Coronavirus shutdown: Fun things to do at home or online

If you are at home most of the time due to the coronavirus shutdown, you can still have fun and learn new things online and off. Here are some suggestions for free activities.

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Join in at home

Chatterpack has all kinds of boredom-busting suggestions for people of all ages, from virtual tours of museums and zoos and online learning to live streamed music. Just dip in and take your pick – click here

My House Rocks has lots of online classes, shows and activities for children to enjoy at home. There are also some educational resources for parents of children with special education needs (SEN), including autism – click here

The Fantastic for Families website has all kinds of ideas for creative things for children and families to do and to join in with, including storytelling, art, dance and music sessions online – click here

The Book Trust has set up a Home Time site with all sort of book and story-related activities to enjoy during the coronavirus pandemic, plus quizzes and contests – click here

The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is running a series of Mermaid Tales storytime sessions for younger children live online on YouTube with Marina the Mermaid from 1.30pm to 1.45pm on Friday afternoons from January 15 to February 26 – click here

Steph Johnson, of Reading Rockets basketball club, has created the FUNdamentals Workout, designed for children and young people with additional needs, to help develop their movement skills. She has also posted a series of videos of fun fitness, PE and basketball skills activities you can do at home – click here

Strictly Come Dancing‘s Oti Mabuse and husband Marius Iepure have streamed a series of dance classes, taking inspiration from movies and musicals including Frozen and Mamma Mia!click here

Members of our Lego Club and others who enjoy building with the famous bricks can put their creativity to the test tackling the projects in the Lego 30-Day challenge – click here

The Reading Play team has created some fun and imaginative play videos for children to enjoy at home. They can go on a pirate adventure, a jungle adventure or a Wild West adventure – and meet up with some of Owen’s Animals – click here

Comedy actor and writer David Walliams is reading his children’s stories online – click here

Our friends at the Swings and Smiles additional needs play centre in Thatcham have put lots of fun ideas for things you can do at home online – click here

The team at Brookfields School in Tilehurst have posted videos on YouTube with lots of ideas for things children and families can do at home, including drama, phonics exercises, PE, baking and more – click here

Food 4 Families is a Reading charity which aims to help everyone to make the most of whatever outside space they have to grow their own food with tips and updates on things you can do in your garden during lockdown or foods you can grow on your windowsill. Visit their website for more details – click here

Oxfordshire-based music education charity Roundabout has online musical activities available for autistic people and those with learning disabilities – click here

If you are looking for some musical activities to do at home for children with SEND, Big Top Music has a series of themed sessions available on videos on YouTube – click here to see what’s available.

Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead and Kayleigh Galvin, of Creative Eye events, have created a series of Kayleigh’s Crafts videos with all kinds of things you can do at home, including making your own play dough, creating an origami flower and making a finger print tree – click here

The Smallpeice Trust, an educational charity that inspires young people to pursue careers in science and engineering, has posted a series of Engineering@Home Challenge online, featuring a device you can design, build and test. The projects are for all ages – click here

If you are looking for some tips for exercising at home, Reading Sport + Leisure has compiled a list of activities and workouts for all abilities online – click here

Reading Rep youth theatre’s team have created fun educational packs that allow children and young people to be creative at home and are full of games, exercises and fun videos – click here

The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Entertain Children in Lockdown, is a free collection of short stories, poems, essays and pictures by leading children’s writers and illustrators – click here

The Colouring Heroes Facebook page has lots of pictures ready to download, print and colour in, including VE Day-themed designs for bunting and more, Lego-inspired hero figures to colour in and designs to say thank you to all the people working in essential services during the coronavirus lockdown – click here

The famous Cirque du Soleil has a range of free videos available, including free highlights from its shows, an exercise and dance video featuring some of the performers and a make-up tutorial – click here

Children and their friends can try to break out of a locked room at Hogwarts in a Harry Potter-themed virtual Escape Room – click here

Museums and art galleries

Reading Museum has a range of free educational resources available for download, fearing the Ancient Egyptians, the Romans and the Bayeux Tapestry – click here. You can find out about the museum’s full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, at its dedicated website – click here

The Museum of English Rural Life, part of the the University of Reading, has come up with some activities and online resources for young children created by the team who run the Friday Fledglings activity sessions for under-5s when the museum is open – click here

Reading Museum has educational and fun resources available online for children of all ages – click here

And Reading Museum has created an online version of its latest exhibition, called Animal: World Art Journeys, with a virtual tour, art and craft activities to try and blog posts about some of the creatures that feature in the exhibition – click here

The British Museum in London takes you through time and around the world on a virtual museum experience – click here

The National History Museum in London has a page of online resources available, allowing you to explore some of the exhibits and join museum staff on visits to Antarctica and a dinosaur dig in the US – click here

The Smithsonian Institution museum in the US has a wide range of online resources available, exploring history, culture, art, design, science and natural history – click here

The Louvre in Paris also has virtual tour available featuring many of the famous works of art that are on show – click here

You can find links to online tours of some of the world’s other major museums and art galleries on the Flipboard website – click here

Zoos, gardens and wildlife

Wildlife expert Chris Packham – who is also an ambassador for the National Autistic Society – and his step-daughter Megan McCubbin made a series of livestream shows online from the New Forest during the first lockdown last year, all about nature, wildlife and the seasons, with some special guests dropping in too. You can catch up with the shows and try out some of the activities yourselves – click here

Chester Zoo recorded some live streaming days, featuring video visits to meet the animals, which you can catch up with on YouTube – click here

Edinburgh Zoo has a network of webcams, where you can see what the giant pandas, tigers, koalas, penguins and other animals are up to – click here

The Englefield Estate in West Berkshire has activity sheets for children about farming and the countryside available on its website, along with links to other online resources about plants, butterflies and bumblebees – click here

If you are missing trips to the outdoors if you are self-isolating or in quarantine, the UK’s Wildlife Trusts have a network of webcams allowing you to catch up with what birds, bats and badgers are up to at reserves around the UK – click here

The National Garden Scheme is offering virtual tours of some of the most beautiful gardens in England and Wales – and asking ‘visitors’ to donate to nursing charities – click here

Keukenhof is a garden in the Netherlands that specialises in creating spectacular displays of spring flowers. When the garden was closed to the public last year due to a lockdown, its staff made some ‘Virtually Open’ videos to show off the tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, orchids, roses, lilies and more – click here

The Smithsonian Museum’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in the USA have some activities for education and learning available – click here – plus animal webcams – click here

For some underwater adventures, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the USA. You can see what’s going on at the aquarium and in the Pacific Ocean – click here

Travel the world – and beyond

Farm Food 360 takes you on a visit to a Canadian farm, including virtual reality experiences – click here

Take a look around some of the natural wonders to be found in the USA’s Yellowstone National Park with videos and live webcams – click here

Or leave Earth and the coronavirus behind and go into space to visit the planet Mars with NASA’s Curiosity rover – click here