On a normal day, my kids don’t often get a chance to look at screens. They’re usually at school, going to the playground with friends, or walking with me to the library. Social distancing and shelter-in-place laws have taken all of that away from us, but that doesn’t mean the wider world has entirely closed.
Now, we just have to watch from the other side of a screen. If you can’t stand one more episode of Pinkalicious & Peterrific, I've rounded up a few streaming services that my 3- and 5-year-old have found entertaining.
CuriosityStream is a subscription-based, video-on-demand streaming service with more than 3,000 nonfiction documentaries on subjects such as science, history, and culture. In addition to original content, it also licenses films made by production companies all over the world. It’s been hard to check out its other offerings because, for the past few weeks, my children have been riveted by the BBC nature series Walking with Dinosaurs.
CuriosityStream is available as an app on both iOS and Android devices, as well as on Roku, SlingTV, and other services. It also has a kids mode that allows parents to filter out inappropriate content.
Lunch Doodles With Mo Willems!
Children’s book writer and illustrator Mo Willems is best known in our house as the writer of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! He is currently an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center. Every day at 1 pm ET, he records a 20- to 30-minute clip that features a fun kid’s project, whether that’s playing a game or making birthday crowns. He also invites other famous friends, like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Weird Al Yankovic, to participate remotely. You can watch him live on the Kennedy Center website, and he posts the videos to YouTube afterward.
Many other artists are holding online drawing classes or posting prompts. If your kids are a little older, you can also check out illustrator Wendy MacNaughton's Draw Together. Oregon-based artist Carson Ellis also posts prompts for Quarantine Art Club on her Instagram account.
Stay-at-Home Story Hour With Oliver Jeffers
Both my children and I are fans of the Irish writer and artist Oliver Jeffers. We’ve read almost all of his children’s books (our favorites are Here We Are, The Day the Crayons Quit, and This Moose Belongs to Me).
As WIRED senior producer Pia Ceres wrote, Jeffers is just one of many beloved children’s book authors who are holding story hours right now. They’re meant to give parents a break, but I can’t help watching, too.
Animal Live Cams
In real life, otters are vicious, horrible, disease-ridden vermin. But from a distance, they’re also irresistibly cute and furry! They cuddle their babies and hold each other’s hands when they're sleeping! My favorite live cam to watch cuddly otters dart in and out of frame is the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sea otter cam. The stream is available from 7 am to 7 pm PT. If otters aren’t your thing, the aquarium also has shark cams, jellyfish cams, and penguin cams, among others.
Many zoos and aquariums post live cams. And as any bird spotter can tell you, wildlife cams can be hit or miss. But if you get lucky, Katmai's brown bear cam is truly awe-inspiring.
Live From Space
Are your children fascinated by rockets? Or do you merely need something soothing and educational to distract them while you boil macaroni for dinner for the 15th time? NASA’s live space cam comes from an external camera mounted on the International Space Station and streams 24 hours a day. While the space station itself is moving at a mind-blowing 17,000 miles per hour, the feed itself is slow and soothing. You can see the yawning void of space just beyond our bright blue globe.
Full disclosure: I do not have trouble getting my kids to move. In fact, my problem is getting them to stop moving. But many parents I’ve talked to recommend Cosmic Kids Yoga, an online yoga resource that's aimed at kids ages of 3 to 9. Teacher Jaime Amor wears fun costumes in front of crazy backdrops, playing peppy music to get kids to focus on breathing, mindfulness, and movement.
On her website, you can filter videos by length, energy level, or style (dance versus storytelling, for example). The Cosmic Kids Yoga app is available on iOS, Android, and other streaming services like Roku and Amazon's Fire TV.
Most museums have temporarily closed. But to compensate, many of the world's most prestigious institutions, like the Louvre and the British Museum, are offering ways to explore their collection online. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is easy to navigate, with a map in the upper-right corner and blue arrows that let you walk through the halls. You can also zoom into different specific exhibits. It’s not the same as standing next to a fossilized giant sloth in person, but it’s close.
Google has an educational app called Arts & Culture, available for iOS, Android, and the web, that houses high-resolution images of collections from various museums. You can even walk through exhibits using technology similar to Google's Street View if your kids want to feel like they're there.
Dance Dance Revolution
Strictly speaking, this isn’t for children, but my 5-year-old has been taking ballet classes for two years and finds it fascinating. The Royal Academy of Dance is a London-based ballet education service. On April 1, it debuted its RAD at Home series with teacher Sarah Platt, which is aimed at getting older dance enthusiasts moving. After your short class, you and your child can search YouTube for old Riverdance performances.
Since many musicians aren’t able to tour at the moment, the best way to see them play is by searching Instagram or YouTube. (I check every day to see whether Yo-Yo Ma has posted any new “songs of comfort”.) But the one that may coincide the most with your kids’ interest is No Nap Happy Hour. Every weekend, Austin-based Springfree Trampoline hosts free livestreams on Facebook to promote musicians who were originally scheduled to perform at South by Southwest. It’s the closest you’ll ever come to having Rhett Miller perform in your living room.
Existing Streaming Services
And of course, if you pay for Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, or another streaming service, you can hunt for kid-friendly content. Most of these content providers have parental controls so you can make sure your kid can't see anything they shouldn't.
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