Struggling to Entertain Kids at Home? These Art-Filled Online Classes, Tours, Coloring Books, and Quizzes Will Keep Them Busy

The whole family can get creative at home with downloadable coloring books, kid-led museum tours, and art-inspired craft projects.

Learn how to make marbled paper, among other arts and crafts, with Tate Kids. Courtesy of Tate Museums.
Learn how to make marbled paper, among other arts and crafts, with Tate Kids. Courtesy of Tate Museums.

How many of your recent “business” lunches have been mac-n-cheese with a side of yogurt?  

Over the past few weeks, parents and caregivers across the country have been tasked with the highly complicated job of working from home, while keeping kids home from school and childcare. As the weeks roll on, filling hours upon hours with activities—and making sure remote learning happens—may seem increasingly daunting, all while somehow managing to meet work obligations and… stay sane. 

If that seems all too familiar to you, we’ve put together our at-home guide to classes, museum tours, quizzes and games to help keep your young officemates occupied. 

 

 Art Classes, Streaming Daily 

Art Teacher Cassie Stephens is hosting weekday art lessions on Instagram and Facebook. Photo courtesy of her Instagram.

Art teacher Cassie Stephens is hosting weekday art lessons on Instagram and Facebook. Photo courtesy of her Instagram.

Break out the color pencils and a juice box for a kid-friendly sip-n-sketch. Some heroic grownups are keeping the right side of young minds busy with daily streamable classes. Every week day at lunchtime art illustrator Mo Willems will be hosting Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems, inviting kids on a virtual visit to his studio at his residency at the Kennedy Center to draw along with him at 1 p.m. (EST), and streamable later. 

Meanwhile, Cassie Stephens, an art teacher at Johnson Elementary School in Franklin, Tennessee, is using social media platforms to host daily half-hour arts-and-crafts sessions. More than 30,000 people tuned in to stream her recent robot-drawing lesson. Stephens, who’s been teaching art for 21 years told Good Morning America that she’s hosting the classes to keep kids in a routine.” I want them to experience art for normalcy. We are all scared, and confused,” said Stephens. Art classes with Cassie Stephens can be watched on weekdays from noon to 12:30 p.m. (EST) on Facebook Live and InstagramStephens also has a series of classes on Youtube to be streamed anytime.  

 

Kid-Friendly (and Led) Museum Tours 

Kids ask the questions in with the #MetKids series of Q&A videos. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kids ask the questions in with the #MetKids series of Q&A videos. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Many of the world’s leading museums have been streaming lessons and activities geared towards kids for years—and now that museum doors are currently closed, what better way to stay in touch with our favorite cultural institutions? MetKids has a series of delightful child-led interviews of artists and museum professionals—including an interview with a Met security officer who lets everyone know why touching the art is a no-no. Over at MoMA, kids can take themselves on their own at-home tour of some of the museum’s permanent collection highlights with this kid-friendly virtual guide and audio tour or take up some art activities inspired by works in the collection.

 

Museum Collection Coloring Books and Contemporary Art Quizzes 

The Newbury, a research library in Chicago, is one of the hundreds of institutions that have downloadable pdf color pages of their collections as part of #ColorOurCollections

The Newberry, a research library in Chicago, is one of the hundreds of institutions that have released downloadable PDF color pages of works from their collections as part of #ColorOurCollections.

Running out of puzzles? Luckily, institutions around the world are offering downloadable PDF coloring pages through the #ColorOurCollections initiative, which includes hundreds of participating institutions. Kids can learn how to create work like Vincent Van Gogh (and hear age-appropriate details of his life) with the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, or color metropolitan street grids thanks to the New York Public Library. Be sure to check out the University of Minnesota pages, which offer a mythical menagerie of unicorns, sea lions, dragons, and other beasts culled from its library collection and waiting to be colored. Check out the full list of participants here.

Coloring is known to calm the nerves of children and adults alike—something we could all use in isolation. Now, thanks to RxArt, a non-profit that commissions contemporary artists to create site-specific installations in pediatric hospitals across the country, we can take up the activity with the company of leading contemporary artists through #ColoringFromHome—a series of daily 4 p.m. coloring sessions on Instagram Live featuring artists including Rashid Johnson, Susumu Kamijo, and Jeffrey Gibson, who will be completing pages from the artist-designed RxArt Coloring Book (pages are downloadable here). Oh, and Pictures Generation enthusiasts, MoMA has announced a Louise Lawler coloring book available on its website, too. 

If quizzes and games are more your family’s speed, pop over to the Tate where kids can take such playful quizzes as “Which Arty Hairstyle Should You Get?” or “Which Art Animal Art You?” The Getty also hosts its own series of online collection-based memory games and even teaches “knucklebones,” a game played by children in ancient Greece.

 

Craft Projects from the Collections 

The Children's Museum of Manhattan is hosting Artsy Thursday, a series of weekly art projects kids can complete at home.

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is hosting Artsy Thursday, a series of weekly art projects kids can complete at home.

By now we’ve all heard that Shakespeare wrote both King Lear and Macbeth while under quarantine, but it’s a little harder to fulfill one’s creative genius with kids running around the house. Now, the whole family can get started on their own magnum opus thanks to the art-historically aimed craft and art projects offered by museums around the world. MetKids is a trove of streamable videos that can teach you to fold an origami Samurai Helmet or make a photogram.

Ever dreamed your child would make their own playdough—and then use it to build Brutalist-inspired architectural models? If so, head to the Tate, where craft videos also come with helpful time-estimates to completion.  

For a weekly routine, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan has launched Artsy Thursdays (and a full week of other at-home activities and resources) where kids can learn different mediums—the first edition taught the basics of weaving. Likewise, the blog for the Children’s Museum of the Arts is another great source for inspiration with daily drawing challenges inspired by different contemporary artists every week.

 

The Great Outdoors (from Indoors)

Kids can virtually tour the Butterfly Pavilion at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Here is a Heliconius Melpomene, one of the many butteflies to be learned about.

Kids can virtually tour the Butterfly Pavilion at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

For those of us living in cities, it might be a long while yet before the kids can get back out exploring the natural wonders of the world. Luckily, museums are stepping up to keep kids’ minds out of doors. The American Museum of Natural History’s OLogy science website is full of fun activities, games, and streaming conversations about the natural world. And though we’re inside, spring is in full swing. Through the Smithsonian National Museum Natural History, in Washington, DC, kids can take a virtual walk through the museum’s beloved Butterfly Pavilion, and learn more about these species with more than 20,000 varieties. Meanwhile, the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County have put together a set of virtual nature walks to minds out of doors—as well as some craft projects, including a “Make-Your-Own Fossil Skull Puppet.”

 

Art-Historical TV Time

Take the classic children's tour of the Met with Sesame Street's Don't Eat the Pictures.

Take the classic children’s tour of the Met with Sesame Street‘s “Don’t Eat the Pictures.”

Screen time may be the savior of many parents in the coming weeks, but if you’d like to add a dash of arts and culture to the entertainment we have a few recommendations.

A classic among classics, the hour-long extravaganza “Don’t Eat the Pictures” (1983) is an exploratory romp through the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the Sesame Street characters (and takes its name from an unmissable Cookie Monster song). It’s sure to be enjoyed by kids and child-at-heart adults alike.  

For kids aged about three to five year old, the PBS cartoon Peg + Cat is an animated tale of a girl and her cat—while the show emphasizes math skills, the subject matter is often cultural, with episodes devoted to art museums (and guards), Cleopatra, and the ballet dancer Misty Copeland. For the slightly older, 4-to-7 crowd, PBS’s Xavier Riddle & The Secret Museum is the animated adventures of a boy named Xavier, his sister, Yadina, and their friend, Brad, who time travel to meet historical figures, including the likes of Leonardo da Vinci. Everyone’s favorite rambunctious storybook red-head Madeline also starred in an animated series that centered around trips to Versailles, the Louvre, and even on an archeological dig.

For feature-length films, the Night at the Museum, a now-classic trip through the American Museum of Natural History, is good for older kids as well, while The Secret of the Kells is a magical adventure tied to the art of calligraphy. If there are any budding archeologists in your brood, The Prince of Egypt (1998) is an animated, musical journey that tells the story of Moses’s exodus from Egypt—and does so in a way that’s remarkably accurate and informative about the era. And for a classic twist, the 1966 comedy How to Steal a Million, starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, is good for the whole family. Centering around a duplicitous art collector, his disapproving daughter, and a charming would-be thief, the movie is replete is with faux Van Goghs and a knock-off Venus to boot.


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