Resources from Our OST Community to Help Parents During the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 19, 2020

During the uncertain days of social distancing ahead, families may find it challenging to offer learning and social opportunities for their children. Here are some ideas from our own out-of-school-time (OST) toolbox along with some additional resources that may help alleviate some of the stress.

Happy mother and child

General Tips

All youth benefit from the structure of a routine. Create one that works for the family; allow time for physical breaks, quiet time, reading, life-skill learning such as folding laundry and making beds, and family fun. Set clear expectations, provide choices, and don’t forget adult self-care.  Allow for flexibility in schedule, expectations, and choices that are age-appropriate and select activities that engage youth to ask questions, reflect, and provide opportunities for new experiences, even if they are virtual. Once your school offers online learning, revisit your schedule to ensure a balance of online and offline activities.

If you want some ideas for explaining the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to children, see “How to talk to Kids About Coronavirus,” by Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, Director of Open Circle, a social-emotional learning and professional development program at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

Technology Support

Technology provides plenty of options for virtual connections through email, text messaging and apps such as FaceTime, Google Hangouts,  and Zoom. Many school districts are loaning devices to families in need. Need Internet? Here are two options:

  • Comcast Internet Essentials: “Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, Comcast is offering 2 months free to new Internet Essentials customers in response to recent and anticipated emergency measures associated with the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
  • Charter Spectrum Broadband: “Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.”

Educational Ideas 

Many organizations are providing free educational content and learning opportunities daily.

  • Scholastic has curated a free digital learning hub designed to support virtual learning plans: Scholastic Learn At Home allows open access to daily learning journeys divided into four grade spans: Pre-K–K, Grades 1–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–9+, covering ELA, STEM, Science, Social Studies, and Social-Emotional Learning.
  • Khan Academy remains a key site for online K-12 educational materials on a wide variety of subjects, along with tools for parents and teachers to help them better understand what their children or students are up to and how best to help them.
  • PBS Kids Daily sends tips and activities each day to help kids learn or download PBS Kids Video for on-demand educational video and PBS Kids Games to access over 200 educational games.
  • Math Games offers free games by grade level or math skill. Downloadable worksheets are also available.
  • For the budding scientists, Club SciKidz posts do-at-home science experiments daily. 
  • Mango Math is posting free math activities at 10 a.m. PT on their  social media channels.
  • Kids Activities has created a list of education companies offering free subscriptions during school closing as well as activities families can do at home. Check local museums and learning organizations websites for additional offerings.
  • You can virtually tour museums around the world via Google Arts & Culture.
  • Museums around the world are offering beautiful, educational, and free coloring pages at Color Our Collections.
  • The New England Aquarium is offering virtual tours on their website and daily presentations at 11 a.m. ET.
  • Listen to Story Time from Space, a project of the Global Space Education Foundation, in which actual astronauts videotape themselves in space reading a variety of children's books. They also offer several videos on space-related science topics.
  • NIOST's new, free, and downloadable "Coaching for Quality in Out-of-School Time: A How To Guide,” while intended for OST professionals, may also be useful for at-home parents supporting their children's learning. Learn how to tailor your approaches and strategies in order to have the biggest impact.

Staying Active

Be safe, stay healthy, and make the best of your time together.

References are provided for information purposes only. Mention here does not constitute or imply an endorsement by NIOST or Wellesley College.


    "NIOST has been an anchor for numerous school age care projects we do, including ASQ (After-School Quality) and Links to Learning. They are a nationally respected organization that Pennsylvania has partnered with for over 20 years."

    – Betsy O. Saatman, TA Specialist/SAC Initiatives, Pennsylvania Key

    "NIOST was a core partner in supporting the development of quality improvement systems across the nine cities that participated in The Wallace Foundation Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative. The NIOST team worked well with other technical assistance partners in the initiative, always willing to pitch in and collaborate with others to make our professional learning community meetings a team effort. I truly hope the Foundation has an opportunity to partner with them in the future."

    – Priscilla M. Little, Initiative Manager, The Wallace Foundation


    "NIOST has been a leader in the out-of-school time field for as long as I can remember, and I have relied on their research, tools, and advice to improve my practice throughout my career. Their staff members are good partners and good listeners, and their influence across the country is palpable."

    – Jane Quinn, Vice President and Director of National Center for Community Schools, Children's Aid Society

    "Georgia Hall, Ellen Gannett, and the NIOST team have been instrumental in driving the healthy afterschool movement. Their dedication to quality practice, informed policy, and collective impact is instrumental in our effort to create healthier communities."

    – Daniel W. Hatcher, Director, Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

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The National Institute on Out-of-School Time

A program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College

Wellesley Centers for Women
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Wellesley, MA 02481-8203 USA
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