Spring break is almost upon us—but this year, plenty of people are missing out on their usual family getaways.
Maybe you didn’t plan ahead, can’t take a break from work, are trying to save money or (like my family) are still isolating at home. That doesn’t mean spring break has to be a total drag. Museums, aquariums, science centers, hotels, and all manner of other organizations have created online experiences that can keep kids engaged, entertained, and even learning over the holiday.
We scoured the internet for exciting options, the kinds of things we would—and will!—sign our own kids up for. Many even have a travel twist. But there are countless more out there, whether your child is into art or astronauts, Snow White or starfish.
So use this as inspiration for your own online explorations. And don’t forget to look in your area: these activities often support local institutions and businesses, many of which have struggled in the pandemic.
For Disney Lovers
Kids missing their favorite theme park? They can learn how to make their own, thanks to a Disney-Pixar-Khan Academy project called Imagineering in a Box. The online class leads kids through a hands-on process of deciding on a theme, creating an attraction, and even designing costumes and graphics. It’s free—and did we mention that it’s free?—and relies on materials that you have around the house, like construction paper. (Though kids can get fancy and make models in Minecraft, etc.) There are three on-demand sessions, each of which takes at least two ours, available in several languages, including Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish. Free, khanacademy.org
For Budding Biologists
Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the world’s premier aquariums—and the inspiration for Finding Dory’s setting—offers comprehensive on-demand classes about marine life for kids from Pre-K all the way to 12th grade. They include videos, presentations and age-appropriate activities, from coloring to interactive simulations. If you’re looking for something live and spring break-specific, the Greater Farallones Association, which protects a marine reserve up the California coast from Monterey, is holding a Marine Explorers Virtual Camp for kids 9 to 13. The camp takes place two hours a day for three days with sessions in late March and early April, and costs $90 per child. montereybayaquarium.thinkific.com, farallones.org
From mid-March to early April, the Kennedy Space Center will host three-day online camps where kids can immerse themselves in rocketry, deep-space exploration, microgravity, and more. The camp is taught by KSC staff, and includes hands-on STEM activities. Sign up at least a week in advance, since you’ll need time to receive your supply kit by mail. $65 per household, kennedyspacecenter.com
For Little Artists
Got a Pollock on your hands? Explora, a science center/children’s museum/learning space in Albuquerque, N.M., is feeding kids’ creativity with 90-minute-long online art classes for spring break. Children K-5th grade can explore puppet-making, sustainable art, and more. $25 per class, explora.us
Give older kids a taste of la cuisine française with the online classes offered by real-life cooking school La Cuisine Paris. At about $40 (€30) a pop, the self-paced pastry courses—covering classics such as macarons, soufflées and, of course, croissants—will keep them busy for an afternoon (or three). Just buy the ingredients and try to stay out of the kitchen. lacuisineparis.teachable.com
Prep for future international trips by letting kids dip their toes into a second language—Hindi! Mandarin! Young Gates’ live spring break classes run an hour a day for five days, are geared toward ages 8-13, and are led by a professional language instructor. $125, younggates.com
For Born Explorers
A world tour may seem out of the question this season—except with Travel the World with Google Earth, a week-long class offered by Varsity Tutors. Kids in K and first grade will use the platform to visit famous cities, peek at historic landmarks, and explore natural wonders such as the Okovango Delta. Along the way they’ll learn map-reading and navigation. Held in early April, the class is an hour a day for five days. Free, varsitytutors.com
Sara Clemence is a freelance journalist, former travel editor for The Wall Street Journal, and co-founder of The Expedition.