Help time fly with activities and games, virtual tours, videos of animals and oddities, and so much more.
As we enter another week of staying home and sheltering in place, it’s imperative to keep ourselves, our kids and our families engaged. Sheltering in place doesn’t have to mean sitting on the couch bored, scrolling social media. Zoos, aquariums, libraries and other family-friendly attractions across Dallas-Fort Worth have brought the fun to our homes. Here are a few examples.
Also, don’t forget to check out our previous look at ways to “Entertain yourself with online arts programs from Dallas-Fort Worth museums, musicians and theaters.”
Outdoors brought indoors
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden: The Dallas Blooms spring festival has gone digital. If missing the blooms in person has you feeling down, don’t fret. As part of Digital Dallas Blooms, the arboretum Facebook page will feature at-home gardening tips, garden updates and tours, virtual labs from the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden scientists and more. On the arboretum’s website, you’ll find virtual tours and videos.
Dallas Park and Recreation: The department has started a new Rec@Home program promoting family-friendly leisure activities including making healthy snacks, arts and crafts, and at-home fitness. Videos showing these activities and more are available on the Dallas Parks and Recreation YouTube channel and other social media. Additionally, if your family has cabin fever and needs a trip outside, the department has also shared a nature scavenger hunt that can be done from your backyard. Search DallasParkRec on social media.
Dallas Zoo: The zoo has started a new campaign to #BringTheZooToYou. The zoo’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) are filled with videos showing virtual visits, chats with staff and animal updates, as well as activity ideas from zoo education and conservation teams.
Fort Worth Zoo: Would-be visitors are invited to stay connected with the animals and staff by following the zoo on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Additionally, the zoo has put out a call for children to send in a video message with their animal questions and staff will “work to get them answered” in videos on the zoo’s Facebook page.
Planetarium at the University of Texas at Arlington: Would-be stargazers can learn to find constellations and stay up to date on the Dallas-Fort Worth night sky thanks to the “Weekly Night Sky” videos posted to the UTA Planetarium’s Facebook page every Friday.
Reunion Tower: The Virtual Reality Reunion Tower app gives viewers 360-degree vertical and horizontal views from inside the tower’s GeO-Deck. Viewers can also “head outside” to see Dallas from a new perspective.
Texas Discovery Gardens: The garden at Fair Park is starting a new weekly video series on its YouTube channel that will also be shared on its social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The “Digital Garden” series will highlight horticulture, entomology and daily happenings around the gardens.
Trinity Forest Adventure Park: Trinity Forest Adventure Park has shared on Facebook its “Home-Ventures Project,” a resource that includes “adventure-minded” books and TV, activities and more. Completing some of the activities earns kids with half off a T-shirt once the park is open again.
Underwater, oddities and more
Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark: The park has started a new series called “Waddle You Do to Stay Sane,” featuring daily games, activities, contests and more on its social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and online. Some participants will have a chance to win a free admission pass for when the park reopens.
Frontiers of Flight Museum: While the museum is closed, the education and curatorial staff will be posting activities and videos on the museum’s social media (Facebook and Twitter). There will be weekly STEM learning activities, as well as exploration of artifacts in aviation and space treasures.
Play Street Museum: The museum is sharing daily activities for kids on its Facebook page, as well as offering curbside pickup of paint-your-own pottery kits, slime kits and a selection of toys (and delivery on purchases over $30 within 10 miles of the museum).
SeaQuest Fort Worth: SeaQuest has started a virtual field trip video series. New episodes to SeqQuest’s YouTube channel at 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and subsequently shared to other social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Each episode includes free printable worksheets that kids can turn in within one month of SeaQuest reopening for free feeding tokens.
The Escape Game Dallas: While their locations are closed, TEG offers ways to “escape” while stuck at home. They offer a free Friday Puzzle Club delivered straight to escapees inboxes, free Monthly Mystery that’s “part online scavenger hunt, part mystery game” and a $10 TEG Unlocked digital mystery game.
Classes, competitions and cartoons
Cry Havoc Theater Company: In partnership with The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Off the Page in New York, and Metro Theater Company in Saint Louis, Cry Havoc is looking for young people to come together to create a collective script as part of its Art Apart, Together virtual project. For submission guidelines, visit cryhavoctheater.org/art-apart.
Cry Havoc has also launched The Ghostlight Project, a virtual weekly open mic open to both the young and young-at-heart. Prompts will be released on Mondays. Two minutes of material — poem, song, monologue, story, etc. — need to be submitted by 4 p.m. Participants will share their work with the audience on Thursdays at 7 p.m. via livestream. For submission guidelines, or to register for free tickets to be part of the audience, visit cryhavoctheater.org/project-ghostlight.
KERA: KERA has launched free TV programs, aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, to support North Texas students at all grade levels learning away from the traditional classroom. Teachers, parents and students are invited to “turn every home into a classroom” with an educational TV schedule as well as a suite of free digital learning resources. The At-Home Learning programming will air weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on KERA-TV. It will also livestream on kera.org/learn, with specific blocks of time for each grade level covering various subjects.
North Texas Performing Arts: NTPA is offering more than 30 new online classes through their “virtual performing arts giga-centre.” Classes range from costume design and comedy writing to Disney heroine appreciation, Shakespeare bootcamp and more. The one-hour courses start at $9.99 per session. Scholarships are available for families in need as well. See the full class schedule and register at NTPA.org/virtual.
NTPA is also hoping to get people to showcase their talent in its new, virtual “North Texas’s Got Talent” competition. The competition offers performers of all ages a chance to virtually “take the stage” to compete for cash and other prizes. There will be four regional rounds of competition hosted by Plano, Fairview, Frisco and Dallas, as well as a North Texas round. Round one’s submission deadline for talent videos is April 5, with round two due April 24. For full details please visit NTPA.org/talent.
Cyberchase: Season 12 of “Cyberchase” will have four new episodes premiering on PBS Kids April 17-19. Kids tag along with the CyberSquad to learn about environmental science topics like water conservation, underground ecosystems and protecting forests, but with a math twist. Free resources — discussion questions, vocabulary, worksheets and hands-on activities — for each of the new episodes will be available on PBS Learning Media, in addition to ideas for activities kids and parents can do at home such as making rock candy, exploring numbers and operations with Mission Magnetite, completing a series of shape, number and color patterns to Crack Hacker’s Safe and more.
Cyberchase is also debuting a new, free six-week program called Cyberchase: Mobile Adventures in STEM designed to bring hands-on environmental and math activities to families’ smartphones. Join by texting “eco” to 30644, and get a new set of activities via text every week.
Kabillion: Kids explore the outdoors from their own living rooms just in time for Earth Day on Kabillion, a free online and streaming platform for kids and families that’s also available on demand from most cable and satellite providers. Sonic X will have kids emerald hunting on a deserted planet, they’ll investigate a mysterious energy signal with the Transformers and learn all about sea life with the Lego Friends. The month of Earth Day-themed episodes are geared at teaching kids what they can do to protect the planet. Additionally, the Freebies section on Kabillion’s website offers printable and downloadable word searches and coloring pages.
PBS Kids: The TV network is celebrating Earth Day from April 20-May 29 with new episodes that allow families to explore natural wonders and creatures of the world from the comfort of home. Wild Kratts will have kids embarking on creature-powered adventures in the Amazon while Nature Cat takes viewers on a tour of natural landmarks around the U.S. and Molly of Denali adventures across Alaska. Families may be stuck at home, but through this new programming they can discover new places, meet new people and learn about the world.
Shelves going virtual
Dallas Public Library: The virtual branch of the library website lists online resources for cardholders. Through Overdrive and netLibrary, cardholders can access digital content including audiobooks, music, e-books and some video. Subject guides (i.e. becoming a citizen, starting a small business, etc.) by the staff of the Urban Information Center are also available. Through Dallas After School Homework Help (DASH), children can get free, one-on-one tutoring in English, math and science, and parents can receive help with résumés and cover letters, test prep and more. Callers can hear a story on the library’s storyline at 214-446-2222. Magazines and journal articles (including The Dallas Morning News historical archive and The New York Times) are available through the library’s databases, and cardholders can view an online exhibit thanks to the library’s Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division.
Arlington Public Library: Library books can’t be physically checked out, but e-books, comics and e-audiobooks are available on OverDrive or Libby. Patrons also have access to more online resources at RBdigital and NewsBank Inc. Families can explore computer science with free coding activities from Girls Who Code, one of the library’s educational partners. The library is updating its website with blogs with more ideas for crafts and activities.
Denton Public Library: The library is hosting the Virtually Together Book Club for all ages through May 1. Follow the library’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for online programs and activities. The online library has tools for learning and access to CloudLibrary and Hoopla e-books, audiobooks, movies and more.
DeSoto Public Library: The library is providing curbside pickup services weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patrons can call 972-230-9665 or visit the library catalog to request items. After receiving a notification that their items are ready, cardholders can park by the outside book drop on the north entrance facing Ten Mile Creek, call the library again and library staff will bring the reserved items to the car. Items can be returned to the outside book drop.
Fort Worth Public Library: Through the digital library, cardholders can stream and download music from Amplify817.org, access digital content (audiobooks, music, ebooks, some video) via Overdrive, read e-books through Project Gutenberg, The Open Library and EBSCO eBooks and access online databases (to assist with “homework, legal help, language learning, medical information, auto repair, genealogy, business and investments, computer skills, magazines and more”).
Frisco Public Library: The library is closed, but e-books, e-audiobooks, digital magazines and online resources remain available. The library’s Facebook page has story hour and how-to videos, links to suggested books and blog posts.
Garland Public Library: Residents can get a 60-day temporary library card that allows access to Overdrive downloadable books and RBdigital magazines, newspapers and comics. Expired library cards are being renewed through May 9. The library also offers video tutorials on how to use many of its online resources. The library is hosting live storytimes on its Facebook page on Mondays at 10 a.m. for toddlers and 11 a.m. for preschoolers. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org; library staff will not be available to answer phone calls through April 30.
Legacy West: Kids can enjoy Legacy West Virtual Story Time with Bibliobar Saturdays at 11 a.m. on the Legacy West Facebook page. Kids are also invited to make a special book request in the videos’ comments section. If watchers would like to own the book themselves, no-contact book delivery is available when orders are placed through bibliobar.com.
Additionally, Legacy West has partnered with Creative Parties for Kids to bring The Story Lady to kids at home via Facebook livestream. The Story Lady aims to share stories and activities to keep children, especially those ages 2-7, learning and engaged. For a more personal touch, Creative Parties for Kids also offers 20-minute FaceTime calls with one of the characters.
McKinney Public Library: Both library locations are closed, and book drops are also closed. No fines will accrue during this time. A new e-card program is available to residents of Collin County. The card will be valid for one month pending further COVID-19-related reassessments. Patrons are encouraged to pick up a physical card when the library has reopened. Electronic cards give cardholders access to various online resources including cloudLibrary, RBdigital and Universal Class.
Plano Public Library: All library facilities are closed until April 27, and book drops are also closed. Access to digital resources will be provided even if your account has overdue items. Hold service is not available. Cardholders can access digital services including e-books, e-audiobooks, magazines, newspapers, streaming video and online resources from home. Patrons can call their library on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or email email@example.com with questions.
Richardson Public Library: The library is offering curbside pickup Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays 2 to 5:30 p.m. No services are available April 12. Cardholders can search for items in the library’s catalog, place them on hold and wait for notification that those items are ready for pick up (usually 24 hours). Patrons then can park at the library and call 972-744-4363. Library workers will check out those items and deliver them to cardholders at their cars.
RPL also has a digital library and educational resources for kids including animated picture books and free educational videos and interactive games and study help for tests through the Learning Express Library.
Zula B. Wylie Public Library in Cedar Hill: Virtual storytimes are being held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m. on the library’s Facebook page. On Thursdays at 5 p.m., the library is sharing virtual storytelling sessions with tips and techniques from storyteller and author Toni Simmons. Late fines will not be charged, and due dates on items have been extended. Call 972-291-7323 for information.
Updated, April 13 at 5:30 p.m.: More events and programs have been added to this story.