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A kid in a dinosaur outfit
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum

Distract the kids with free online activities from museums and galleries

These totally free activities are fun and educational and easily accessed online

Written by
Stephen A Russell
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With lockdown extended beyond school holidays, those with little ones in their care may be running out of ideas that are both educational AND fun.

But panic not, Sydney's coolest galleries and museums have heaps of great suggestions that are easily whipped up and totally free, ensuring you keep the kids and yourself reasonably sane. If you're really lucky, they might even buy you some quiet time, too.

Need more ideas? You can stream these cool kids shows online.

Free fun and educational ideas

Australian Museum
Photograph: Supplied/Anna Kucera

Australian Museum

Artist Celia Curtis has an awesome job painting dinosaurs for large-scale puppet company Erth, and now you can learn all of her coolest tricks. She teaches kids how to draw the armoured beast that was the mighty stegosaurus here. And if that’s not Jurassic Park-sized fun enough, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney expert Joel Cohen leads a cute class about creating a teeny weeny dinosaur habitat in a terrarium here. Elsewhere you can get them thinking about the environment with walk-throughs on how to build a wind turbine, an insect hotel and a welcome spot for frogs in your backyard. If you don’t have a backyard, no drama. Just fold yourself a fabulous origami jumping frog instead. Or just let off some steam with this pop top volcano. Whatever you decide, you’ll find all these entertaining ideas and way, way more for free on the Australian Museum site.

Casula Powerhouse
Photograph: Supplied

Casula Powerhouse

The Powerhouse team have pulled together a gorgeous activity book for kids called the Creation Station. It has heaps of colourful ideas you can work on together and even better, share online. That way you can look at art created by kids from all over the world and get inspiration from them to add your own masterpieces. It’s packed full of videos to watch together too, as well as colouring-in sheets and more. Sadly lockdown sideswiped the museum's Way out West Festival of contemporary art for kids. But the good news is, it’s switched online, with loads of fun stuff to do here. We particularly love this guide to making your own playdough and creating a cute fish from used toilet rolls (if they're not all gone from the supermarket).

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MCA
Photograph: Supplied/MCA

MCA

The MCA has your back with loads of thought-provoking stuff to gets tuck into with the kids. First Nations artist Richard Bell is renowned for his powerful political art, and he currently has a show at the gallery waiting for us to unlock again in You Can Go Now. But he totally gets that changing this Country for the better involves getting kids’ minds thinking about the big picture. That’s why we love this video where he fronts up to the MCA Kids Committee. There are loads of age-appropriate creative learning materials here too. You can learn fun techniques from MCA the museum’s kids and families coordinator Pip, and artist educator Brook here, including how to create animal faces. Artist Jumaadi teaches you all about paper storytelling, Keg de Souza about string and body mapping, and Felicia Kan about viewfinders.

Art Gallery of NSW
Photograph: Supplied/AGNSW

Art Gallery of NSW

While we wait for the Art Gallery of NSW to open its doors to school kids once more, you can geek out over the fab stuff for young folks online, Together in Art. Artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran teaches you how to sculpt your own fantastical human-animal hybrid. You’ll be able to try out cool classes like how to make a photo mosaic with artist Khaled Sabsabi, crafting cardboard sculptures with Salote Tawale, casting shadow projections with Marian Abboud, and how to draw a face with Ben and Livvy Quilty. You can see loads of art created by kids here too to spark some bright ideas. And there are activity sheets galore here, including how to make your own dancing dragon puppet with the printed out sheet itself.

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4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art
Photograph: Supplied/4A

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

There’s an incredible array of cool stuff to do on the dedicated kids’ bit of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s website. The museum has commissioned a heap of artists to create ideas to share with young people from five years old right up to 17. Yvonne Yong and Chin-Jie Melodie Liu from Sweet and Sour Group, a collective offering a voice for Asian-Australians, provide a how-to for making your own zine. Illustrator Freda Chiu, inspired by her love of children’s picture books and comics, leads a class on creating characters. Multimedia installation artist Shireen Taweel shares some great colouring-in options. You can make your own find-a-word puzzles with artist Alana Hunt and make your fingernails dance with photography and sculpture whiz Nathan Beard.

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