MAVERICK LIFE: CORONAVIRUS

Kids at home: How to keep them busy

By Emilie Gambade 26 March 2020

Paul Hanaoka for Unsplash

Today at midnight, our country will go on a lockdown in the hope of flattening the curve and controlling the spread of the coronavirus. As schools are closed and children are staying home, streaming and audiobooks platforms have opened up part of their content for free-to-customers worldwide. Here are some options for e-learning and entertainment.

Something to listen to

In the era of podcasts, there are plenty of options for kids, teenagers and grown-ups.

Story Pirates

Former presenter of the Daily Show Jon Stewart says: “What the Story Pirates are doing is helping America, nay, humanity — helping humanity itself. It’s crazy entertaining.” The concept? Produced by Gimlet Media, Story Pirates collects “kids’ wildest, most imaginative stories” and transforms them into books, performances (some of them starring comedians like Conan O’Brien, John Oliver or musician Reggie Watts) and a series of podcasts. The third season includes stories like My Principal Ate a Worm or The Bear that Couldn’t Disco and features celebrity guests.

Wow in the World

NPR’s Wow in the World is what Once Upon a Time… Life’ would have been if it had been turned into a podcast. Hosted by Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz (who is also behind How I built This), the podcast explores a different (fascinating, fun and sometimes odd) science subject each episode, like how bees choose flowers or “What do humans, bottlenose dolphins, and the singing mice of the Costa Rican cloud forests have in common”.

But Why

But Why answers questions sent by their listeners and curious minds – of all ages! There’s a story about nightmares, another one about animals getting married (or not?), another one explaining why ice is slippery and many more. Of course, there is also a special on Coronavirus, explained to kids.

What if the World

Host Mr Eric turns a “what if” question from a listener into a wild and delightful story. What if clouds were made out of cotton candy? What if a tree named Harrigo went to eat a chocolate that was talking? What if imagination was good? What if is imagination let loose and storytelling at its best.

Sesame Street

They need no introduction but the short podcasts – about five to ten minutes long – are all about the furry muppets from Sesame Street. Tune in to sing along, learn and laugh.

Eleanor Amplified

Eleanor is a reporter always looking for the scoop and in doing so, she runs into extraordinary adventures. “Eleanor’s pursuit of truth takes her into orbit, out to sea, through a scary jungle and even to the halls of Congress … Eleanor defends the very values you expect from high-quality journalism. The importance of access to information. Being inclusive of different points of view. Telling the truth, and more.”

Something to learn

Vodacom has a comprehensive e-learning portal for Gr R-12 learners, which is free and, if you’re a Vodacom customer, won’t cost you any data. Subjects cover everything from numeracy, life skills, accounting, math lit to social science and history. 

If you’re not a Vodacom user, there’s more: the MTN Foundation has sponsored access to the Siyavula Foundation. The platform, that specialises in maths and science, usually offers subscriptions from R299/ month to R999/ month for Grade 10-12 learners. But browsing is free on the MTN network. 

Daily Maverick’s Sandisiwe Shoba writes about selected universities that have collaborated with local networks to give access to e-learning platforms at zero data. “MTN has zero-rated over 100 websites, while Telkom has zero-rated over 60 education sites, including the websites of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and universities like Rhodes, Wits and UCT,” she says.

Following the closing of schools around the world, Audible has opened up more than hundred audiobooks to people worldwide, at no cost. The stories are available in six different languages, from age 0 to 18. You will find Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter, Winnie-the-Pooh, Jack London’s White Fang, or Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by American astrophysicist and jovial science communicator, Neil deGgrasse Tyson.

You can also download Mozabook Gr 1 – 12 for free until 20 May 2020, by using the following activation key: MOZ-ML-MTEK-ZOBZ-QIXQ-DYEN-0BEN-288888

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bank of America, Khan Academy is a non-profit organisation that provides free e-education to students around the world. It gives access to learners, teachers and parents, covers grades from primary all the way to university, with subjects like macro-economy, computer programming and even preparation for the GMAT or LSAT.

Living Maths is also giving free online sessions starting today, on a “first come, first served” basis. You can sign up here.

SmartStart has put online activities for children age 3 to 5; it includes memory games, and tips on how to create different activities like a set of cards to show your emotions, with added questions once the activity is finished to extend learning.

The Department of Basic Education offers a database of content available for free. 

Something for the family

Good ol’ game boards can serve as amazing breaks in what could become long days at home. Rebecca Davis plays 30 Seconds, “though I can’t play it too often as I transform into a violently competitive maniac. Also possibly not recommended for the Covid-19 era as people tend to spit a bit in moments of very vehement explanation,” she says.

Anso Thom goes for Monopoly, “because I can cheat and beat the family (evil grin)”, while Fran Beighton prefers Scrabble; “but no-one will play with me because I’m unbeatable. Playing Uno and Cobra Paw with my kids and backgammon with my father”.

“Balderdash, because it is a great leveller and fat laugh” says Ruan Jooste.

Pieter-Louis Myburgh plays Trivial Pursuit –old school general knowledge fun. And both Pauli van Wyck and John Stupart love Catan, “taking us back to when the world was smaller, but not simpler. It helps to remember that the Covid-19 is not attacking us, or our families, or even South Africa only. It is a worldwide pandemic. Quick reaction and doing the small things right – much as in this game – will save us all,” says van Wyck.

Something fun

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

According to CNN’s Megan Thomas, you can find “A few bright spots for parents trying to work from home and keep their kids entertained… Beloved children’s book author Mo Willems is offering daily doodle sessions on YouTube … Josh Gad is live-streaming a nightly children’s book reading. So are Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams with their Save With Stories initiative, an effort to raise funds to help food-challenged kids across the country at this time”. ML

If you would like to share your ideas or suggestions with us, if you’ve got any tips about e-learning, please leave a comment below or email us at [email protected] and [email protected].

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