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Fun (and free) activities to keep kids busy while in isolation

It’s hard to keep children engaged for the whole day without parking them in front of a screen. Here’s how to broaden their horizons from the comfort of your home.

Girl making volcanoFrom science experiments to taking virtual tours of museums, there are plenty of activities to keep kids occupied (Getty Images/Jamie Grill)

Soon after the school closure announcements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many school boards and provinces across the country set up educational portals so that children could start learning again. In addition to these academic resources, the following is a selection of free, high-quality activities to entertain and educate kids while isolated at home. 


It can be hard to explain the current situation we are going through to little ones.

The kids’ news sections on the CBC and Radio-Canada websites cover everything from when a coronavirus vaccine will be ready to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answering questions about COVID-19.  For a quick visual lesson, this five-minute instructional video from the Canada Research Chair in Technologies in Education explains the origins and worldwide impact of the virus. 

Le Curieux, a Montreal-based digital magazine for eight- to 12-year-olds, has dedicated their latest issue to COVID-19 and is available for free. It includes an interview with a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist and actions that need to be taken to fight the spread.


CPAs love numbers. But do their kids? Find out by visiting It includes tons of puzzles and other customizable math exercises. Choose the number of rows, columns and boxes—in short, the degree of difficulty depending on the activity selected—and the site will automatically generate a worksheet for printing.

Online gamers will enjoy Board Game Arena, where you can join an already scheduled game or invite friends to take part in a private game you initiate. On Tabletopia, which is more like an online board game table, game pieces can be moved around virtually. 

For some old-school fun, try organizing a scavenger hunt. You can find ready-made versions by age group and interest on various websites. All you need to do is find hiding places in the various rooms of your home.


Keeping toddlers engaged can be difficult, especially if they don’t enjoy playing independently. A sensory bin—which helps develop fine motor skills and new vocabulary—is easily made with basics around the house, such as measuring cups, rice/beans and plastic containers. Playing dress-up is another low-effort idea that fosters kids’ creativity and imagination. Take a peek at the back of the closet for items like gloves, hats and scarves and add to a costume box. If your little one enjoys screen time, Scholastic has a great collection of books, puzzles and activities.


Does your child dream of creating their own video game? With this coding tutorial for newbies, it’s as easy as pie. The platform already contains a number of projects—for example, making music, animating a character, and more—but also supports young learners starting from scratch.

Budding scientists can try their hands at experiments like confetti eruptions and homemade slime using limited resources (the idea is not to go to the grocery store or pharmacy). As one site points out, parents don’t need chemistry or biology degrees to help their children learn science. Try Bored Teachers, Veritasium and Mommy Poppins in English and Educatout, Des idées and Canal Vie in French.


If you don’t want your children to spend too much time in front of a screen, audiobooks are the perfect solution. Almost all platforms, like Kobo or Apple Books, offer free trials. Amazon subsidiary Audible recently launched a free audiobook service while school is on hiatus, which grants kids access to titles like the Harry Potter series and Dr. Seuss. Some sites focus on books that have entered the public domain, which can be a good way to introduce children to works they may not have read before.


A change of scenery is welcome when the family can’t leave home. For some armchair travel, virtual options abound, like a trip to California’s Yosemite National Park or the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.

Google’s Arts & Culture portal provides incredible views of locales around the world, immersive videos and access to prestigious museums, including most of those in Canada. The American Museum of Natural History site is full of activities for children and free virtual tours. L.A.-based Petersen Museum is offering themed guided tours online during the COVID-19 crisis, while the Getty Museum, is encouraging art lovers in isolation to recreate famous artworks with household items.


Remember when Google Earth first launched? You could spend hours wandering around the globe. Radio Garden is based on the same principle but for radio, allowing listeners to tune into thousands of stations by navigating on a map of the world.


If you’re working from home, learn how you can remain productive while home-schooling kids at the same time. Heed these tips to help manage your personal finances and stay up-to-date with industry trends, technology and more with this on-demand collection of free publications, webinars and podcasts.