To help the millions of people having to stay home, one of the uplifting aspects of the current crisis is a number of companies have made stuff free that you normally pay for, both for kids and grown-ups. From theatre to audiobooks to maths lessons for kids, there are countless ways to have fun during lockdown.
As millions of us try to find things to keep ourselves and our kids occupied during the lockdown, the good news is that many companies have decided to put some of their previously paid-for online content and services out there for free. So if you are trying to stave off cabin fever, maybe give one or two of these a try…
Lockdown: the best free online experiences to stave off boredom for you & your kids
Lots of big names including Robin Ince, Al Murray and Josie Long are playing the Stay at Home festival from The Cosmic Shambles Network. All the shows, for now, will be live only and free to watch, though donations are being encouraged.
Check out cosmicshambles.com/stayathome.
You can now also stream a National Theatre Live production on YouTube for free every Thursday and on catch-up. For example, One Man, Two Guvnors – starring James Corden – streams from 7pm on Thursday 2 April, and is available until 9 April.
Free exercise classes
Fitness guru Joe Wicks has become the “PE teacher for the nation” following the runaway success of his daily YouTube workout, livestreamed by more than 6 million people in its first couple of days alone. Although they have been designed as an alternative to school PE lessons, Wicks says they are suitable for all ages, and even adults can get involved. Tune in at 9am each morning for a 30-minute workout.
The NHS also has 24 free instructor-led videos covering aerobics exercise, strength and resistance, and pilates and yoga. They range from 10 to 45 minutes long, and are available at nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/
Meanwhile, Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor in the Marvel movies) has made his health and fitness programme Centr available for free for six weeks. Normally the app costs up to £22.99 a month. (You will need to enter your credit card details but you will not be charged during the six-week period and you can cancel at any time by switching auto-renew off.)
Free digital books and magazines
Audible, part of Amazon.com, has released a collection of hundreds of free audiobooks for children kept home from school. Go to stories.audible.com/start-listen
Libraries have of course been shut across the nation – but already have in place easy ways to download e-books, e-audio books and e-magazines. Download the free app provided by the library and have your library card membership number ready when logging in. But after that, there’s a vast array of choices – and when things return to normal, you can carry on using the app to find titles, reserve and renew, all straight from your mobile.
Free maths lessons for kids
The former Countdown star Carol Vorderman has made her learning programme the Maths Factor – an online maths tutoring site for four- to 11-year-olds – free for everyone (usually it costs about £2 a week) for the duration of the UK schools closure.
Free language lessons
Rosetta Stone is giving free access for schoolchildren to use its language courses for the next three months, saving parents the usual £50 fee. Go to rosettastone.co.uk/lp/freeforkids/. “Children can continue to expand their horizon by learning a new language, and parents can ensure that the kids are using their time wisely,” says Rosetta Stone.
Free kids' audiobooks, incl Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh
With the majority of schoolchildren across the UK now learning from home, Audible has released a collection of audiobooks for free, which it says will be available 'for as long as schools are closed'.
Books include Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh and Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter.
If you (or your kids) prefer to read rather than listen, see these 11 cheap Kindle book hacks, including how to get any book from the Harry Potter series for free.
Free meditation via the Headspace and Calm apps
These popular meditation apps normally cost £50-£60/year for a subscription, but they've both released free content specifically to help those struggling with anxiety and stress at this time.
Calm is offering 'soothing meditations', a 'calm masterclass', 'calm kids' and mindfulness resources. They're available via its website – see Calm's free content.
Headspace has a collection called Weathering the Storm, which includes meditations, sleep and movement exercises. It's available on the app (for iPhone or Android), or you can access some of the content via the Headspace website.
Free online guitar lessons for three months from Fender (normally £10/month)
If you've more time on your hands (and access to a guitar), now could be a great time to learn a new skill. Instrument manufacturer Fender has made its online guitar courses free for three months – but you'll need to nab a code, and there were only 100,000 available when the offer launched on Friday 20 March, so go quick if you want one.
You can choose from acoustic, bass, electric or ukelele, plus a variety of different music styles (eg, blues, country, pop and rock).
Free homework club with former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq
Get your kids immersed in all sorts of subjects with former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq. She posted on Twitter that she's launched an educational YouTube channel and will be sharing videos at 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Aimed at kids aged between six and 12, look out for sessions on writing, STEM, reading and art. Find out more here
Free David Walliams audio book
TV star and children’s author David Walliams is releasing a series of 30 daily audio stories for children to listen to for free at 11am every day for 30 days.
He tweeted on Monday: “Those stuck at home with their kids may be able to relate to ‘The World’s Worst Children’. I’ll be releasing an audio story every day for the next 30 days for free. First up is The Terrible Triplets!”
Listen in with an elevenses snack here
Free Ivy League course
Ivy League colleges in the USA are offering free courses online. You can take anything from Buddhism and Modern Psychology, to The Global Financial Crisis, to one that's just called 'Success'.
And finally, Virtual Rollar Coasters from DisneyWorld
Remember theme parks? They were good weren't they! Well, we may not know when we will be able to ride a rollar coaster in real life again, but DisneyWorld have loads of their rides filmed in 360 degrees on YouTube. So if you have a VR headset in the house check it out and immerse yourself in a different world for the afternoon! Or pop your child in a washing basket in front of the TV and create the whole experience for them like below! :)
Confetti & Curves x