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“It’s a goddamn balancing act every time,” says Helen, so “anything where a parent can set [the kid] doing then leave is perfect.”
Because it’s the weirdest summer ever and Colorado’s COVID-19 curve is all over the place, a lot of families are still mostly hunkered down at home. It’s relatively safe to play outdoors, but eventually your little darlings are going to come in for a landing and whine “I’m bored.”
To the rescue — our list of chill downtime activities, things to do that will fuel curiosity, feed the imagination, and build a little calm into everybody’s day.
Tell me a story• Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach: Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi is joined by a star-studded cast — Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong’o, Eddie Redmayne and more — in a 10-part read-along of Dahl’s beloved children’s book. It’s part of a fundraiser for the nonprofit Partners in Health, which is fighting COVID-19 in the world’s most vulnerable communities.
• Audible: Audible is letting kids — from little guys through tweens and teens — listen to hundreds of books at no cost while schools are still closed.
• Radiolab for Kids: Family-friendly tales from the beloved radio show, with titles like “Animal Minds” and “Dark Side of the Earth.”
• Harry Potter at Home: For fans of The Boy Who Lived, famous people read chapters from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the U.K. title of the first book in the series). They’re up to Chapter 11, “Quiddich,” read by David Tennant and David Beckham. Your kids can be “sorted” and there are Hogwarts-themed crafts and activities, but they have to register (free) to play.
• BBC Sounds: Also from across the pond, classics new and old. The Tales of Beatrix Potter, with lots of mice, rabbits and kittens; Carrie’s War, Nina Bawden’s classic story of two London children evacuated to Wales during World War II; and Once Upon a Time in Zombieville, sci-fi adventures for kids 9 to 12.
• Storyline Online: Celebrities read to your kids, including Oprah Winfrey, who reads The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Godin. It’s a project of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, formerly the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.
Make stuff, learn stuff• Tate Kids: From United Kingdom’s Tate galleries, Tate Kids nurtures arts inspiration in the form of digital drawing and painting, games, activities and things to make.
• Make a Paper Skyscraper and Create Your Own City: From British architecture studio Foster + Partners, these downloadable templates let you design your own paper buildings and a city to put them in.
• Design Squad Global: Hands-on engineering activities for kids 10 to 13.
• Challenge Cards: From the James Dyson Foundation, 44 science and engineering activities designed to build the next generation of makers. (Some of these will require adult supervision.)
• TEDEd: Kid-friendly STEAM adventures from the folks behind TED Talks (Technology, Entertainment and Design), including Earth School with its 30 Quests, and TEDEd series like Animation Basics with lessons like “Bringing a Pop-up Book to Life” and “Animating Zombies with Puppets.”
• Rob Ives: Paper animations and mechanisms are Ives’ stock-in-trade. Under the “Learn” tab, kids will see how bevel gears, a rack and pinion and crank sliders work (robives.com/mechanism; see also 507movements.com). And his downloadable animations, which put those mechanisms to work, are pretty cheap, about $3.50. (Note: Keep the tots away from Ives’ link to cardbawdy.net, which is for grownups only, though your teens will likely get a giggle out of it.) Word searches for “pop-up book tutorials,” “paper automata” and “paper machines” will yield even more avenues for creative construction.