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10 Shows to Keep Kids Engaged During School Closures

Art Education and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In today’s climate, school closures are becoming a common occurrence. Whether it’s because of weather, illness, or plain old scheduled breaks, having a plan is essential. No matter how much you plan, however, things can get tricky, fast.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome may be what to do with your own kids while you work from home. Another might be how to keep your students engaged with the material you’re presenting.

Television

When you’re stuck at home and at your wit’s end, there’s one place you may want to turn: your television.

Although not all students will have access to all platforms, some carefully curated screen time may be just the ticket to keep your own kiddos quiet and keep your students engaged. We’ve rounded up our favorite educational and art-related picks for each age level. Whether you need your three-year-old to stay occupied while you respond to student questions or need a hook for your high schoolers, we’ve got you covered.

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Logistics

Of course, this type of media is just one option at your disposal. It should be a supplemental resource to the other types of activities you’re providing.

How to Teach Art When No One Can Go to School

In addition, some of the platforms mentioned here are available only with a paid subscription. If you’d like, you can often sign up for a free trial that you can cancel later. Or, you may want to stick solely with the free options.

Finally, always make sure to preview something before suggesting students watch. You want to make sure it’s a good fit for your student and school communities.

10 Shows to Keep Kids Engaged During School Closures

Elementary

Picks in this category are great for younger kiddos, ages three to ten. Shows are organized from those that appeal to the youngest kids to those that appeal to the oldest. Read the description of each below to find out where you can watch.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Best For: Pre-K
Watch On: PBS Kids (free)

Based on Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood, this show is perfect for helping young kids work through big emotions. When the schedule is disrupted, this can be a great show to help kids talk about their feelings. Check out this resource from PBS Kids about staying healthy.

Tumble Leaf

Best For Pre-K – 1st
Watch On: Amazon Prime Video

Tumble Leaf is a beautiful stop-animation show available on Amazon. It follows main characters, Fig and Maple, as they try and solve problems with creative solutions. Many times, their first attempts don’t work, showing kids the power of problem-solving and perseverance. If you’re interested, there’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the animation process here.

Find the first episode and other clips for free on YouTube.

Creative Galaxy

Best For: Pre-K – 2nd
Watch On: Amazon Prime Video

Creative Galaxy follows main character, Arty, and his sidekick, Epiphany, as they travel the galaxy to solve problems using art. In general, each episode is made up of two short stories plus a live-action segment of real kids doing real art projects. It’s a great choice to keep kids engaged and make them inspired to create.

Find the first episode and other clips for free on YouTube.

The Magic School Bus

Best For: 1st – 5th
Watch On: Netflix

Netflix currently has both the original version as well as the updated The Magic School Bus Rides Again. Students can learn about a whole host of topics as they follow the magical Ms. Frizzle and her students on their adventures! Specific arts-related episodes in the original series include “The Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow” and “The Magic School Bus In The Haunted House,” which deals with the science of sound. In the newer version, check out the episode, “Ready, Set, Fail!” which teaches kids making mistakes is OK.

Need more information? Learn more here!

Secondary

Suggestions in this category are best for secondary students. Depending on the maturity of your kids, however, this could include students as young as 4th grade. Once again, shows are organized from those that appeal to the youngest kids to those that appeal to the oldest.

Brainchild

Best For: 5th – 8th
Watch On: Netflix

Brainchild is a science-themed show that’s perfect for tweens. It explores the science behind engaging topics like social media, dreams, and emotions. Be sure to check out the Creativity” episode for a direct connection to art.

Design Squad Global

Best For: 5th – 10th
Watch On: PBS Kids (free)

This show focuses on creative thinking, problem-solving, and STEAM principles. Groups of students are tasked with real-world problems to solve. Students can watch the design process from start to finish, including how the kids on the show overcome obstacles. Make sure to check out the Teachers’ Guide as well.

Making It

Best For: 5th – 12th
Watch On: Hulu, NBC

Hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman lead contestants through a series of design and craft challenges. Kids will love the creative and varied ways contestants respond to a variety of prompts.

Blown Away

Best For: 8th – 12th
Watch On: Netflix

Blown Away is a reality show about the world of blown glass. In each episode, contestants must respond to a new themed challenge. Your kids will be enthralled with the behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create a glass masterpiece.

Art 21

Best For: 9th – 12th
Watch On: art21.org (free)

According to the website, “Art21 is a celebrated global leader in presenting thought-provoking and sophisticated content about contemporary art, and the go-to place to learn first-hand from the artists of our time.” Find a treasure trove of content about working artists that your kids are sure to love. Don’t forget to preview the content first, as some contemporary artists deal with decidedly adult themes.

Abstract: The Art of Design

Best For: 9th – 12th
Watch On: Netflix

Abstract: The Art of Design profiles a set of contemporary designers from across different disciplines. Viewers get an inside look at their work and their processes. Be sure to check out the episode on Olafur Eliasson!

No matter how you choose to address school closures, well-curated tv content may help ease the burden. Although it’s not the only option we would want to provide to our kids or students, it definitely has its place. Check out some of the content and see how it might inspire at-home activities!

How do you handle school closures?

Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

Amanda Heyn

Learning Team

Amanda Heyn is the Director of K-12 Professional Development at The Art of Education. She enjoys helping to create relevant, engaging PD just for art teachers.

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