COVID-19 has changed everything about education. And while many school buildings plan to open their doors for in-person learning in the fall, some parents are still concerned about their unvaccinated children and are looking at online learning for kids. Free online classes for kids can be used for parents who are considering keeping their kids at home where remote learning is still an option or as an additional educational boost. Or for people like parents of toddlers who might be looking for high-quality online education for kids, that is supplemental fun.
There are many great, free online education courses for kids available offered by both accredited institutions and long-run and beloved learning companies such as Khan Academy, Scholastic, Epic, Fun Brain, National Geographic Kids, and PBS.
Some offer full curriculums, others provide simple activities and educational entertainment, like Adventure Academy. All are useful for helping kids of all ages engage in free online learning. But the free online learning classes can also help kids stay active, and play at a time when movement and learning are so very necessary. Some of the below classes have free trial periods, so they're worth exploring as well.
The Best Online Education Classes For Kids
General Curriculum (Science, Math, Reading, Social Studies)
Ages: 3 and up
Why It's Great: If variety truly is the spice of life, then Outschool is a dish with something for everyone. You choose a class based on age, interest, start date, and the length of the class. The courses run the gamut, from beginner reading (for $23/class) to film animation ($40/class) to basic multiplication ($19/class). There's even a class on mindfulness because of course there is. So while the classes aren't free, the sheer number of them, coupled with the very affordable rates and the expertise of the instructors make this one very worth your while.
Code with Google
Ages: 9 and up
Why It's Great: Surely you've heard of Google. Well, the massive entity is now offering classes that teach kids 9 and up coding, and technical skills. And the classes are, well, fun. For real. Students in fourth grade and up learn coding through activities, hands-on lessons, and lesson supplements. Sample challenge: Kids program a conversation between two characters to explore the very vital role of dialogue in storytelling because words matter. A lot. Creating and sticking to a coherent storyline is a critical part of learning.
Ages: 10 and up
Why It's Great: STEM, STEM, and more STEM. Plus, while this is not free, you can now get a pretty massive discount. Students get access to CodeAcademy Pro for $90, which is $150 less than the usual price of $240. Just in time for back to school. Students build real, portfolio-ready projects and learn every single aspect of coding.
Ages: 6 and up
Why It's Great: The folks who gave us the Roomba have put together a repository of great STEM lessons, most of them free. Kids, from first grade on, can use the paper code blocks to program dances, or do a slew of different exercises from a printable STEM activity book.
Ages: 5 and up
Why it's great: It makes math fun. Yes, we said it. Fun. The site uses animation, embedded instruction, fast-paced drills, and thorough tutorials to teach kids though self-paced digital lessons. Kids get positive feedback, and encouragement when get something wrong. Parents or teachers set up accounts for kids.
Bronx Zoo Animal Doodles
Ages: 4 and up
Why It's Great: The Bronx Zoo, which just reopened, is a magical experience if you take your kids to see the animals in person. The gorillas alone are worth the price of admission. But if you can't be there in person, your kids can at least learn to draw an American bison or sand tiger shark or a red panda, courtesy of free instructional videos.
Ages: 2 and up
Why It's Great: Viola Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, and Chris Pine are just a few of the wonderful talents who make story time that much more fun and engaging for kids by reading to them. And yes, it's free. Kids can choose anything from Clark & Shark to Brave Irene to Catching the Moon. Reading to kids boosts literacy, and the book selections here are stellar.
Learn with Homer
Ages: 2 to 8
Why It's Great: The learning modules are immersive, engaging, and just damn fun, helping kids learning everything from sight words to the fundamentals of writing by letting them create their stories. You get a free 30 day trial, after setting up your child's profile. The company says that after only 15 minutes per day, kids become better readers as they engage in 1,000+ lessons, stories, and activities personalized by children's specific interests, skill levels, and the type of learning. Also, your membership buys you four profiles, so it's especially ideal for multi-kid households. The cost per year is $60.
Ages: 2 to 7
Why It's Great: The Khan Academy Kids app is totally free. The videos help kids learn how to write their letters, do some basic math, boost social and emotional development, and they're beautifully designed, with bright colors, and fun characters that make the lessons a little more fun. Unlike the regular Khan Academy channel, which provides lessons in chemistry, civics and advanced math, Khan Academy Kids is available on the iPad or iPhone only — which also means that parents don't have to worry about their kids browsing YouTube unattended.
Ages: 3 to 14
Scholastic's "Learn At Home" is a free resource that helps keep kids learning even through school closures. The available classes are simple enough that some kids can be able to do it on their own, but "Learn At Home" can also be utilized by teachers who are keeping curriculum going during school closures. There are plenty of activities for kids in pre-kindergarten and kindergarteners, as well as kids up to the 9th grade. But for young kids, there are read-alongs where kids can watch an animated story and read the book alongside it. For young kids, the lessons are divided into days: so on day one, kids can learn about rabbits, on day two, kids learn about pants by watching a story, reading a book, learning about plants, and brushing up on plant vocabulary. Day three, for example, is about life cycles of animals. Right now, there are five days of lessons on the site — and Scholastic promises to upload at least 15 more days of lessons.
Ages: 4 to 12
Why It's Great: In light of the recent school closures, Epic, a virtual library and resource for teachers and students, decided to make remote student access completely free across the world until June 30th, 2020 through teacher invitation. Email your child's teacher about it and they can sign up. Once this happens, kids can access the full Epic library on all devices. Kids can explore the library on their own, which features 40,000 books, but teachers can also take advantage of the platform by providing lessons, assigning books, and tracking reading activity and progress, too.
Reading and Story Time Classes
Ages: All Ages
Why It's Great: My StoryBook skews a bit older — a five or six year old will get a lot more out of the platform than a three-year-old, and still most likely with mom or dad's help — but the resource is a fun creative tool for kids who like to write stories. Through the platform, kids get to take a writing lesson and build a virtual story book (with drawings!) which they can then share online for free (or pay money to get it made into an actual book.)
Ages: 4 and up
Why It's Great: Sometimes kids just need a break — and Storyline Online can help provide that. Storyline is a digital archive of book read-alongs by celebrities like Sean Astin, David Harbour, Chris Pratt, Sarah Silverman and more. Some of the books are a bit above the reading level of six year olds, but parents can assess the fitness of the texts on their own while enjoying the beautiful faces of their favorite celebrities.
Story Time From Space
Ages: 6 to 13
Why It's Great: Got a kid who is obsessed with space? Got a kid who loves to read? Enter: Story Time in Space, a read-along series where astronauts read popular kids books on video. Story Time in Space features astronauts in wacky configurations in anti-gravity reading classics like "A Moon of My Own," among dozens of other books.
Ages: 5 to 18
Why It's Great: KidLit TV has shows, radio, crafts and activities, book read-alongs for kids. Some of the TV shows include Storymakers, a talk show that highlights authors and illustrators, Read Out Loud, when the authors at KidLit TV do read-alongs, and Young at Art, where kids can learn art skills used in book illustrations. The radio show is a children's literature podcast for kids — and is available on SoundCloud or iTunes.
Online Educational Games For Kids
Ages: 8 to 13
Why It's Great: The key to getting kids excited about learning is by making it seem like it's a game. That's where Adventure Academy comes in. From the company that brought ABCmouse to younger kids, Adventure Academy is a series of games where 8- to 13-year-olds can learn Language Arts (reading comprehension, writing, and spelling), math, science, and social studies. It's an immersive, virtual universe for kids and includes hundreds of hours of educational activities that frankly look a lot more like games than they do learning. The games also cover all subjects. Kids will learn about geometry, multiplication and division, reading comprehension, environments and ecosystems, molecules, maps, globes, geography, and more. Kids can also play with friends in a safe environment, create their own player home, and create their own avatar to go through the game universe as well as create player homes. It's available on all platforms.
National Geographic Kids
Ages: 7 to 13
Why It's Great: National Geographic Kids is free and chock-full of fun videos, games, and information about animals and nature. While it doesn't fulfill any lessons or curriculum requirements or come with worksheets, it is the type of entertainment that is legitimately informative. Kids can view science explainers and experiments, watch people make "elephant toothpaste," investigate rocks, and more. There's a wide-variety of experiments to replicate at home — bottling eggs, coating candy, dropping dye in white paint and other school science fair stuff. But if being interactive or watching over your kid isn't an option, there are still plenty of videos about the animal kingdom that kids can sit and watch.
Ages: 3 to 8
Why It's Great: Fun Brain features hundreds of free educational games, online books, and videos that help kids evolve their math, reading and problem-solving muscles.
Ages: 2 to 7
Why It's Great: Who doesn't love public broadcasting? Through PBS Kids, kids can play games with their favorite characters like Daniel Tiger, Arthur, and Clifford the Big Red Dog. The content is more wholesome than it is educational. But it's quality content made with kids in mind. Children can also print out activities, play games, and color their favorite characters.
Amazing Educational Resources
Ages: 4 to 12 grade
Why It's Great: While this website is a more cut-and-dry form of education, it serves as a great, free resource to supplement subjects kids are learning in school. It curates hundreds of tutoring, video courses, and interactive lesson plans on a variety of topics so depending on your kids' interest, and areas they may need more help, there's sure to be something that fits there needs.
Online Art Classes For Kids
Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
Ages: All Ages
Why It's Great: Mo Willems, an artist in Brooklyn and the Kennedy Center's first Education artist-in-residence, will lead a daily, free, online drawing session at 1 p.m. EST. All live lunch doodles can be found on the Kennedy Center website daily and previous lunch doodles are on YouTube. And, for the record, parents are totally welcome to join in.
Online Exercise Classes For Kids
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Ages: 3 and Up
Why It's Great: Kids need exercise, and being potentially cooped up in an apartment for weeks at a time is not easy for parents or their kids. Cosmic Kids Yoga isn't an educational course, but it does provide a much-needed activity break — think of it as a replacement for recess, if necessary — with characters, playfulness, music, and, of course, yoga. It's free on YouTube. Moana, Harry Potter, and Frozen-themed yoga included.
Ages: 5 to 10
Why It's Great: GoNoodle is free — but parents need to create an account to access it. GoNoodle, created by child development experts, helps kids get moving and helps them practice social skills. Some videos include Flo Yo's Bubble Pop, where kids wave their hands and move their body to free fish, another video includes kids clearing the weeds in a virtual garden by jumping and sweeping their arms. Basically, these animated videos provide incentives for kids to jump around and get some of that energy out while, of course, having fun.
Online Culture Classes For Kids
Virtual Museum, National Park, & Zoo Tours
Ages: All Ages
Why It's Great: Many zoos, museums, and other public spaces are shutting down, limiting parents ability to take their kids to public spaces that they might if they didn't have school. Luckily, many places like the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone, the Louvre, and the Great Wall of China, for example, among others, have uploaded virtual tours of their spaces — meaning that kids can have fun, see new things, and feel like they're in the real place. It also doesn't require math lessons or worksheets. Kids can just check out cool spaces or watch animal cameras and be delighted.
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