UC Davis pediatrician offers top recommendations for learning, exploring while at home

UC Davis pediatrician offers top recommendations for learning, exploring while at home


As families continue the challenging work of balancing learning and living at home during COVID-19, UC Davis pediatrician Ellen McCleery recommends planning a few activities for children to help lend structure to the day.

Parents can find arts and crafts projects, virtual museum visits for their children online.
Parents can find arts and crafts projects, virtual museum visits for their children online.

“One of the most important things families can do is stick to a routine,” McCleery said. “Activities can easily be incorporated into a family routine to encourage learning and exploration while at home. I hope these activities and guidance will help families learn and explore while social distancing.”

Check out McCleery’s top recommendations for families.

At-home learning

Arts and crafts

Reading and storytime

  • Keep up your own reading routine at home! Many activities on this list can be combined with books about the same topic to enhance kids’ experiences.
  • Have grandparents or other family members read stories to kids over video chat.
  • Many libraries offer audiobooks or eBooks for check-out. Visit your local library website for more information.
  • Audible is offering free audiobooks for kids on its website.

Experience nature

If your family can get outside safely while practicing social distancing, there are many materials online to help guide outdoor adventures.

  • Try a nature walk scavenger hunt! Make a simple scorecard on paper and ask your child to find a leaf, a stick, flowers, a pinecone, something that flies, something that has fur, something that is rough, something smaller than your shoe, something that makes noise, etc.
  • The Waldorf Education Site offers their 100 Days of Nature Walks for free.

There are also many options for virtually exploring the great outdoors:

  • Virtually visit U.S. National Parks. Google Arts & Culture has compiled guided visits to Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon and Dry Tortugas National Parks. National park rangers bring you inside a volcano, through canyons and snorkeling with sea turtles.
  • If your child is interested in space, explore Mars with NASA’s Curiosity Rover. Access Mars uses real data and images collected from the Curiosity Rover to create a 3D experience on the surface of Mars.
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has many live cams of different bird nests including Barred Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Savannah Ospreys and birdfeeder watch. Talk with your child about birds you might see in your backyard or out on a walk and how they are similar or different than the birds you see in the Cornell birdfeeder watch.
  • National Geographic Kids offers many ideas for home science experiments, information and videos about different animals, and “Passport to Space” with “Missions” to different planets in our solar system.

Get active

It can be hard to get your kids enough active time, especially when playgrounds are off-limits. Keeping active indoors can be more challenging, but here are a few ideas:

  • The nature scavenger hunt outlined above can be adapted for indoors, too. Have your child find something that plays music, something that you use to build, something that keeps you warm, something that measures, etc.
  • Build a homemade obstacle course with materials you can find around the house.
  • Make numbers, letters or shapes on the floor with tape and have your child to run, hop or skip to the next destination. You can also make a “long jump” with tape or a path through the house to explore.

Explore music and art

There are many ways to explore art and music from all over the world online.