If you're looking for a relaxing and enjoyable pastime, try virtually watching animals frolic in their natural habitats. There are now live animal webcams in places all around the world, as well as several types of virtual experiences that allow you to interact with all kinds of creatures at zoos and aquariums. In addition, animal lovers can view a plethora of free, appealing animal videos anytime on YouTube. Viewing animals online is safe as well as entertaining, and also provides a window into different species and habitats that we would not be able to see otherwise.
Here, we have rounded up a selection of interesting animal cams, online videos, and live virtual animal experiences to allow you to find some joy watching adorable animals at play. Not all of the cams operate around the clock, so be sure to check the details. Also, while many of the experiences listed here are free, some of the virtual ones cost a fee and require registration.
Monterey Bay Aquarium live cams
This renowned aquarium in California has a number of web cams where visitors can experience the wonders of the ocean from the comfort of home. Each video stream is accompanied by soothing music, which can help you relax as you watch sea creatures glide and float through the water. Highlights include a sea otter cam and the coral reef cam. There is also a jellyfish cam, which is especially peaceful and soothing. Each of the live cameras operates on a different schedule.
Wolong Grove Panda Yard
The Wolong National Nature Reserve in central China protects giant pandas and encourages these endangered animals to breed. The live cam provides views into 11 different yards in the park, and you can watch adult and baby pandas as they play, eat bamboo, climb trees, and more. This cam is part of the explore.org network, which provides wilderness livestreams in locales all over the world.
The Hippo cam at San Diego Zoo
This large zoo in San Diego stepped up its online and virtual offerings during the pandemic. One of its newest additions is a hippo cam where viewers can watch these gentle giant bobs in the water and munch on grass. The zoo has a number of other animal cams, including an ape cam, where you can watch orangutans and siamangs, as well as a tiger cam and a giraffe cam.
Tembe Elephant Park
Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa is a remote park that is home to some of the largest elephants on the planet. A wide range of other animals, including lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalos, and an array of birds also live there. Many of these other animals can be seen from time to time on the live cam. This cam is also part of the explore.org network.
Audubon Bird Cams
Bird lovers will enjoy exploring the National Audubon Society's many live bird cams. These livestreams follow Atlantic puffins in Maine, osprey nests in Connecticut, and sandhill cranes in Nebraska, among others. Some of these cams are more active during certain seasons and migration periods.
Virtual Animal Experiences at the Houston Zoo
The Houston Zoo now offers visitors the chance to watch different animals through live virtual experiences. These 20-minute encounters cost between $50 and $100, and only a small number of people are able to join at one time, giving them an intimate feel. Participants watch animals as they get fed and go through training exercises, and listen to a zookeeper explain how to care for the animals. Among the animals available for these types of virtual experiences are flamingos, alligators, gorillas, lions, tigers and cheetahs.
Penguins at the Shedd Aquarium
Penguin lovers can register for a 45-minute small group virtual experience with these unusual birds. For a fee of about $50, you will get to virtually see the aquarium’s penguins up close, learn about their anatomy and grooming, and go behind the scenes of their home at the aquarium, which is located in Chicago, IL. You can also ask the zoo staff any questions you have about penguins.
Virtual Wild Encounters at the Bronx Zoo
The Bronx Zoo has started offering virtual encounters with its animals for a fee. These 15-minute sessions take place on Zoom for, and participants can view different zoo animals up close, and learn about how to take care of them. The virtual encounters are available with many interesting and unusual creatures, including porcupines, a warthog, a camel, and an armadillo.
Baby Animal Videos at the Smithsonian's National Zoo
The Smithsonian's National Zoo has an array of free animal videos available for on-demand viewing on its YouTube channel. Highlights here include a playlist of baby animal videos, where you can tune in to watch short, adorable videos of the zoo’s panda cubs, baby gorillas, cheetah cubs, a newborn gazelle, and even naked mole-rat pups. One of our favorite baby animal videos shows a kiwi chick emerging from its shell.
Source: Melanie Kletter curated this list for Library Journal. It appeared Nov 13, 2020
For young readers, picture books are an important part of learning how to read. Usually this type of format marks the first step in introducing a child to reading and is often the start of language development for many children. Libraries that include picture books to promote literacy to young readers are boosting beginner-level vocabulary skills, introducing sentence structure and developing story analysis. Read the benefits of picture books for young readers below.
Building Language Skills – When reading through picture books during story time, at home or in the classroom, children can practice sounding out the language while adults introduce and explain new and interesting words. The rhythm and rhyme of picture books makes them easy to understand and fun to read aloud, allowing children to learn words quickly. In addition, reading the same story repeatedly increases vocabulary by 12%.
Inspiring Visual Thinking - Illustrations in a picture book help children understand what they are reading, allowing new readers to analyze the story. If children are having difficulty with the words, the illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which can increase their comprehension.
Increasing Engagement – Picture books allow teachers and parents to spend time discussing the story, pictures and words. This gives young readers confidence and allows them to talk about what they see on the page, what happened in the story, what the characters are doing and which events have unfolded. Another good activity to try in the library or classroom is working in a small groups by placing children into groups of three with a picture book. Have one child concentrate on reading the text aloud; have another concentrate on the illustrations (pointing out details as the book is read); and have the third highlight what they see in the story that might differ from the others.
Delivering Fun – Picture books should always make the reading experience fun. If a child’s first experience with reading is a negative one, and looked at as a chore, it may make reading appear to be work rather than fun, which might hinder a child’s progress from picture books to chapter books.
Like any experience for children, it’s important that they like what they’re doing in order to succeed. Teachers and parents should encourage children to read whatever they’re interested in, including graphic novels, comics, magazines and poems. Check out these picture e-books picked out from the CLAMS OverDrive e-book collection.
It's no surprise that kids are always begging to play a game on their parents' tablets or cell phones — adults are always on them! That's why tablets for kids exist: so you don't have to worry about handing them your precious iPad, only to find that it breaks the second they drop it. These kid-friendly tablets are often similar to regular versions, except they're often more durable and come with educational apps for kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding digital media for kids under 18 to 24 months. If you let kiddos watch videos or play games, be sure to do it with them so that they can learn from you. As for kids ages 2 to 5, the AAP recommends limiting their screen time to one hour per day.
The best option for toddlers ages 1 to 3 is Fisher-Price's Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet, because it has three different levels so it can grow with your child. It's not a real tech "tablet" since you can't download more apps, but it does the trick for the little ones. Our top pick, the Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet, is best for kids ages 3+.
Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet
With a Fire Kids Edition Tablet, your child can play games and watch videos without the need to worry about it breaking the 10-inch display since it comes with a durable case in either pink, yellow, or blue. If you're looking for something similar but with a smaller screen, you can opt for the Fire HD 8.
One of the best part about these tablets is access to all of the content on FreeTime Unlimited. With it, parents can also set goals and limits — you can even choose to allow specific content down to the episode. It normally costs $3 per month, but you get a year for free with this tablet.
Storage: 32 GB
Battery life: up to 12 hours
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet
PSA: You can get the seven-inch version of the Fire tablet for half the price of our top pick. It has a slightly smaller screen size, lower battery life, and lessened storage capabilities, but this version of the kids tablet still has many of the same features we love about the Fire HD 10 tablet. Plus, you'll still get the free year-long subscription to FreeTime Unlimited. With these Amazon tablets, your kids can also access audiobooks and over a thousand pieces of content in Spanish.
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
LeapPad Academy - LeapFrog
This LeapFrog tablet is a great option if you want to make sure your kids are ready for their next year of school. The educational device comes pre-installed with over 20 apps for kids, with subjects ranging from reading and writing to math and coding -- you can also download more games and apps since this tablet has an Android operating system.
You also get a three-month free trial of the brand's learning program called LeapPad Academy, which features tons of other content. It's built to be super kid-friendly, so you don't have to worry about the screen shattering (especially since it has a bumper and kickstand).
Storage: 16 GB
Battery life: up to 7 hours
Galaxy Tab E Lite 7
This 7-inch Samsung tablet is another great option for little ones since it's lightweight and comes with a protective case. It comes pre-installed with kid-friendly content (over 20 apps with STEM lessons and Sesame Street content). There's also the option for parental controls, so mom or dad can monitor learning progress and set limitations on what their kids can access. Bonus: it automatically blocks ads and in-app purchases.
Storage: 8 GB
Battery life: up to 9 hours
iPad (Wi-Fi, 32GB)
There are two situations where an iPad might be the best tablet for your kids: 1) you want a device that can be used by the entire family, or 2) you already have an iPad in your household and want to give it to your child as a hand-me-down.
This iPad equipped with Touch ID and you can enable parental controls by using a passcode for certain apps. Just note that iPads don't come with a protective case, so you'll want to purchase one to make it more kid-friendly.
Storage: 32 GB or 128 GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet - Fischer Price
This "tablet" is more of a toy, so choose it as your child's first tablet and it can stay with them until they're 3. It's equipped with the brand's Smart Stages technology, meaning parents can switch between three different levels of play as your child grows. Each app is actually a button that plays phrases, songs, and other sounds to introduce a variety of concepts, like the alphabet, animals, and colors.
Battery life: uses three AAA batteries
Pixel Slate Tablet - Google
For older kids in high school or college, the Google Pixel Slate is like a mini computer so it's great for homework. It has a 12.3-inch screen and weighs less than two pounds, so it won't feel too heavy in their backpack. Plus, it comes built-in with Google Assistant, so they can ask questions and get answers. For even more computer-like capabilities, you can add on a keyboard and stylus.
Storage: 8GB or 16GB
Battery life: up to 10 hours
8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet - Boogie Board
Although this isn't your typical tablet, the eWriter is a great tool to help your kids practice writing letters, numbers, and shapes. You can't store anything on it, and LCD screen erases with the press of a button so kids can start over with a blank canvas whenever they want. It also comes with a stylus, but if you lose it you can still use a similar object — or even your finger!
Battery life: up to 50,000 erase cycles with the included watch battery