Please, just stay home.
Right now, the best thing we can do to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus is practice social distancing, i.e. sit on our butts at home. Flatten that curve.
Spending this much time at home is a major challenge if you have young children and you’re used to hitting the library/playground/toddler gym circuit. We’ve got ideas for how to fill the days with safe and fun — even educational — activities so your kids don’t drive you completely nuts. #WeGotThisSeattle
(If all else fails, you can get a seven-day free trial of Disney+, which just released “Frozen II.”)
Take a virtual field trip
The Pacific Science Center is a family favorite and you can still visit, albeit online. Watch a live science demo about combustion or monster sound on YouTube. Other resources include educational worksheets, activities and hands-on experiments.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is featuring a new animal every day on Facebook Live. So far, viewers have met Fiona the hippo, Rico the Brazilian porcupine and Sihil the ocelot. You can ask questions if you watch it live (every day at noon); the episodes are also archived on the zoo’s site.
“Walk” through art museums around the world, from the Guggenheim in New York to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The virtual tours use Google street view technology, so it’s a little clunky, but you’re getting a lot of art and culture for free from the comfort of your couch.
Are you more of an outdoors person? Google Arts & Culture lets you explore five national parks, from the Nahuku Lava Tube in Hawai’i to the Kenai Fjords in Alaska, for free. Each virtual tour leads with a stunning video introduction, followed by a 360-degree image you can poke around in. Unlike the museum tours, these are narrated so your kids have no choice but to learn some geology.
How about an out-of-this-world story time? NASA astronauts read children’s books while in orbit — you’ll see the astronauts’ ponytails and the book floating around. For a deeper look at outer space, NASA’s image and video library is open to the public, searchable and absolutely free.
I highly recommend getting this $15 Stomp Rocket. Ours has paid for itself a hundred times over. It’s easy enough for preschoolers to operate by themselves, and entertaining enough that bigger kids will line up for a turn.
Make an outdoor mud kitchen. It doesn’t need to be Pinterest-perfect; it just needs to have water, dirt and some foil tins and used containers.
Bring some magic to your backyard with a fairy garden in a bird bath or on a tree stump. Set up a miniature home and tell stories about the tiny people who live there.
No backyard? How about a balcony? Bubbles are easy and cost next to nothing. All you need is a bucket, warm water and dish soap (Dawn or Joy works best, not the generic knockoffs). Add a bent wire hanger or a plastic six-pack holder and watch your kids bubble over with happiness.
This story has been updated to remove mention of parks, to avoid overcrowding.