How to keep the kids entertained at home

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

For the first time in Taronga’s 103-year-history, Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo has gone virtual, launching Taronga TV this week.

Parents and children can tune in daily for a packed schedule of fascinating keepers talks and shows, 24/7 live animal streams, amusing animal antics and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at what the animals (and the keepers) actually get up to when the zoo is closed.

There will also be resources available for teachers and for parents who are home schooling and looking for fun and educational content for their children.

“Taronga has, and always will, be a critical part of the community and while temporarily we won’t be welcoming guests on site, we are so proud to continue to deliver some of the amazing stories from our two zoos right into your home,” Chief Executive of Taronga Conservation Society Australia Cameron Kerr said.

“There’s so much for guests to experience when exploring our two zoos, but there’s also so much that goes on behind-the-scenes that normally goes unseen.

“This is our chance to share some great stories, like what goes on behind the doors of our two hospitals where are critical care work continues, while also providing entertaining and educating content for those at home.”

Taronga TV will be releasing new videos daily on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and online at tarongatv.com.

With the temporary closure of Taronga’s zoos and accommodation products, the Taronga Foundation will continue to fundraise to ensure Taronga can continue operating its two Wildlife Hospitals and its vital conservation work in Australia and overseas. In 2018/19 alone, Taronga partnered with 39 organisations working on the front line of conservation across 18 countries.

Spend a day at the zoo and learn about animals

Taronga Zoo isn’t the only place to offer people a virtual experience in place of being able to actually do a day trip to the zoo.

Melbourne Zoo also has live webcams at www.zoo.org.au/animal-house, while in the US you can check out The San Diego Zoo’s live webcam for animals at zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams.

The Australian Reptile Park is inviting kids to connect with wildlife and nature virtually with a new series of educational videos. Created to help assist parents that may now be home-schooling their children, the new series called ‘Animal Tales With Tim Faulkner’ will be hosted on YouTube and even includes ‘homework’ for children complete. There are also daily live streams available including animal feedings, play time and cuddles with dingoes and virtual tours of different areas within the park available to viewers at home on their Facebook page.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Australia’s most iconic animals and colourful sea life, the teams behind SEA LIFE Melbourne, SEA LIFE Sydney and Wild Life Sydney Zoo have you sorted with new daily animal live streams now available. Hosted on their respective Facebook pages, there is plenty to keep those at home entertained including Q&As sessions with lead divers and keepers, feeding sessions, quokka cuddles and downloadable educational resources for kids. Times, weekly sessions and schedules are available online now, with previous content available to view and post each live session.

Unlock the mysteries of the Great Barrier Reef and see what some of Australia’s favourite Reef animals are up to with Reef Tracks by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. With real-time data, tracking turtles, sharks and manta rays kids can pick their favourite, like Myrtle the Turtle or Holly the Tiger Shark, and track their movements.

Spend a virtual day at the museum

You can also spend a day at the museum.

Google Arts and Culture has partnered with over 2,500 museums and galleries around the world to offer virtual tours of their spaces.

The famous MET is still open - virtually. Photo: Getty

Some of the options include New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Even The Louvre in Paris, is offering its own virtual tour online for free at www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne.

The British Museum, located in the heart of London, allows virtual visitors to tour the Great Court and discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies at britishmuseum.withgoogle.com.

Choose from a selection of virtual tours and online collections from around NSW as well. The Art Gallery of NSW has an extensive online collection to explore, as well as a range of accompanying educational materials called, ‘Children’s Trails’.

Maritime enthusiasts can go on a virtual 360-tour of submarine HMAS Onslow at the Australian National Maritime Museum, or learn about the history of the rivers of the Mid North Coast at Our Rivers, Our History.

Those interested in the weird and wonderful specimens housed at the Australian Museum can check out their natural sciences collection online, while cricket lovers can get their fix via a virtual tour of the Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame, located in NSW’s Southern Highlands. 

Go to the theatre or a musical

The new THE SHOWS MUST GO ON YouTube Channel has been announced – providing theatre lovers with a West End and Broadway experience in their own homes, online for free.

From Saturday 4 April the channel will make available a selection of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much loved musicals, launching with one of the most enduring shows of all time, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Each show will be available weekly from 5AM each Saturday for a limited 48-hour period online – no charge or sign up required

Explore space

If you or your child are a space nut or love science there is also plenty you can do online.

Explore the surface of Mars together on the Curiosity Rover, of listen to astronauts read stories from space at storytimefromspace.com/library.

There are also lots of science experiments that you can do at home, with information and videos all over Youtube. Or you can head to Steve Spangler Science for 50 experiments in 50 days.

Sisters watching the stars together at home. Photo: Getty

Science Space, located at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, is the largest hands-on science centre in NSW. Amongst countless interactive and quirky exhibits, the centre also houses the largest and most digitally advanced planetarium in the state. Science Space has recently launched their virtual channel, featuring a daily live video at 10am AEDT including topics such as ‘Bubbles at Home,’ ‘Slime Making’, and ‘Mini Catapults’ to continue the science fun at home. 

Do some science

Dig out the boardgames and puzzles

Stores like Big W have you covered when it comes to stocking up on your board game, puzzles, and toy collections. Some of the most popular products include Classic 100 Games, Twister, Cluedo and plenty of Images 100-piece puzzles.

Or if you don’t have them handy and can’t get to the shops there are plenty of games also available online.

Visit www.highlightskids.com for example for fun games, recipes, and more activities.

Travel to Memphis in the US

The city of Memphis has announced a raft of new virtual experiences for people to enjoy until they can make their way back to the city in person, and there is a raft of events that kids will love! 

With something for everyone from kids to hardcore Elvis fans, the list of virtual experiences includes:

  • a Graceland live cam

  • narrated Zoolympics from Memphis Zoo

  • a Museum to Go including activities for kids to do at home

  • a streamed production of Story Time in Neverland 

  • a virtual commemoration of Dr Martin Luther King’s death from the National Civil Rights Museum 

Do some craft

Especially around Easter time, craft is definitely a winner when it comes to keeping the little ones busy for a few hours. You can find ideas or crafts and activities online at www.allkidsnetwork.com.

With extra little artists at home at the moment, iconic Australian artist Ken Done has shared free educational resources which are available for download on his website. Made for primary, high school and senior students, the bright colours and engaging questions will keep kids (and parents!) of all ages entertained.

Online, find the ‘Thinking About Jimmy Pike’ Visual Arts program which includes 15 classes of 50-minutes duration for primary-aged children. One of Australia’s most famous artists, and one of the first Indigenous artists to shift to vibrant colours, these art activities can be used as separate short projects, or together will equal a semester-long art program, concluding with a final art project.

Amazon offers free streaming

Amazon has made a selection of its content free, lifting the paywall on a raft of children’s TV shows and movies, including Peppa Pig S1, Pete the CatJessy and Nessy and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

To access the free content, parents need to have an Amazon account, which is free to create. This is different to Amazon’s paid subscription Prime Video account, which is $59.95 a year in Australia.

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