Kids at home during coronavirus? NASA, others here to help

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Stuck at home with the kids? Why not take them on a free trip to outer space?

The NASA-funded "Space Racers" series -- which includes videos, hands-on activities and even curriculums for parents-turned-teachers -- is now being made available for free in its entirety to help children and parents stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And "Space Racers" aren't the only ones coming to the rescue of kids who are isolated at home -- and the parents trying to keep them stimulated while they're stuck mostly inside.

Here's a list of ways to keep your kids occupied with more mindful content during the quarantine, thanks to a growing number of folks trying to help in this now global collective effort.

"SPACE RACERS"

While some parents will be tempted to let their little ones binge their favorite programming ad nauseum, the people behind the award-winning "Space Racers" series are offering up more than just their popular show for free.

Parents can help keep young minds sharp while they're home from school by logging on to SpaceRacers.com. There, you can choose from a variety of games to let children play, activities to do together away from the screen, and even educational curriculums chock-full of STEAM-focused content (science, tech, engineering, art and math).

"We've always made some of our materials online," Ben Austin, marketing and communications director for "Space Racers" said, "and of course our TV show is on Universal Kids, on YouTube, and around the world in 125 nations and in 25 different languages, but what we realized is there was a large number of parents -- like us -- searching for materials to have their kids engaging with real questions, doing real math, real reading, real writing and learning at home.

"And so we asked ourselves what could we make available to help parents everywhere through what is an enormously difficult time - and even non-parents," he added. "Everyone is forced to improvise and is stuck at home with challenges."

NASA itself has repositories of engaging lessons and videos at both its Teachable Moments hub, as well as the daily Facebook Live videos posted by educators on the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex page.

RANGER RICK TO THE RESCUE

Ranger Rick, the National Wildlife Federation's kids magazine (named for an adorably resourceful raccoon), is also here to help in your kids time of quarantine.

Until the end of June, Rick's website will be free to all visitors, including outdoor activity ideas, guides for kids and educators as well as the digital editions of the magazine.

Kid isn't the outdoorsy type? Not to worry, check out some of Rick's "boredom busters" for at-home craft project ideas, and make sure to keep an eye on their social media for daily updates.

KHAN ACADEMY

Also boasting specialized content from NASA, online-learning platform Khan Academy has announced a series of daily schedules kids can use while stuck at home.

Student's chairs are stacked on top of desks in an empty classroom at closed Robertson Elementary School, March 16, 2020, in Yakima, Wash. (Amanda Ray/Yakima Herald-Republic via AP)

Student's chairs are stacked on top of desks in an empty classroom at closed Robertson Elementary School, March 16, 2020, in Yakima, Wash. (Amanda Ray/Yakima Herald-Republic via AP)

The daily schedules are more than just an educational routine, and include advice that even some parents could use right now. The first activity of the day, from 8-9 a.m., is described as "Breakfast/Get ready" and includes a parenthetical directive explaining that, yes, this includes the need to "Change out of PJs."

The nonprofit notes "this is a trying time for everyone" in its announcement of its new at-home timetables, before reminding people of its belief that "you can learn anything."

SCHOLASTIC LEARN AT HOME

For kids who may be too old for "Space Racers," and even for some who are not, child-publishing giant Scholastic has now created a free online hub - Scholastic Learn At Home - with "daily learning journeys" ready for young ones ranging from pre-K to grades 9 and up.

"Our hope is that even though daily routines are being disrupted and students may not have valuable time in school with their educators, together we can support meaningful learning at home while it is necessary," Lauren Tarshis, senior vice president and editor-in-chief/publisher, said in a press release.

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The program will include some 20 days of articles, stories, videos and learning challenges that kids can complete "anytime, in any order." Parents looking for some added decompression can browse soothing videos like the "Rabbit Roundup" after-hours.

"...even though daily routines are being disrupted and students may not have valuable time in school with their educators, together we can support meaningful learning at home while it is necessary." 

— Lauren Tarshis, Scholastic Senior VP/Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

TURN YOUR KITCHEN INTO A SCIENCE LAB

Mystery Science is another established online learning tool now making some of its most popular content available for free (no sign-up necessary) during the pandemic.

The K-5 curriculum, and indeed all of the activities on the site, are designed "to use simple supplies a parent will likely already have at home."

Parents can preview the hands-on activities before making a mess, and there are digital-only lessons being offered, as well. And if you manage to plow through the no-sign-up-required offerings, there are plenty more waiting for you if you're willing to join.

"TOGETHER"

For a less-structured but still valuable resource for crafty kids of all ages, DIY.org is now offering a 90 percent discount off of its library with the code TOGETHER.

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The website, a movement "to help any kid anywhere learn any skill," boasts step-by-step courses ranging from photography to drawing, and even feature ways to incorporate some of your children's favorite games and toys like Minecraft and LEGO.

DIY's library was updated over the summer with more than 1,000 new projects and videos, and they even offer embroidered badges for purchase to award kids for completing challenges.