Being stuck at home can be frustrating, but it’s even more so if you have young kids running around looking for something to do. Luckily, in this digital era many museums have put their collections online or created virtual tours that can help alleviate that boredom.
Google Arts & Culture (which also has an app) has digitized the collections of numerous big museums, from the Van Gogh Museum to New York’s MOMA. Not all of them will be totally appealing to kids, but some museums are ready with online entertainment for all ages. Whether you need a trip to the aquarium or want to check out some mummies, here are some virtual museum tours your kids will enjoy. (Plus, all of these visits can lead to further reading or Googling, which means even less boredom.)
Best for: Kids obsessed with ancient Egypt or medieval architecture
The Louvre may be closed, but you can still access its many treasures online. The French museum’s virtual tour takes you to some of its galleries, including into the basement ruins of the building’s original moat, which dates back to 1190. Don’t miss the Egyptian antiquities, where you can learn more about the pharaonic period. While the entire museum isn’t available as a tour, much of the collection is available as images on their website, so you and the kids can search for the most memorable works, including the Mona Lisa.
TOUR THE LOUVRE
Best for: Kids ready to explore a more interactive experience
Ever wanted to see the Rosetta Stone or a real-life mummy? Look no further than the British Museum, which you’d usually have to seek out during a vacation in London. The tour is interactive, with artifacts searchable by era, region or type, and you can discover all sorts of interesting objects, including a bank check from Barclays and a papyrus poem from ancient Egypt.
TOUR THE BRITISH MUSEUM
Best for: Future time travelers
New York’s Met Museum has an entire section of its website dedicated to young ones called MetKids. The online-only experience features a time machine, where you can search by time period, idea or location to uncover objects and artwork from the museum’s rooms. The “Big Ideas” search tool allows kids to look into topics like inventions, fashion and battles, and see all the relevant artifacts””a cool way to learn without it really seeming like you’re learning. There are also videos, as well as an interactive map of the museum that allows you to check out various exhibitions around the building.
TOUR THE MET
Anyone who’s been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam knows how amazing it is to view all of the artist’s works in one place. Since you can’t actually jet off to Amsterdam, take your kids on a virtual journey through the collection via Google Arts & Culture. Don’t miss Almond Blossom, one of Van Gogh’s most delightful oil paintings, which is calm and transportive. It’s also a good way to discuss the history and culture of other countries, as Van Gogh painted in Japan and has a few relevant pieces in the collection.
TOUR THE VAN GOGH MUSEUM
Best for: Mimicking the real thing
A children’s museum would be the best place to take the kids when they’re off from school, but a virtual experience will have to do for now. The Boston Children’s Museum welcomes online visitors into its exhibits (no lines!) and you can supplement the images with your own at-home activities and games.
TOUR THE BOSTON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Best for: An all-encompassing educational experience
Take yourself on a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, whether it’s through the temporary exhibitions or the permanent collection. Along the way, check out dinosaur skeletons, animals from around the globe and even past exhibits that are no longer on display in reality. It’s a great way to keep your kids learning about the world around them even when they can’t be in school, and there are plenty of follow-up activities or readings you can do after the tour. While you’re there, stop by the Smithsonian Castle and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, both of which have adjoining virtual tours.
TOUR THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Best for: Taking advantage of online-only exhibits
Another Smithsonian museum, the National Gallery of Art has thousands of items and paintings online via Google. You can explore the current exhibition Fashioning a Nation to learn about American fashions from 1740 to 1895, or search through the various periods, from baroque to modern art. The National Gallery is home to some very important works, so look for Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance, Cassatt’s Little Girl in a Blue Armchair and Gauguin’s Words of the Devil. It’ll make you want to visit the real thing, so look into a trip to D.C. when this is all over.
TOUR THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
Best for: Kids or teens studying European history
Florence’s Uffizi Gallery can be explored on Google Arts & Culture, and there’s a lot of art to see. Most of the works are from the Renaissance (be prepared to explain all the naked ladies) and there’s an emphasis on paintings by Italian artists. It’s not just about the paintings””the collection tells you a lot about Italian history and the country’s past rulers, which can be really helpful if you have a teenager studying European history this year.
TOUR THE UFFIZI
Best for: Getting some “fresh air”
Take things outside to Easter Island, where Google has created a virtual tour of the island’s famed statues. There’s also a short video of the island and its massive ancient creations, which could make for a good opportunity to discuss world geography with your kids.
TOUR EASTER ISLAND
Best for: Aquatic exploration with a side of meditation
Who doesn’t want to look at peaceful videos of undersea life when they need a break from reality? The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live web cams will delight both you and your young ones, especially the adorable penguin cam. To find something soothing, watch the hypnotizing moon jelly cam or the kelp forest cam, which showcases leopard sharks moving among the kelp. When the live cams aren’t running (they operate during specific hours), there are pre-recorded videos to fill in.
WATCH THE LIVE CAM
Best for: Kids who devoured James and the Giant Peach
Start your day off with a virtual tour of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, which is located outside London, before having a marathon day of reading The Witches or The BFG to your kids. You can search through the exhibits and even learn more about the picturesque countryside outside the museum in Buckinghamshire. While it can be easy to feel like you’re missing out by only seeing something online, this museum is a great opportunity to delve into the fantastical world of an author who can really help with escapism right now.
TOUR THE ROALD DAHL MUSEUM
Best for: Future space cadets
Take a virtual tour of the NASA Glenn Research Center or the Space Telescope Operations Control Center, which houses the Hubble Telescope. At NASA Glenn, delve into the ballistics impact lab or the supersonic wind tunnel, which could, of course, lead to a discussion about physics that you might not be that equipped to have. Don’t worry, NASA has a lot of stuff online, making it a great resource during this time at home.
TOUR GLENN RESEARCH CENTER
TOUR THE HUBBLE TELESCOPE