Author live streams for kids are everywhere - and they're brilliant
With the closure of schools, celebrity storytimes and author-led workshops are popping up online - and they're brilliant
While there are a spate of online resources for when the moment for official home-schooling arrives, we've discovered something rather wonderful, that's educational, interesting and totally pressure-free: live streams for kids.
After all, who doesn't want to spend half an hour sat at the table with award-winner author and illustrator Mo Willems, drawing the cheeky pigeon (yes, the one who wants to drive the bus)?
Here are some brilliant live streams to get on your radar now. Quick note: while many of these go live in the afternoon between 1pm-3pm EST, or via Instagram stories, they do stay up for 24 hours or longer, in some cases. Although if you do catch the live stream, it will provide some routine to the end-of-day witching hour here (is anything better than an hour of doodling or stories before bed?)...
LUNCH DOODLES with Mo Willems!
Mo Willems is the multi-award winning author and illustrator of children's books like the Elephant & Piggie series, the Pigeon series and Knuffle Bunny.
He's also wonderfully personable and informative as he takes kids inside his studio daily for his LUNCH DOODLES series with The Kennedy Center (1pm ET, but you can find the vids on YouTube afterwards), where he not only encourages kids to doodle - he turns the number 17 into a dragon racing car on March 17th - but also takes them through a step-by-step of how to draw his beloved characters, like the Pigeon and Elephant Gerald.
Willems also invites children and curious parents to take a look at how picture books are produced, showing them how the drawings, text and colours of the stories evolve through various drafts and teaching them technical terms like "dummy" and "gutter." It's a brilliant way to spend half an a hour a day - and you'll be impressed at the quality of the drawings you all produce (we were!).
Dinosaur Juniors: Happy Hatchday by Rob Biddulph. Photo: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks
Draw With Rob
Rob Biddulph, award-winning author of Blown Away, Odd Dog Out and many others, is hosting #DrawWithRob sessions online every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am GMT. The videos are here and a must for any child who's ever wanted to draw a dinosaur or a sausage dog...
Be sure to tune in on Thursday, May 21st at 4pm BST and attempt to break the Guinness World Records title for the largest online art lesson (they need 10,000 people to join in). It's for good, too: all money raised is going to charities to fight COVID-19. Learn more here.
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers Photo: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks
With tasks like drawing work from home uniforms to cheerful apples, the RA has everyone in stitches on its social media feeds. Follow their Instagram and Twitter accounts for daily drawing challenges kids and parents will love.
Getty Art Challenge
The Getty Museum's challenge is creative, inspiring, and, best of all - easy. Just choose your favourite artwork, find three things lying around the house to help you bring it to life and recreate those artworks using the items (then share, of course, using #gettychallenge and #betweenartandquarantine). They'll be saying "Arcimboldo" in no time...
Julie's Library Show
We can't think of a more soothing voice for storytime than the original Mary Poppins. Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, have launched a weekly storytime podcast with American Public Media. And if it inspires a family-watching session of The Sound of Music, even better.
Photo: Harry Potter is available to listen to on Audible and Spotify
Listen to celebrities read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone aloud
Some exciting wizarding world news for Harry Potter obsessives: stars including David Beckham, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Fry, Dakota Fanning, Claudia Kim and Noma Dumezweni will be bringing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to life on Spotify Kids (the audio chapters are available free of charge).
You can also hear Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, reading the first chapter of the book, "The Boy Who Lived," via video at Wizarding World now. All 17 chapters of the book will be released by the middle of the summer - and we can't think of a better way to get your youngster excited about this modern classic.
Tom Hardy's CBeebies' Bedtime Stories
In news that is just as much of a treat for parents as their children, Tom Hardy will be returning to CBeebies' Bedtime Stories the week of April 27-May 1 for storytelling sessions from his garden - with his charming sidekick, French bulldog, Blue, joining in the fun. Some of the titles he'll be reading include Simona Ciraolo's Hug Me, about young cactus Felipe, who dreams of a hug, Under the Same Sky by Robert Vescio and Nicky Johnston and Don't Worry, Little Crab, by Chris Haughton. Tune in to CBeebies at 6:50pm all week, or watch him on BBC iPlayer if you miss the live storytelling. We. Can't. Wait.
Mondays with Michelle Obama
Everyone's favourite first lady - and all-round, inspiring, phenomenal woman - Michelle Obama, has teamed up with PBS Kids for Monday read-alongs on YouTube. First up? Julia Donaldson classic, The Gruffalo, with readings of There's a Dragon in Your Book, Miss Maple's Seeds and The Very Hungry Caterpillar coming up. We'll be clutching our copy of Becoming as we listen.
Another fantastic initiative that's come out of the US school shutdown is #OperationStorytime, where children's authors, illustrators and even celebrities read a book a day on social media. It's a fantastic way for kids to enjoy a book they love, discover a new one and get excited about reading - we're hoping a love of literature is one of the positives to emerge from kids being off school and having the opportunity to explore books without any time pressures.
Here are the authors/celebs to watch now:
Julia Donaldson: In the best news ever, Julia Donaldson has launched a weekly series on Facebook, called Julia Donaldson and Friends, with guests including illustrators like Axel Scheffler. The first installment brings the story A Squash and a Squeeze to life with singing, puppets and a drawing lesson.
David Walliams: Every kid's favourite author, David Walliams, is reading chapters from his World's Worst Children books, every day at 11am here, for a 20-minute treat that's the perfect accompaniment to that apple (OK, biscuit) your child is snacking on.
Sarah McIntyre: The writer and illustrator of Grumpycorn is teaching kids how to draw that most elusive and beloved of creatures, the unicorn (among other things). Catch up with her #DrawingWithSarah sessions on YouTube.
Wendy MacNaughton: The illustrator is hosting kids' drawing classes M-F at 10am PST on Instagram Live, where kids are learning to draw everything from spirals to hearts to rainbows to dogs.
Oliver Jeffers: The beloved author of Lost & Found, The Great Paper Caper and many other delights is live streaming himself on Instagram Stories, daily at 6pm GMT.
Mac Barnett: Not just the author behind favourites like Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, Mac Barnett's TED talk on children's books is a must-listen. He's reading his picture books each week online on Instagram Stories (12pm Pacific).
Molly Idle: The author and illustrator of the Flora series and Pearl, the story of a mermaid, reads Pearl online here - this is a good one for the 4-7 crew and her illustrations are mesmerising.
Sophie Blackall: The illustrator of the fab Ivy & Bean series, written by Annie Barrows, is also reading stories online. The first chapter of Ivy & Bean, One Big Happy Family is hilarious...
Photo: Drag Queen Story Time
Drag Queen Story Time sessions: For kids missing the vibrant DQST sessions they enjoyed in their local London libraries before the closures, check out Drag Queen Story Time's streaming service, where you can rent videos for £4 or sign up to a subscription service for unlimited access to songs and stories.
Celeb readers: From Josh Gad reading Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree (perfection), to Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams' Save With Stories initiative for Save the Children, which aims to raise money for children struggling with lack of food and resources due to the US school shutdown, there are plenty of celebrities doing their part for the kids.
Dolly Parton: Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has launched "Good Night With Dolly," a YouTube series starring everyone's favourite singer reading bedtime stories for children that speak to the challenges we're facing. The first one is The Little Engine That Could - listening to these to soothe yourself to sleep is perfectly acceptable too.
Cat Deeley: Virtual storytime sessions with Cat Deeley start 8pm London time on Friday, April 17th on Insta, kicking off with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
Watching Oscar winners like Reese Witherspoon read Uni the Unicorn at SaveWithStories on Insta is definitely making us reassess our own reading voice... There's a UK version too, with Eddie Redmayne, Paloma Faith, Billie Piper and many others.
The Scottish Book Trust has a virtual library of talks, storytelling and drawing sessions with authors from Chris Riddell to Cressida Cowell.
Speaking of Cressida Cowell, she's reading her bestseller How To Train Your Dragon to kids on BookTrust HomeTime's virtual hub - a chapter a day. Illustrator Ed Vere is hosting draw-along online sessions, and there are also quizzes, games and competitions for kids to check out.
The Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a virtual story hour weekdays at 11am EST.
Amelia Boo: This popular kids' class for under-5s has gone online with virtual storytime sessions Mon-Fri at various times, helping to bring stories to life through song, movement and games.
Active live streams
As we move towards virtual learning, you'll notice more and more activity-based live streams cropping up, as well as arts and culture so kids don't have to miss out:
P.E.: The Body Coach, aka Joe Wicks, launched livestream PE classes at 9am so kids can get those endorphins going and kick off their day right, with 30 minutes of movement. Tune in to his YouTube channel weekdays to run, jump and get that blood pumping.
Music: Myleene Klass is going to help the nation's kids become classical music lovers with her online Music Klass initiative. Catch her here Mondays and Fridays at 10am, and Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm for lullabies.
Nicola Benedetti is also doing her best to ensure children's musical education continues with a daily live stream at 12pm, featuring her virtuoso pals helping kids with their singing, strings practice and more.
Outdoor adventure: Everest and swimming with the crocs might seem tricky to squeeze in between morning homework and snack breaks, but thanks to Ben Fogle, kids can have adventure and wilderness lessons daily at 4pm, live on Instagram.
Cooking: Kids Cook With Theo offers cook-a-long video sessions for kids with chef Theo Michael on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm, where kids learn to make delicious dishes like gnocchi and flatbreads.
Chef Joe Hurd has launched @scranschool to give cooking tips and lessons to kids daily via Instagram. It's themed week by week, starting with pasta. Sign us up.
Playtime: playHooray has a range of play-inspired activities for kids and their grownups. Head to their Insta each day at 10am to join in their interactive, virtual play sessions with coach Claire.
Dance: Funky Moves is offering a selection of online dance classes for a fiver per family. Starting Monday, March 30th, there's something for everyone from street dance to funky ballet to musical theatre and yoga flow.
Darcey Bussell's dance fitness programme, DDMIX for Schools, has daily shakeup live videos at 1:30pm on Facebook - perfect for a post-lunch energy boost.
Educational activities: Presenter and children's author Konnie Huq has launched a series of videos on her YouTube channel covering everything from science experiments to baking.
Theatre: Good news, culture vultures. The Wind in the Willows the Musical, based on Kenneth Grahame's beloved novel, is streaming online here (please make a donation if you can to help support the theatre). With a book by Julian Fellowes, music and lyrics by Stiles and Drewe and direction by Rachel Kavanaugh, the kids will delight in watching the adventures of Mr Toad and Mole.
Another one for those with thespian interests? Creation Drama Studio's launched The Lock Down Project so kids can hone their dramatic skills remotely (to get the worksheets emailed over, get in touch here).
Pub quiz: Why should grownups get all the fun? This kid-themed online pub quiz is fun.
TV that teaches: Channel 4 announced the launch of Lockdown Academy, which will feature a series of experts teaching their skills to kids and adults. You'll find Jamie cooking, Kirstie crafting and Grayson educating viewers on how to make art.