Connecting cooped-up kids with outside world

(Posted March 24, 2020)

By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer

With Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order in place and many children now in their second week of being cooped up in the house due to school closures, families are looking for ways to engage with the outside world without leaving home.

The good news is, several organizations in central Ohio, across the state, and nationwide are offering virtual experiences to keep life interesting.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Although the Cincinnati Zoo ( is closed, staff members are bringing animals into the homes of individuals across the country.

Every weekday at 3 p.m., the staff hosts a Home Safari Facebook Live event that allows viewers to get an up-close look at a dedicated animal each day. Animals that have received the red carpet treatment so far include a rhino, cheetah and penguins.

Each segment ends with an activity that individuals can do at home, making this the perfect activity for families participating in online schooling.

Columbus Makes Art

The Columbus Makes Art site ( features a long list of options for virtual and outdoor experiences.

These include events such as a Virtual Spring Art Fair hosted by the Columbus College of Art and Design from 5 p.m. April 10 through midnight April 12.

OhioDance Virtual Dance Collection offers an interactive website ( that documents dance history in the state with more than 100 videos, histories and milestones.

The Ohio History Connection’s “Learn at Home” page ( is a portal to activities designed to engage kids in grades K-12 in the state’s history.

Another great resource for in-home learning is WOSU Classroom’s daily e-newsletter, created in partnership with PBS KIDS. Sign up for free at


COSI (Center of Science and Industry) is closed temporarily, as well, though staff are providing engaging science videos through COSI Connects, the organization’s Digital Doorway for at-home science learning.

Each day, COSI ( releases videos that showcase hands-on science experiments families can try at home.

Ohio Digital Library

Anyone with a library card can take advantage of the Ohio Digital Library ( This site allows users to check out and download ebooks.

This offers families a great way to read new books without having to leave the house.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

The Kennedy Center invites families to join the organization’s artist-in-residence, Mo Willems, for his lunch doodle ( Participants can learn how to draw, doodle and explore writing by visiting his studio virtually every day.

Have some paper and pens, pencils, markers or crayons ready when watching the episodes, which are posted every weekday at 1 p.m.

Families are invited to post their art on social media using the hashtag, #MoLunchDoodles.

Storytime with Oliver Jeffers

Artist Oliver Jeffers is offering a stay-at-home learning opportunity on his website (

Families can join him for a storytime at 2 p.m. on Jeffers’ Instagram account, @oliverjeffers. For those who can’t make the storytime, Jeffers posts videos of him reading books on his website for viewing anytime.

National Weather Service

For science junkies, the National Weather Service-Memphis office is posting daily science experiments for kids on its Twitter account (

Experiments feature topics like how thunderstorms form and how clouds produce precipitation. Ingredients needed for the experiments include items commonly found around the home.

Virtual fitness centers

Keeping active can be difficult when cooped up at home. YMCA Columbus ( is offering free virtual classes that help individuals stay in shape, even when stuck indoors.

The organization also offers several family resources on its site ( that include ideas like soccer drills and seven-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts for kids.

Planet Fitness ( is also offering free live streaming “work-ins” each day at 7 p.m. on Facebook Live and on the gym’s Instagram page.

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