Any working parent of toddlers or infants will tell you that juggling home and work life isn’t without a slew of unique challenges. From chronic sleep deprivation to daily battles with your toddler to put on pants before leaving the house, the life of a working parent ain’t easy.
And that was before the recent coronavirus outbreak. Over the past week, many parents across the nation now face the unique challenge of working from home while also juggling having kids (of all ages) home from school or daycare. And those of us who are parents of high-energy preschoolers—well, we’re going to need to get especially creative (I’ve been working from home for four days so far, and yes, many moments have felt like that BBC video of the dad working from home getting interrupted by his kids while on live TV).
The author's trusty coworkers hard at work
Though my main focus in the coming weeks is keeping my kids safe and healthy, rather than letting my toddler watch a fifth video of people playing with trucks on YouTube in a row, I’ve been on the hunt to find new, fun ways to foster learning in the weeks ahead. Here’s a list of the thirty-two best websites, activities, and other resources I’ve found, all geared toward preschool kiddos.
Read alouds and reading lists
- Childrens Books Read Alouds: A collection of short read-aloud videos geared toward preschool- and elementary-aged children.
- Little Stories for Tiny People: Engaging audio stories for little ones.
- Brightly: Book recommendations, activities, and read alouds for three to five year olds (with additional read alouds on their YouTube channel here).
- Storyline Online: Children’s book read alouds by famous actors, accompanied by animated illustrations.
- TIME for Kids: Age-appropriate print and read-aloud articles from TIME Magazine (see grades K–1 edition).
- Fordham’s Kindergarten Canon: Fordham’s list of the one hundred best children’s books for rising Kindergarten students.
- Sesame Street Podcast: Songs and stories with all of our favorite Muppets.
- Noodle Loaf: An interactive, music-themed podcast for young kids; episodes are about ten minutes each.
- Science Adventure Stories For Kids: A narrative-style, science-themed podcast.
- Eat Your Spanish: A podcast that teaches young children Spanish through stories and music.
- Saturday Cereal Bowl: Each episode includes two hours of music filled fun.
YouTube channels and TV shows
- Curious World: A YouTube channel/early-learning app with games, read-along books, activities, and videos for pre-K children.
- Brain Candy TV: Fun, educational videos for kids, focused on math, literacy, and science.
- PBS Kids Videos: Full episodes and clips of popular kids’ shows, such as Clifford and Daniel Tiger.
- Little Baby Bum: A British YouTube channel with colorful and engaging nursery rhymes, songs, and videos (geared toward babies and toddlers).
- Cosmic Kids Yoga: A good way to get moving; kids follow along as the host tells a story and guides them through corresponding yoga poses.
“Mixed-bag” resources: Educational videos, games, activities, lessons, and more
- Khan Academy Kids: Activities, exercises, and lessons for kids two and up.
- PBS Learning Media (pre-K resources): a curated collection of interactive videos, games, and activities culled for preschool educators.
- PBS Kids Games: An app with educational games for young kids.
- Scholastic Learn at Home (pre-K resources): Free videos, activities, and stories all geared toward the preschool-aged crowd.
- Funbrain: An interactive website with educational games, books, and videos intended to help preschoolers develop early literacy, math, and problem-solving skills.
- ABCya: Preschool word, math, and skill games designed by parents and educators.
- Sesame Street Workshop: Preschool games, videos, and art activities with Elmo and crew.
- KinderART: A large library of art lesson plans and activities targeted to preschoolers.
- Starfall: Simple but engaging interactive math, ELA, and music videos and games for young kids.
- Seussville: A trove of Dr. Seuss–themed crafts, activities, and printables.
- The Hungry Caterpillar Play School: An app for toddlers up through Kindergarteners with activities focusing on developing math and literacy skills, plus puzzles, songs, and videos.
- Pre-K Pages Indoor Recess Ideas: A great list of indoor recess games and physical activities to consult when your preschooler needs to burn off some energy.
- Nick Jr. Games: Online games and puzzles featuring characters from popular Nick Jr. TV shows such as “Paw Patrol” and “Blaze and the Monster Machines.”
- The Kennedy Center’s Draw with Mo Willems: Older preschoolers will enjoy drawing lessons and activities led by children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems.
- Highlights Kids: A slew of activities, games, lessons, and podcasts (great for older toddlers and preschoolers).
- Busy Toddler: One mom’s (and former teacher’s) massive collection of hands-on activities to keep kids busy and entertained.
Four days in, it’s daunting to wrap my head around the reality that I’ll likely be juggling working from home while also keeping two small children under three alive, fed, and happy for the foreseeable future. But in this stressful time, I’m grateful for the extra time at home with my family, a job that allows me to work from home, and for the caregivers and teachers who up until now have taken such good care of our kids during the work week. We’ve always been extremely grateful to you, but now we appreciate you more than ever.
To all my fellow parents with preschoolers, toddlers, and babies working from home in the weeks (and, likely, months) ahead: solidarity. I hope some of these ideas help inject some fun and learning into your home (and buy you a little time to get some work done in between naps and bedtime)—of course, in addition to other typical favorite young kiddo activities, such as reading together, singing, playing, getting fresh air, going for walks, and the like. My best advice is to try to use this crazy time to build on your child’s particular interests and follow his or her lead, but don’t feel like you need to become a teacher or homeschool expert overnight. And if you’re ever nearing a code-red toddler meltdown, I recommend initiating an immediate family dance party (our kids especially love this song and this one).
We’ve got this. And hopefully a steady stream of coffee, too.
For suggestions on YouTube channels, videos, and other resources for elementary-aged children, please see here. For resources geared toward middle and high schoolers, see here.
Two additional resources my family has discovered and been enjoying these last few months are:
- Emily's Wonder Lab: an engaging show featuring STEM activities and lessons, available on Netflix (good for older preschoolers and elementary-aged kids) https://www.netflix.com/title/81128389.
- Hey Black Child: a wonderful podcast produced by kids covering Black history and news. Available here: https://www.nicoleausmer.com/hey-black-child-the-podcast