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Lincoln Kids' Big Awesome Guide To Summer Fun & Learning

May 28, 2020 ● By Karla Goerl

Summer learning loss, also called the summer slide, is the loss of academic knowledge and skills over summer break. It is a measurable setback, and on average, 1-2 months of education is lost each year—and it accumulates. By the end of sixth grade, the average student who experiences this loss over and over again is two years behind their peers, with literacy and math skills often taking the biggest hit. This can all be avoided with just 2-3 hours of learning each week during long breaks. 

Many parents enroll their kids in summer camps to keep them active & busy. Of course, the pandemic puts a twist on things. Even if your kids go to a summer camp, we are still looking at an increase in time spent at home, so we’ve rounded up a list of some of our favorite virtual streams and learning databases, online tours, and some fun escapes, too, and linked them all below. This is not just a long list of links like those you’ve seen on blogs and around the web. We’ve personally scouted, explored, used, and vetted these sites for user-friendliness and content. 

All the listings below are linked to take you directly to these resources! This is an expanded list from the article featured in Lincoln Kids Magazine Summer 2020. As we discover new quality virtual opportunities we will update this list, so please check back often! 


Lincoln Children’s Zoo: Keeper Corner videos + Printable Activities  or via YouTube

Morrill Hall: Library of free at-home science & natural history activities, projects, videos, tours, and planetarium shows. 

Lincoln Children’s Museum:  Boredom Busters video + activity archive.

Handersen Publishing: A large selection of printable coloring pages, coloring books, and at-home craft projects using common home supplies. Also available for purchase are are variety of children’s books from their publishing house—a great way to support a local business that supports local, national, and international authors & illustrators! Sign up for their newsletter to get 25% off your first purchase.

Civic U by Civic Nebraska: an online learning hub for students & families. Activities, videos, lesson plans, and quick links for a variety of virtual opportunities. 

Read Aloud Lincoln & Lincoln City Libraries: Virtual storytime held daily at 9:30 (toddlers) & 10am (preschoolers) via Facebook. Replays are not available, catch 'em live! (You do not need a FB account to access business pages on Facebook).

Nebraska 4-H: Living Room Learning, Boredom Busters, & Family Fun Night all summer long w/ Nebraska 4-H! Weekly dates & times for various age ranges plus a weekly family night! Also check out their collections of online & offline activities. Their resource hub is very well organized and easy to browse. Check it out! 

Nebraska Virtual Capitol: Interactive and professionally-made tours of the State Capitol & Governor’s Residence, with clickable pop-ups for historical features and artwork. 

Arbor Day Farm: Walk Along Tours: See favorite attractions at Arbor Day Farm, including the Lodge Grounds, Apple Orchards, and inside the Arbor Lodge. 


Non-Local Virtual Learning & Activity Resources

Storyline Online: Read aloud storytimes with celebrities! Some books have family activity guides with things like recipes, experiments, crafts, and more. 

Goodnight with Dolly: Dolly Parton reads bedtime stories. This 10-week virtual event has ended but you can still catch the replays on the website.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: quizzes, puzzles, and crafts for HP families. 

Disney Magic Moments: Experience the magic of Disney from home with celebrity storytimes, learn to draw activities, printable projects, Disney-themed recipes, fact sheets, kid’s projects, behind-the-scenes videos and more. 

PBS Kids: Games, activities, and favorite shows for toddlers, preschool-aged, and early elementary. 

PBS LearningMedia: STEAM projects and classes for grades PreK & up. 

Highlights Kids: Activities, recipes, jokes, games and more. 

Wonderopolis: This might be the only educational & activity database you need, because it pretty much covers everything. Kids (and adults) can explore thousands of curiosities & wonders of all topics. They also offer Camp Wonderopolis, several free online, at-home summer learning programs. 

Exploratorium: A huge collection of online learning with at-home projects, videos, exhibit exploring, virtual tours and more. You’ll need to navigate through various pages of the website to see all the features. 

Mystery Science: Free, easy science for K-5 remote learning via.  (For full access to Mystery Science, there are memberships available, and they also give away a limited number of free memberships weekly. Clicking on the first link will take you to the COVID resource of K-5 learning that is offered free. This link will take you to the full member's site:

National Geographic Kids: Games, videos, quizzes, and more. 

The Nature Conservancy: Virtual fieldtrips from around the world, complete with narration, interviews, sweeping views, and teacher guides. 

National Park Obsessed: Earn real Junior Ranger Badges from home! Kids watch videos, read articles, and explore maps to complete the assignments. Depending on which park you are studying, answers may be emailed or mailed in, and the badges mailed to you are either a real badge, patch, or sticker. Super cool! 

San Diego Zoo Kids: Videos, live cams, printables, & games. 

The Charlie Cart Project: Home-based family cooking lessons and recipes that are kid-friendly and help encourage bonding and learning through practical application. 

The Kennedy Center: Theatre, art, music, dance, and more. Take some “5(ish) Minute Dance Lessons,” tune into “Play at Home” to watch kid-friendly theatrical performances, and grab some paper & markers for the replays of Mo Willems Doodle sessions. 

PLAYBILL: 15 Broadway performances you can stream at home

***Khan Academy: Avoid the summer slide! Keep your family learning with free, world-class education courses for ages two to adult. I put this one at the end because it is more classroom-style and less "fun," but it's an incredibly high-quality source for traditional education around the globe. 


Virtual Escapes (MY FAVORITES!)

National Parks Service: Virtual tours, live events, and at-home parks activities. 

The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks: Powered by Google Arts & Culture. Now this is cool. They use a few different online tour techniques to create narrated, virtual immersion field trips of Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas. 

National Aquarium: Tour the National Aquarium at your own pace with this self-guided virtual experience. Click the info buttons embedded in the scenes to read stats and info about animals and habitats. 

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Really well-done, manually-guided virtual tours with HD imagery, 360 navigation, & zoom to make you feel like you are there at the museum. 

National Marine Sanctuaries Virtual Dives: 360° immersion into several marine sanctuary seascapes. These are non-navigating and make for a simple, short excursion.

FarmFood360: Interactive virtual tour videos of various food farms, orchards, and production facilities in Canada. I oddly really enjoyed watching and touring these. 

Google Arts & Culture: A massive collection of tours, slideshows, videos, and more. Explore museums, castles, palaces, galleries, and countless other international attractions at your own pace. My favorites are the interactive virtual tours of the Uffizi Gallery, Palace of Versailles, and several castles and ruins. The search bar is your friend. You can search for natural wonders, museums, artists, countries, or general terms, like “castle” or “Smithsonian.” 

Buckingham Palace: The official Royal virtual tour of the Palace with self-guided navigation and panning plus info dots for educational content. 

National Geographic Sơn Đoòng: Explore the world’s largest cave in Vietnam! I found this absolutely fascinating. The cave stretches over 5.5 miles long, and each stop along the way in this tour has short descriptive info captions. Volume up for a totally immersive feeling. 

Explore Livecams: A huge collective of high-quality live webcams for every day viewing. I’ve checked out a few other live cams on the web, mostly because that’s what a lot of aquariums offer in lieu of a virtual tour, and I usually find them somewhat boring, but not these live cams. The site is easy to navigate and there are 100+ cams plus recordings of the best stuff. My favorites are the Three Bears channels and African Wildlife cams. I check the “Africams" page a couplet times each week. I've seen so many exotic animals in their natural habitats through this site. I think the suspense of seeing a predator come onto the screen is part of what makes it so exciting. Volume up to hear the birds and other animal sounds and see how the animals react to them. 

The Great Wall of China: An interactive tour of The Great Wall. Additional tours of China’s attractions are available for $5, all-inclusive. 

Google Earth: Go anywhere on Earth you could possibly desire. Also, check out Google Moon. 

International Space Station: Float around with these video tours. 

Access Mars: An interactive tour of a section of Mars’ surface. This is pretty cool but is a little limited—it is not free reign over the entire planet.


Things You Can Do Any Day

Go on a walk or hike. Talk about your observations and using your senses outside. Play nature I-Spy. Download Lincoln Parks & Rec's Nature Bingo card. Click here for a list of local parks with hiker/biker trails. And here is a link to the Nebraska Game & Parks "where to go" guide. Our favorites are Bluestem, Pawnee, Platte River, and Ponca.

Cook together and talk through each step. Make simple treats, like puppy chow, no-bake cookies, graham cracker gingerbread houses, no-bake cheesecake cups and more! I've been digging through my memory of middle school FCS classes to make it more kid-friendly.

Run through the sprinklers! Or if it’s chilly or rainy, take a day bath with pool toys. When I was a kid, we would also have "cup fights." Me and my sisters and our family friends would form two teams, set out two 5-gallon buckets in the yard, and each get one small plastic up (usually a dixie cup). Then we'd spend the afternoon running up to each other's buckets to scoop up water and toss at each other and try our hardest not to get drenched. There were no rules or scores to keep, it was just silly fun, lots of running, and hours of laughing. 

Kid-friendly yoga. For engaging instruction on yoga, brain breaks, and mindfulness, check out the high-quality videos and categorized playlists at Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube or download the Cosmic Kids app. 

Set up a bowling alley with plastic bottles, paper towel tubes, or other non-breakable tall, cylindrical things from around the house. You can also add some weight to the bottom with sand, dirt, rocks, or water.


I hope you enjoyed browsing this list, and I especially hope your kids can make use of these sites. I spent a good chunk of time making sure I wasn't recommending a bunch of drab sites (I am a visual person, so attractiveness and organization are key to being included here). Don't forget to check back often! If you like this collection, please share this list on social and send your friends over to us here Lincoln Kids!

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