With almost one billion students home from school due to closures related to COVID-19, it is a challenging time for parents as well as their children. If your family is like mine, you may be simultaneously playing the roles of substitute teacher, tutor, parent, employee, and spouse within your household. It’s exhausting, no?
We know that a lot of parents (including ourselves) are struggling to find time to take care of themselves and focus on their own needs during this time. Because of this, we put together this list of a few trusted, high-quality entertainment resources for your children. These are kid-tested programs (by my kids, at least) which can teach your children about technology, science, and nature while giving you solid chunks of 30+ minutes of uninterrupted time to focus on yourself.
Important caveat: This list is all admittedly English language and North American-focused. If you have other options that are specific to other languages or geographies, please send them my way, and we can pass them along.
Brainchild (Netflix): This excellent series introduces young people to topics like germs (timely), dreams, space, how we think, and even where dreams come from. It takes a fast-paced, light-hearted approach designed to engage as well as educate. The show gets bonus points for highlighting people of color and specifically choosing a 22-year-old Indian-American woman as the host. One of the show’s goals is to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) topics to a more diverse audience. Unfortunately, there are only 13 episodes, but at ~30 minutes each, that is 6 ½ hours of low-guilt TV time.
Episodes: 13; Total run time: 6 ½ hours
Wow in the World (Podcast): From the minds of Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas, this podcast is equally entertaining for parents as it is for children. You may know Guy Raz as the host of the podcasts TED Radio Hour and How I Built This, two of the most popular programs on National Public Radio in the US. The comedic storylines, recurring characters, and sound effects make it a very entertaining and reliable road-trip companion. Topics include everything from black holes to geo-engineering to the science of cuteness. While getting your children to listen to podcasts at home may not be as easy as listening in the car, there is a lot of upside if you can pull it off. There are more than 100 episodes, and at ~30 minutes each, that is 50 hours of Guy and Mindy babysitting your young ones. Even if it doesn’t work at home, you can download it for your next family road trip.
Episodes: 100+; Run time: 50 hours
Our Planet (Netflix): Really, I should just say anything narrated by David Attenborough. I chose this 2019 release because it is readily available on Netflix and because of the ongoing discussion about the relationship between nature and the needs and impacts of human civilization throughout the series. My children generally love this kind of documentary, provided that I turn it on and start watching it with them to start. If I ever make the mistake of saying, “Let’s watch a documentary!” it generally goes poorly. Throughout the series, you’ll take a tour of the world’s oceans, jungles, rivers, deserts, and mountain ranges, meeting the varied creatures that inhabit them. Anything with David Attenborough is top-class in my book, and this series does not disappoint. As a bonus, there is an Our Planet: Behind The Scenes episode that shows the immense effort the crew made to capture the video for the series. The only challenge with this series is not getting drawn in yourself as the storytelling is very compelling, and the imagery largely breathtaking. There are eight episodes of 50 minutes each plus the one hour behind the scenes special for a total of ~7 ½ hours. As a follow-up to this series, Attenborough is releasing a new movie called A Life on Our Planet, which recounts his learnings over his career as a film-maker and conservationist. In it, he discusses the urgent steps he believes necessary to create a more symbiotic relationship between Humankind and the Earth. While the film is not yet released, you can watch a trailer here.
Episodes: 8; Run time: 7 ½ hours
There you have it. 64 hours of guilt-free programming for your little ones. Also, if you can get them into David Attenborough’s work, there is an almost limitless library of other documentaries to draw upon. This includes Seven Worlds, One Planet, Blue Planet, Blue Planet II, Planet Earth, and Planet Earth II. That’s another 40 hours for a grand total of more than 100+ hours of fantastic educational programming!
This is a tough time for everyone, and I know that I’m fortunate to be able to write this from the safety, if not the quiet, of my home. As parents, taking care of ourselves is as important as taking care of our families, because otherwise, we won’t do anything else well. I hope that these options do give you some time to yourself, but more than anything, don’t feel guilty if you are just letting your kids watch TV and play video games. This is uncharted territory, and we’re going to need to remember to take it easy on ourselves and take it easy on each other. If you have other ideas or recommendations for our community to help us make it through this challenging time, together, let us know on Twitter @singularityu.
Here are some additional resources you’ve shared with us since we published this post: