by waving their arms around. The games are ‘designed to tire kids out’ and use up all the excess energy they accrue every day at home.
Hopefully these free online resources will prove to be a boon to you and your child during the extended circuit breaker period!
Written by Danielle Hee