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5 Guilt-Free Screen Time Activities for the Coronavirus Lockdown

With schools closed and companies implementing mandatory telework, the Coronavirus pandemic creates an interesting situation for many at home. Parents who are lucky enough to work from home are wondering: How can we be productive in our jobs while at the same time catering to our kids? While many schools have established plans for distance learning during this unprecedented event, there will be downtime during work hours. For me, I know this means increased screen time for my children.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I’m not one to shy away from screen time since I work in the children’s media industry. I believe that media is a powerful tool in helping kids learn and grow in so many ways. I can also understand why parents are hesitant about screen time. For me, screen time includes watching videos, playing games, and reading content online. Here are a few trusted D.C.-based organizations that provide curated, educational, guilt-free screen time activities and digital experiences for children. Many of these resources are also used in schools, so your children may already be exposed to them on a daily basis anyway. 

NASA

If your child is as much into space as mine is, you probably already know about the EO Kids blog. But if you’re unaware, maybe it’s time to check it out. EO Kids offers a very wide variety of earth science and space content. Download topical PDFs and read amazing facts about the planet all day every day. Subscribe for updates. NASA also just went live with this NASA at Home website, which contains great resources for your distance learners! Best for ages 9 to 14.

National Geographic Kids

Your children may already be using National Geographic Kids’ digital content in their classrooms. National Geographic Kids is all about animals, science, and exploration, and the content offers many ways to entertain children through reading, watching, and playing. Help your child learn about Coronavirus and discover ways to tackle distance learning like a champ. Kids can read animal profiles, watch fun (and educational) videos, or join initiatives to save the planet. Stock up on National Geographic Kids books and magazines before libraries close (or order through Amazon Prime!). And if non-fiction is not really your child’s thing, check out the new National Geographic Kids fiction series Explorer Academy and Zeus the Mighty. Both book series are based on real-life history and exploration, which you can read about at the end of each book. Best for ages 8 to 12.

National Parks Service

For now, National Parks are open, which is amazing. But if you are stuck inside due to distance learning and teleworking, you can still explore. The National Park Service website is a great place to get information about parks, and maybe this is your opportunity to plan out your next visit together. If your child loves the Junior Ranger program, you can download Junior Ranger books with activities right from the website. Complete the booklet and mail it in to get your ranger patch! What?! Excuse me, but I know what I’ll be doing during my downtime from now on … Best for kids ages 5 to 13.

PBS KIDS

At its core, PBS KIDS programming offers young children lessons in social-emotional and educational learning through friendly and relatable characters and impactful storytelling. And more importantly, it offers guilt-free screen time activities. If you haven’t already downloaded the PBS KIDS video and games apps, do yourself a favor and check them out. The PBS KIDS video app contains full episodes, extra clips, and a watch live experience for all the great PBS KIDS shows. The PBS KIDS games app has over 100 games to choose from, which pretty much guarantees zero chance of boredom. You can also watch PBS KIDS content on smart devices by downloading apps on those platforms as well. While you’re downloading, check out the PBS KIDS for Parents website, which contains helpful articles such as how to talk to your children about Coronavirus, hygiene tips, and more. PBS KIDS for Parents is also offering a daily email newsletter to help parents through school closures and distance learning with activity ideas and supportive articles. Best for ages 2 to 8.

Smithsonian

While the Smithsonian museums are closed until further notice, there’s still a huge opportunity for your children to engage with their exhibits online. Families are encouraged to check out the Smithsonian’s Open Access website to engage with the institution’s collections in a new way. Open Access allows you to use Smithsonian images without permission. Challenge your child to create an exhibit or to recreate their favorite Smithsonian exhibit during downtime from distance learning. Many of the museums, like the National Museum of Natural History, offer virtual tours. It’s almost like you’re there! The Smithsonian’s Learning Lab also has a Distance Learning Hub, so check there for additional resources. Best for ages 8 to 14.

Screen time isn’t for everyone. Here are 101 screen-free indoor and outdoor activities to try. Also, check out these strategies for setting up distance learning in your home for more ideas.

Full disclosure: I currently work at PBS, I have worked at National Geographic, and I was a volunteer for the Smithsonian. I am also a huge fan of both NASA and the National Park Service. Do you have a favorite guilt-free screen time activity or a digital resource that’s helping you survive the Coronavirus lockdown? Please comment below!

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