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Fun, Free and Cheap Online Activities to Keep the Kids Busy

Try parkour, learn how to be a CIA spy, get cooking in the kitchen and more

Published on: February 04, 2020

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With mid-winter break almost upon us, we're going to need a few fun activities lined up to keep the kids busy (and out of our hair). There are tons of virtual classes and camps available online, but it can be hard to know which ones are actually fun for kids. 

To help you out, we've rounded up the best online picks for kids that are fun, semi-educational and mostly free or low-cost. Try parkour, learn how to be a CIA spy, get cooking in the kitchen or grow you own butterflies. We think there is something for everyone on this list. 

1. Get moving!

Kong Academy: Join Curt, a.k.a. Chief Monkey, from Kong Academy for video instruction of parkour-style movement exercises that range from doing animal movements on the floor to vaulting off of furniture. Tip for parents: First check out the videos before diving in to see what you are comfortable with your kids doing in the house! Sign up for a live class or avail of a free virtual class with ParentMap on February 11, 2021. You can also find Chief Monkey on YouTube.

Cosmic Kids Yoga: This free kids' yoga channel on YouTube is a must for wiggly kids. Join Jamie for yoga, mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Kid-favorite characters from Trolls, Minecraft and Pokémon are frequently incorporated into the classes. 

PE With Joe: The Body Coach TV on YouTube offers free fitness classes for kids. Joe is entertaining and will have your kids jumping around in no time. 

2. Learn an awesome new skill. 

Learn how to be a spy! Explore lessons, games and CIA "briefings" on topics such as code-breaking and spy history. Meet the CIA spy dogs and discover what actually happens at the CIA. All lesson plans are free and suitable for kids in grades 5–12.

Discover what it's like to work at NASA. Explore the International Space Station, build and test a spacecraft, and find lots of other STEM activities for kids in grades K–4.

3. Play with clay.

Oven-dry clay: Follow Minez Shop on YouTube for fun instructional videos that demo how to sculpt mini objects. She uses Sculpey clay, which is available on Amazon. Other oven-dry polymer clays will work, too. You don’t need a kiln — just your oven — to dry the clay, and your creations can be painted after they dry completely. The good news? Regular household objects can be employed as sculpting tools. Check out more project ideas on the Scupley website

Air-dry clay: Make animals, jewelry, badges and more with Sago air-dry modeling clay. This air-dry clay is suitable for kids as young as 3 and doesn't require an oven to set it. Check out lots of different project ideas on the Sago YouTube channel

Homemade clay: Can’t get out to buy clay? Make your own! Check out this blog post from Mamapapabubba.com for a tutorial on making clay from kitchen ingredients.

4. Get STEMmy!

Grow butterflies: Watch a caterpillar grow and let a butterfly go free with a Butterfly STEM set that includes five baby caterpillars, food, a mesh habitat, a butterfly feeder and learning activities. These at-home butterfly kits may even turn your science-hating kid into a budding biologist. 

Curiosity at Home: Pacific Science Center shares new content daily through its website and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Look for social live-streams, check out ask-the-experts opportunities, and find suggested activities and experiments for kids of all ages that you can do at home. Check back often for new content to inspire learners of all ages.

5. Get creative!

Get crafty with BAM: Bellevue Art Museum has 10 fun, free craft videos for young kids on YouTube. All the projects require some basic arts and crafts supplies that you probably already have on hand. Make binoculars, suncatchers, fish crafts and more.  

Play cards: Bored with board and video games? Go old-school with a deck of playing cards. Hearts? Garbage? Rummy? Good 'ol War? This site has rules for all kinds of card games in case you’ve forgotten how to play.

6. Get cooking!

KidStir: This subscription service gives you all the inspiration you need to get cooking with the kids. Each kit comes with three themed recipes plus activities, and is recommended for kids ages 4–14. 

Raddish Kids: This subscription kit is described as "a cooking club, culinary lesson and mealtime solution all-in-one." Each kit contains three recipe guides, a kitchen tool, three culinary skill lessons, a grocery list and some collectibles. It's suitable for kids ages 4–14. Bonus: Raddish Kids also offers a Spotify playlist to provide a soundtrack for various activities.

Kitchen Science: Learn science with some fun cooking projects. Engage kids with fun experiments you can do with ingredients you probably have in your pantry. Click on a lesson for written directions or watch demos on YouTube.

7. Make a new (old-school) friend.

Find a pen pal: This enforced downtime is a perfect excuse to find a pen pal and introduce the kids to the ancient art of letter writing. 

Exchange postcards: Collecting postcards from all over the world makes for a fun new hobby. With this service, each time you send a postcard, you will receive one from a randomly selected person from anywhere in the world. You can register and post on the site about what you received.

8. Soak up the arts.

Catch a Broadway show: The Playbill site offers Broadway productions that you can watch from home. These are available on a variety of services, including Broadway HD, Amazon Prime and YouTube, to name a few. From "Rent" to "Sweeney Todd," here is your chance to share great shows with the kids at zero cost.

Tour the world's museums: Google Arts & Culture includes some 500 museums and galleries from around the globe that you can view from your computer. Some are virtual tours, some just have images of different art pieces. As a starting point, begin with these 10 famous museums.

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