Virtual Travel Experiences To Help Your Kids Learn About The World
With the ongoing travel restrictions posed by COVID-19, there are a wide range of virtual travel experiences that can provide valuable learning experiences for your child. Read on for our top picks.
By Vani Venugopal • 10 min read
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Travelling and living new experiences is critical to learning and character development. They allow children to widen their minds, gain new knowledge and perspectives, and nurtures a sense of curiosity in them.
With the travel restriction posed by COVID-19, family trips and visit to museums or galleries have become difficult. However, while you may not be able to go out into the world, there is no reason you shouldn’t bring the world inside, into your home. Yes, with the latest developments in virtual reality and filming technology, we now live in a world where we can access any corner of the globe with just the click of a button. While nothing will compare to joy of actual travel, virtual travel offers an array of benefits.
Since the onset of COVID-19 many of the most iconic museums and galleries in the world, including the Louvre, the Smithsonian and the British museum have opened up via virtual tours. The same goes for historic landmarks and monuments, nature destinations, zoos and national parks and even outer space. With livestream cameras, VR and Google street view technology, it is now possible to visit any landmark, anywhere in the world. These are valuable resources for children as there is a world of learning available for them.
The list of virtual experiences available online is long. So much so that it can often be difficult to decide where to start. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We, at Parent Circle, have curated the best and most child-friendly virtual travel experiences for your child. Most of these experiences can be enhanced by using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets but they are equally enjoyable on your computer or phone screen. Read on to find out more.
Google Arts and Culture
Google Arts and Culture is a great place to kick start your virtual travel and learning experience. On this platform, people anywhere in the world can access the treasures, stories and knowledge of over 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries. You can visit top exhibits from museums, stroll through art galleries, zoom in on artworks and browse thousands of stories, photos, videos, and manuscripts. It also allows you to travel around the globe with tours of iconic sites, famous buildings and natural wonders, on your screen or in VR.
In great news for museum lovers, museums around the world have now opened up their collections online, with many offering dedicated virtual tours. Here are our top picks for museums and gallery experiences that your child will enjoy.
Note: Click on the name of each museum for your very own virtual tour
- British Museum, London, UK: This interactive site lets children browse the museum collection by time period and geographical region. Apart from the wealth of knowledge available, the interactive features of the site are sure to get your child hooked.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA: The Met has a dedicated #MetKids site that allows kids to stroll through the halls of the museum and discover its treasures. Fun, interactive, informative and child friendly, your kids are sure to love #MetKids.
- Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum), Paris, France: While a bit more sombre than #MetKids, the Louvre website also has a lot to offer children. It has virtual tours across it iconic collections. The interactive features makes you feel like you are walking down the grand halls of the museum, transporting you in space and time.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA: The National Gallery has around 50 video tours specifically designed for children. It also has a wealth of resources around art for children. These include learning resources about famous paintings and artists, downloadable colouring pages and even an app that has interactive activities based on the Gallery’s collection.
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, USA: A favourite among kids, the website of the Smithsonian allows you to take a virtual tour of every exhibition in the museum. Moreover, it allows kids the opportunity to see the museum’s magnificent exhibits up and close.
Visiting historic landmarks are an indispensable part of every holiday. While you might not be able to make the actual trip, you can now virtually visit historic monuments from around the world.
- Buckingham Palace, London, UK: This virtual tour allows you to go inside the Buckingham Palace and stroll through the rooms and halls. Interactive and immersive, the website also gives information about the palace and its history. You also have the option of learning about many of the historic objects that you see in the palace.
- The White House, Washington: In this virtual experience, former US president, Barack Obama, narrates a tour of the White House. Viewers have the option of scroll around and click on points of interest to learn more.
Zoos and Sanctuaries
Many of the zoos and natural parks around the world now allow virtual access. This means that you can watch live streams of adorable pandas napping or kingly lions roaming from the comfort of your living room. Here are our top picks for zoos and national parks.
- Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington DC, USA: The National Zoo webcams let you watch live footage of the animals in the zoo, including the famous DC panda and cheetah cub. They also offer an activities guide and resources for at home educational activities.
- London Zoo, UK: Keep up to date with the animals from the world’s oldest scientific zoo, the London Zoo, via web cams and live streams. They also offer virtual zoo resources and videos and home school resources for kids of all ages.
- San Diego Zoo, California, USA: Located in San Diego’s Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo has a great online portal for kids on their website with live footage of their animals. With animal facts, activities, games, videos and other educational resources, this makes for a great experience for children.
- Zoos Victoria Australia: Zoos Victoria is a wildlife conservation organisation that consists of three zoos and wildlife sanctuaries: the Melbourne Zoo, the Healesville Sanctuary and the Werribee Open Range Zoo. It provides virtual animal encounters, talks with zoo keepers and much more for kids. Their live cameras give access to kangaroos, giraffes, wallabies and everyone’s favourite, koala bears!
- The Northern Lights:The Lights over Lapland project takes viewers on a virtual journey to witness the aurora borealis, the spectacular natural phenomenon of coloured lights shimmering across the night sky. Starting at the Icehotel in Abisko national park in Sweden, the virtual trip takes travellers into the forest on a reindeer sleigh, past the beautiful Lake Torneträsk and leading up to a wooden hut at the base of Mount Noulja. A series of time-lapse 360 videos will then have you step outside to witness the ethereal display of lights overhead.
- Hang Sơn Đoòng, Vietnam: Located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park, Vietnam, Hang Sơn Đoòng is the world’s largest cave. With an aim to preserve the cave and allow digital access, National Geographic has created the Sơn Đoòng 360 project, which takes virtual travellers on a trek through the cave using 360-degree videos and sound effects.
- Mount Everest, Nepal: Have you been fascinated by the idea of trekking up the largest peak in the world, the Mount Everest? Now, it is possible to explore the south base camp of the Everest in Nepal with interactive 360-degree views. It takes viewers up the trek and offers breath-taking views of the snowy peaks and mountain tops. You can also view the peak using Google Earth’s interactive map and 3D rotating viewer, which allows you to view the world from an altitude of 8,848 metres.
- Yosemite National Park, USA: Located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the Yosemite national park is known for its spectacular natural life. The El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in the Yosemite is considered the most iconic rock climb on earth. US climber Lynn Hill was the first person to free climb the El Capitan using the Nose route. Google now lets you take a 3,000 foot interactive journey up El Capitan with Hill and her team. The interactive features allows you to learn more about the rock, the techniques and equipment as you make the climb.
- National Geographic 360: National Geographic has created wide range of 360 degree videos of nature spots from around the world. From marvelling at glow worm caves in New Zealand to close encounters with lions, elephants and orangutans in the wild, to diving undersea to swim with humpback whales, these videos offer a host of spectacular experiences. The interactive video allows you to scroll through the scene to get an immersive experience.
Travel is no longer restricted to planet earth. With accessibility to footage from space exploration missions and space stations, we can now virtually explore outer space as well.
- Mars:Access Mars is a project that lets you explore a 3D replica of the surface of the Mars, exactly as recorded by the Curiosity rover from NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission.
- Moon: While we might be familiar with Google Earth, did you know that there is a Google Moon as well? This allows you to explore the surface of the Moon and take various tours including the Apollo Missions.
- Space Stations: The NASA website is very informative, especially for children. It has a ton of kid-friendly experiences and resources including a virtual tour of the International Space Station Columbus and livestreams of the earth from space.
So, there you have it - around the world and outer space and back to your living room with just a click. Incredible, isn’t it? While these screen experiences cannot match real travel, they still provide valuable learning opportunities for your child. To make the most of it, encourage your child to engage with the content after they have turned off their devices. Ask them to write about their experience or make a painting inspired by it. You can also get them to ask questions and read up more on the subject. This way, they will gain more from the experience.
About the author:
Written by Vani Venugopal on 01 October 2020.
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