• Grace McKinney

Kids in Quarantine: A List of Stay-at-Home Storytimes and Other Engaging Initiatives

Updated: Mar 30

We've entered a strange time in human history, but we're not going through it alone. Our creative nature has yielded inspiring balcony serenades, porch games, and ways of connecting with others that we couldn't have imagined before.


At the same time—it's a challenge. Children are getting acquainted with a new routine. They miss their friends, and they may not understand exactly why they can't go back to school or play with the neighbors. It's challenging, too, to figure out how to explain our current situation in a way that makes sense (though this comic does a pretty good job).


But we're not going through it alone. People continue to be creative, generous, and persevering. Thanks to the hard work of many people who care about the children whose lives have been disrupted, we have some exciting resources to share. From artistic projects to author-led storytimes, here's our list of just a few favorite stay-at-home opportunities for your family.



QUARANTINE CRAFTS


There has been an impressive outpouring of creative projects happening over social media and other digital platforms. Make-alongs and drawing classes have appeared from illustrators, authors, and all kinds of creators. We're excited to share some of our favorites happening now... but who knows what will crop up next week?


Mo Willems' Lunch Doodles


Mo Willems, creator of Elephant and Piggie and the mischievous Pigeon, is the artist-in-residence at The Kennedy Center. Since the beginning of last week, Willems has been sharing daily midday drawing classes from his home studio. Willems shows young artists how to draw characters from his own books, shares activity sheets for home doodles, and even visits other artists along the way. The videos can be found on the Kennedy Center website, through Mo Willems' twitter account, and on YouTube.



Grace Lin Draws a Lucky Chinese Tiger


Grace Lin has posted a series of videos on her YouTube channel, mixing drawing lessons with read-alouds from some of her early readers and middle grade novels. In this video, she guides blossoming artists in the process of drawing a lucky Chinese tiger and explains the importance of symbolism in Chinese art.



One Big Fridge by Carter Higgins


The end of the school year typically promises art displays and end-of-year creative projects from the classroom, all brought home to eventually find their place on the family fridge. Carter Higgins, children's author and design enthusiast, wanted to share the joy of that home museum with the world. Enter, One Big Fridge. Follow this account on Instagram to enjoy Higgins' "virtual museum," and tag your own children's artwork to be included in the display.



Sophie Blackall Makes Something


Sophie Blackall, author of the Caldecott-award winning picture book Hello Lighthouse, brought her Instagram followers on a puppet-making journey this week. Using cardboard as the base and other found objects as the ornamentation for her puppets, Blackall demonstrates just how easy it is to transform the simple things in your home into something totally new. You can find all of her posts of the process on her Instagram account. We're eager to see what she (and you!) makes next!



Daniel Miyares' Art Ideas


Daniel Miyares is another prolific picture book author and illustrator who is creating engaging and inspiring videos for creators of all ages. (Even other illustrators are watching and learning!) His series on illustration can be found on his Instagram account.



America's Test Kitchen: Food Projects for Kids


There are, of course, many ways to be creative, and many families have been getting creative in the kitchen. For older children, America's Test Kitchen provides ample resources for learning kitchen techniques, guidelines for food experiments, and recipes for both simple and complex dishes. There's instructions on how to become a stay-at-home salt farmer, too! You can find resources like shopping lists, podcasts, and more on the America's Test Kitchen Kids website.






OPERATION STORYTIME


One of the most remarkable responses to the stay-at-home orders across the country has been the number of online read-aloud opportunities available to children of all ages. While following newly evolved publisher guidelines, folks are sharing books of all kinds. A unique gift is to get to hear a book read by the person who wrote it—and authors are jumping in to give us just that gift! Check out these and many other incredible storytelling opportunities by following the hashtag: #OperationStorytime


Oliver Jeffers' Daily Read-Alouds


Oliver Jeffers is the author and illustrator of numerous picture books for children, and he has declared that he'll read these stories for weeks. He shares the list of books at the beginning of each week on his Instagram account, so check it out and tune into Instagram Live for these special storytimes.



Carole Lindstrom Reads We Are Water Protectors


Author of the recently released We Are Water Protectors, Carole Lindstrom, created a YouTube recording of her reading this stunning call-to-action for young readers to care for the earth.




Carmen Agra Deedy Reads Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day


One of our favorite new releases in the last month, Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day gets special treatment from the author, Carmen Agra Deedy. Based on a finger-play story, this picture book makes for a perfect read aloud. Watch the #OperationStorytime recording here.



Kwame Alexander reads The Crossover


The dynamic author and now publisher Kwame Alexander is joining the force this week with readings from his first novel-in-verse, The Crossover. You can tune in on his Instagram Live starting Monday, March 30 at 10:30 am EST!


Monique Gray Smith Reads Aloud


Author of several stunning books for young readers (My Heart Fills With Happiness, You Hold Me Up), Monique Gray Smith is also offering read alouds of some of her titles. You can find her reading on her Instagram account.


Kate Messner Reads Aloud (And Gives a Sneak Peek!)


Kate Messner is a master of nonfiction picture books and no stranger to the classroom. She's been sharing read alouds of several of her titles, including this yet-to-be-released title, Over and Under the Rainforest! Her website also includes a rapidly-growing collection of more resources for parents and teachers alike: storytimes, activity sheets, and helpful resources to explain to children why our world is so different right now. Find her read alouds on her website or on YouTube.


Cece Bell Gives the Inside Story on El Deafo


Author and illustrator Cece Bell takes a deep-dive into her autobiographical middle grade graphic novel on her YouTube channel. She shares a subtitled video on each chapter of the book. Follow along to learn more about Bell, the book, and the process of bringing it to life.





Tracey Baptiste on Comparative Mythology


So this might not technically qualify as a read aloud (because it's not), but Tracey Baptiste is an author of middle grade fiction (the Jumbies series) and knows her way around a myth or two. If you have an elementary child interested in cultural history and mythology, it's worth a watch. You can find her videos on YouTube.





VIRTUAL TOURS


Not only can you dig into interesting projects at home and find new excitement in your home library, you can also visit museums, zoos, and interactive exhibits from around the globe—all while practicing social distancing! While these community resources adapt to the current situation, do consider supporting them through donations or purchasing merchandise online; it's only through our support that many of these resources remain available.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Google Arts and Culture offers a one-stop shop for families to find access to museums around the world, but there's seemingly no end to the possibilities of at-home cultural immersion. From local museums and zoos to small curations on the other side of the world, organizations are providing children and families access to many of their collections online.


The Louvre


Explore many of the Louvre's exhibits and galleries through virtual tours on their website.


NASA


Get a glimpse of outer space, find information on astrobiology, and take virtual tours of the Hubble Space Telescope through NASA's online resources.


Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Met hosts a collection of online features for guests to choose from. Visit their site to see what your family can explore, or head right to the MetKids page to "hop in the time machine" and more!


High Museum of Art, Atlanta


The High Museum offers art-based activities, informative videos,


Georgia Aquarium


The Georgia Aquarium keeps a wide variety of live webcams in their environments. Check out their Beluga Web Cam, Southern Sea Otter Web Cam, and more. Their animal guides, organized by exhibit, provide information about the species who reside in the aquarium for young researchers.


San Diego Zoo


Likewise, the San Diego Zoo is helping young explorers stay connected to the animals in their habitats through web cams, informational videos, and online activities through their website.


St. Louis Zoo


One of the few free zoos in the country, the St. Louis Zoo also includes several initiatives to engage the public from afar. They've got a bracket going for March Monkey Mania, are providing Bear Awareness, and, of course, sharing web cams and behind the scenes footage of life inside the zoo. You can find all this on their blog.


Thomas Jefferson's Monticello


Tour guides at the famous Virginian estate have prepared a very unique opportunity for individuals and families: a live virtual tour. The tours cost $10 per connection, using Zoom to connect in real-time with a guide who will talk through "inspiring stories of our nation’s founding and of the people, both free and enslaved, who lived on this working plantation." The tours are suggested for families with children ages 5 and up and last about an hour.


Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston


While the MFA in Boston remains closed to the public, their YouTube channel contains many behind-the-scenes videos of the making of an exhibit, insight on art conservation efforts, and demonstrations of their fascinating collection of musical instruments. They also have shared many of their exhibits to be viewed online.



How are you connecting and learning creatively at this time? Share with us your favorite resources! Most importantly, stay safe, stay well, and stay at home.

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