Make Online Learning Fun With These Tools
Right now you probably have digital learning going on every day in your house. Your children’s teachers and schools are going above and beyond, but families still have a lot of non-school hours at home to fill.
There are lots of resources online for independent learning. Kids of all ages can learn new things, foster growing interests, and practice to reinforce skills already learned in school. Here are some science, math, social studies, and language arts resources we recommend for each age group, starting with preschoolers and moving up the grades to high school.
Keep kids interested in science by fostering curiosity about the world around them, assisting them in finding answers to their questions, and allowing them to learn new things about scientific fields and topics.
- Preschool (up to age 4)— Sid the Science Kid combines animation, puppetry, comedy, and music to promote exploration, discovery, and science readiness among the youngest ages. Online games help promote learning, while video clips and full episodes foster curiosity and finding answers to burning questions such as “Why do bananas get brown spots?”
- Elementary Ages (Grades K-5)— 4-H STEM Lab is a free online resource that provides families with fun, straightforward, hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities for kids of all ages. Projects use inexpensive materials that can be found at home and are designed to instill curiosity and critical thinking skills through engineering challenges. While STEM Lab provides activities for preschoolers through high schoolers, the site’s filters help you find projects that are just right for your child’s age.
- Middle School (Grades 6-8)— The Amoeba Sisters are real-life sisters whose mission is to demystify science with humor and relevance. One sister is a former high school biology teacher, and the other is an illustrator.Together, they create biology videos that explain life science through easy-to-understand explanations and fun animations. They help answer questions like Why Study Biology and the Nature of Science in ways that middle schoolers can relate to.
- High School (Grades 9-12)— Dianna Cowern, aka Physics Girl, is a science communicator who uploads videos explaining various physical phenomena to the PBS Digital Studios channel, Physics Girl, on YouTube. Go with Dianna Inside the World’s Largest Science Experiment, or if you’re looking for some hands-on fun, check out Seven Science Experiments with Surface Tension.
There are so many ways to engage kids in math, especially when you add in the wealth of free online resources that allow them to practice their skills in interactive ways. Here are some of the best sites for each age group that make math fun.
- Preschool (up to age 4)— Pattern Blocks from CoolMath4Kids provide a virtual way for preschoolers to explore shapes by placing hexagons, squares, trapezoids, parallelogram, triangles, and diamonds on the screen by dragging and dropping them with the mouse or a finger on a touch screen.
- Early Elementary Ages (Grades K-2)— Numberock is a collection of music videos that teach and reinforce elementary school math concepts and numeracy. Catchy songs tap into multisensory learning to make learning math concepts more fun. Browse all videos or sort according to grade level or concept.
- Upper Elementary Ages (Grades 3-5)—The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Calculation Nation features tons of free games that challenge students to practice skills against anyone in the world. These math games are aligned to math standards to improve math learning in all students.
- Middle School (Grades 6-8)— Tweens who love to play Minecraft and have experience with programming in Scratch, the free programming language created for children by MIT, can take their love of the game and coding skills to the next level thanks to Minecraft Code to Mod, a class that guides kids through building their very first mod that will run through Minecraft.
- High School (Grades 9-12)— With a mission to provide free, world-class education to anyone and anywhere, Khan Academy’s video learning segments are a great way to reinforce what is taught in high school math classes, especially since videos are followed by practice activities.
Social studies includes the study of history, government, economics, civics, sociology, geography, and anthropology. With a topic so broad, there are many things kids can learn about that fall under the umbrella of social studies. These sites are a good place to start if you’re looking for engaging and fun online social studies activities.
- Preschool (up to age 4)— How quickly can your preschooler match 11 different symbols of the United States through an online memory game? Play the U.S. Symbols Matching Game on MatchtheMemory.com to find out!
- Early Elementary Ages (Grades K-2)— For parents who grew up on Schoolhouse Rock, all of the videos that taught history, grammar, and math can be found on ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock site. Early elementary ages can learn about the Preamble, how a bill gets through Congress to become a law thanks to I’m Just a Bill, a national debt monster called Tyrannosaurus Debt who eats tons of money, Paul Revere, and so much more through catchy tunes like we did as kids.
- Upper Elementary Ages (Grades 3-5)— Through KidCitizen, elementary ages can use interactive episodes and primary source photographs to explore Congress and Civic Engagement. Explore topics like what a primary source is, investigate community helpers, understand who represents us in Congress and where they work, how the American flag is used as a symbol of our nation, and more.
- Middle School (Grades 6-8)— Founded by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics games allow today’s middle school students to learn how government works by experiencing it. By stepping into a role of a judge, member of Congress, being a community activist, and even the President of the United States, students learn by doing through a fun and challenging interactive experience that transforms abstract concepts into real life problems.
- High School (Grades 9-12)— Library of Congress has Library experts available via email to help high school students with their research projects. Also available are LibGuides, research guides to the Library’s general collection of books, periodicals, and general subject guides that can be useful in resources on topics ranging from film and music to veterinary science and more.
English & Reading
Reading is a tricky thing for the youngest ages to learn because so many different skills need to come together. Fostering beginning literacy skills in preschoolers through interactive story adventures can help kids succeed. High schoolers will love seeing texts come alive through theater productions from around the world.
- Preschool (up to age 4)—Learning to read is more fun through interactive story adventures with SuperWhy! and the Super Readers, a group of four friends who live in Storybrook Village. The 22-minute episodes feature the Super Readers, who soar into classic story books and use their reading powers to find answers to preschool problems. Preschoolers can play videos and interactive games to reinforce skills through the PBSKids website.
- Elementary and Middle School (Grades K-8)— Scholastic Learn at Home features daily projects to keep kids reading, thinking and growing. Parents can choose age-appropriate activities for PreK-Kindergarten, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6-9. New learning journeys for each age group are available each Monday to guide students through reading online articles that will be of interest to them. Recent articles for middle schoolers included meeting a teen changing how the world views disabilities, how emojis are engineered, what dogs are trying to tell us through their behavior, and more. Kids are encouraged to read articles and then choose a daily reading quest, fun activities that foster literacy skills.
- High School (Grades 9-12)— High schoolers can watch Shakespeare readings come to life through BroadwayHD, a streaming monthly subscription service that allows you to watch theater productions of Shakespeare plays, musicals, Broadway classics, and hundreds of other productions from any device at any time.
All of these resources will require a strong internet connection, so check out our guide on ensuring you have the speed you need at home. Whether your child wants to dive deeper into a subject they love or needs extra help with more challenging material, there are plenty of resources available to your family right from home.
Program availability may have changed and is subject to change