by Jessica Prince
Here are ideas for home-based activities if you’re social-distancing (not sick, not been exposed to anyone), isolated (sick with suspected or confirmed COVID-19), or quarantined (have been exposed to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19). Different localities have different rules regarding what the quarantined or isolated are allowed to do; most say not to go outside. Please strictly observe the guidelines! I’ve tried to include plenty of suggestions for both inside and outside your home!
Inside Your Home:
- Free internet for 60 days from Comcast and Charter Spectrum for low-income households (Comcast) or families with students (Charter), new customers only. Comcast’s Xfinity is making WiFi hotspots free for everyone. Other companies are relaxing policies on data usage. (If none of these are available in your area, try Googling your area and “free internet coronavirus.”) https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national/coronavirus/comcast-offers-2-months-of-free-internet-to-low-income-customers-who-qualify-amid-covid-19-pandemic, https://www.engadget.com/2020/03/13/comcast-data-caps-coronavirus/
- Some libraries enable you to borrow a wireless hotspot for 21 days. (Many libraries are now closed, and you’d have to go into a branch to pick it up and return it, but it might be an option again soon.)
- Call and check in on loved ones. Now is a great time to catch up.
- If you need help, reach out to your local community. Facebook Buy Nothing groups (https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/), Facebook neighborhood groups (search for your town or even neighborhood name – you might find several!), Next Door, and local places of worship can all be great resources. There are plenty of healthy people offering assistance in running errands, bringing meals, etc. for those who need it (so far, I’ve seen many more offers of help than people asking for help!).
- There are plenty of free ways to video chat and collaborate: Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, ooVoo, Facetime, LINE, Viber, etc. Find out what your friends and family are already using.
- Libraries have amazing digital resources: ebooks, audiobooks, language learning, movies, digital classes, test prep, tutoring, etc. Here’s a list of Fulton County (GA)’s digital resources: http://www.afpls.org/books-materials/digital-library/2178. Here are DeKalb Library’s digital resources: https://dekalblibrary.org/research/research-databases (you can get a temporary library card to access digital resources). When the library reopens, DeKalb Library offers a service to drop off books to the homebound: https://dekalblibrary.org/using-the-library/outreach/mailbox-books. New York Public Library has over 300,000 books available digitally: https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/you-can-now-download-over-300-000-books-from-the-nypl-for-free-031820
- Learn a language using various free resources (Mango through your library or apps such as Duolingo – using this link will give both you and me a free week of Duolingo Plus: https://invite.duolingo.com/BDHTZTB5CWWKTCH4RHPDYVT2L4/). If you have Netflix, there’s Language Learning with Netflix: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/02/netflix-languages-education
- Take virtual tours of museums: https://artsandculture.google.com/
- Many zoos have live-streaming of their animals and educational videos
- Mark Rober (NASA scientist turned package-thief glitter bomber) is offering a science class livestream at 4pm EDT on his Youtube channel Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: https://www.youtube.com/user/onemeeeliondollars
- Learn how to code: https://www.codecademy.com/
- Take a free class: https://www.edx.org/, https://www.coursera.org/, https://www.udemy.com/
- Explore your family’s genealogy
- Do a “deep dive” into a historical event by reading stories on a site such as “Friends Who Like History” or listening to a podcast such as Dan Carlin’s
- Send virtual flowers.
- Do your taxes! (No, this is not actually entertaining to most people, but they need to be filed by April 15, anyway…) Many taxpayers qualify to e-file for free: https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.
- Complete the census! my2020census.gov
- See communication/education section regarding libraries’ digital collections, including movies, books, classes, etc. If you don’t have a library card, there are other free sources, such as LibriVox, Project Gutenberg, and Open Library. You can find digital picture books or even videos of authors reading their children’s books aloud.
- The Metropolitan Opera is streaming past performances for free: https://www.playbill.com/article/metropolitan-opera-after-shutting-its-doors-will-offer-free-streams-from-live-in-hd-catalog
- Watch an online concert ($5, or free from someone who sponsors a “hitchhike ticket”): https://www.playbill.com/article/how-1-broadway-duo-is-ensuring-the-show-will-go-on-in-the-wake-of-covid-19-theatre-cancellations
- Play games online (including with Broadway stars: https://www.playbill.com/article/dear-evan-hansen-star-andrew-barth-feldman-plans-online-game-series-as-broadway-community-social-distances)
- Watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, etc. (paid subscriptions, but some services let you share accounts with a certain number of users) – anyone have room for one more on their Netflix account?
- Write a play! And/or watch quickly written plays be read live: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1852872701514009&set=a.152998321501464&type=3&theater
- Write a book or a poem.
- Keep a “distancing diary.”
- Do a puzzle. Play board games. Play cards.
- There are a variety of free online resources that allow you to play various games, including private game features where you can meet and chat with friends. I’ve personally never used any, but if you have any you recommend, I’ll add them here. You can still have that weekly bridge or canasta game!
- Make art! Craft! Use whatever materials you have on hand.
- Family karaoke or singalong.
- Count whether this list really has 100 items.
- Hogwart’s digital escape room: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSflNxNM0jzbZJjUqOcXkwhGTfii4CM_CA3kCxImbY8c3AABEA/viewform
- Do you have any home improvement projects you’ve been putting off, such as painting, planting an indoor garden, changing your air filters? Spring cleaning? Wanted to try the Konmari Method for tidying? Now is a great time to get those projects done, and it’ll get you moving, too! (Use the resources in the communication system if you don’t have all the materials you need at home.)
- Walk around inside your home. This can be boring compared to walking outside, but just do a few laps at a time more frequently (e.g., walk for 5-10 minutes every hour). Depending on the size and design of your home, you could even run laps inside.
- Have a dance party. Put on your favorite music and dance like no one is watching!
- You can find free exercise programs on Youtube, Twitch, Netflix, or even your library. Yoga, tai chi, “boot camp,” aerobics, kickboxing, whatever you like… Just search. (If you have physical limitations, try searching “seniors” or “chair” or “seated,” depending on your limitations.) Your library might have Universal Class or Hoopla. This article has a decent list of circuit-training exercises you can do for various fitness levels: https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/at-home-workouts. This site lets you select exercises based on the equipment you have: https://workoutlabs.com/exercise-guide/. For those looking for an effective home-based strength-training circuit, elite trainer Jeff Cavaliere has designed a routine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc1E5CfRfos
- You don’t need specific equipment to exercise at home. If you don’t have weights, you can improvise with canned goods, old milk jugs (fill with an appropriate amount of water for you – these will be harder because the water will move around inside; 1 gallon = 8 pounds), books (inside bags), etc. For pull-ups, you can use a sturdy door with strong hinges (place a towel on top, wedged near the hinges so it can’t move) or substitute let-me-ins using strong doorknobs on a sturdy door, a strong vertical pole, etc. Your body can provide plenty of resistance for things like push-ups. (If regular push-ups are too hard, rest your hands on the wall or sturdy furniture. If you have stairs, choose a stair that makes it challenging to complete ten, and as you grow stronger, work your day down the stairs. If regular push-ups are too easy, try harder varieties. You can use a kid as extra resistance on pull-ups or push-ups.) If you want to train at home, a pull-up bar, adjustable dumbbells, resistance bands, and a TRX-style pulley system take minimal space and can be cheaper than a single month of gym membership.
- Forage for food while you’re walking (keep safety foremost in mind: http://www.eattheweeds.com/foraging/)
- Many religions offer streamed versions of worship services. Just Google your denomination + “online service/mass/etc.” (Check your own church’s/synagogue’s/mosque’s/etc.’s site; even if they don’t stream everything, they might have audio from the sermon, and they’ll have important news for members.)
- Meditate (https://choosemuse.com/blog/ultimate-list-of-free-meditation-resources/)
- There are apps that can connect you with prayer partners, provide daily devotionals, etc.
Activities for Children
- Free (plus shipping) culinary kits for kids: https://www.njfamily.com/raddish-kids-is-giving-away-free-kits-to-parents-during-school-closures/
- Set up a daily routine. When will your kids read? Do math? Do other schoolwork? Have active time? Have a break? How much screen time will they be allowed outside of school? Set expectations; talk through them together – even encourage the kids to help write them.
- MomTribe is a free resource for parents in the Atlanta area to help navigate managing schoolwork at home: https://www.parentcoachatlanta.com/products/102592-Momtribe-Free-Access
- Here’s a compilation of free education resources: http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/
- Scholastic has created a free learn-at-home page: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
- Other educational free subscriptions: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/
- iPad apps for children with special needs/learning disabilities: https://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/01/a-handy-chart-featuring-over-30-ipad.html
- disABILITY LINK is offering free virtual classes to help students with disabilities adjust to a changing educational environment: https://www.facebook.com/disABILITYLINK/photos/pb.102532169806099.-2207520000../2969487006443920/?type=3&theater
- Build an indoor obstacle course: place blankets over furniture to create tunnels to crawl through, have children climb up and over furniture (safely, within their skill level), require them to bear crawl or crab walk through certain zones, have them walk between two brooms or tape lines for a balance challenge. Warning: if you record them, pretending they’re on American Ninja Warrior, be prepared to record them fifty more times.
- Have a pretend store or restaurant. Creating a menu, calculating prices and change, and writing orders all help children practice important reading, writing, and math skills while having fun.
- Conduct science experiments using objects around the house: https://mommypoppins.com/kids/50-easy-science-experiments-for-kids-fun-educational-activities-using-household-stuff
- Kennedy Space Center and Disney offer free activities: https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/disney-kennedy-space-center-offering-free-online-activities-for-kids-during-school-closures
- Play active games: tag, chase, hide-and-seek, animal races (during each heat, announce a different animal that they have to imitate: crawl like a snake or worm, wriggle up-and-down like a dolphin, hop like a bunny, etc.), red light/green light, charades, etc.
- Play with a balloon or soft ball. How many times can you tap/throw it together without dropping it? Practice skip-counting as you play (count by 2’s, 3’s, etc.), forwards or backwards. Or count in another language.
- Build blanket forts. Have an indoor “campout” with oven-smores, popcorn, reading by lantern light, and sleeping in the living room
- Share family stories. Work on family scrapbooks together. Create a “My Family” book with stories and pictures of extended family for writing practice.
- Design their room together. Make a floor plan of their room with furniture shapes cut to size, and let them play around with different layouts.
- Go through clothes, toys, and books. Are there things they’re not using? Collect and donate.
- Put on a magic show. Let the kids research tricks on-line and surprise you.
- Cook and bake together.
- Talk about how you can help others. Make cards for a local nursing home (many can’t have visitors). The virus only survives on surfaces for 2-3 days, but check with the nursing home about whether they’ll receive mail.
- Play the “You touched your face! game.” When you see someone touch their face, let them know. Kids will have a great time catching their parents. You’ll all get better about hand hygiene.
- Try various crafts: knitting, crocheting, knot-tying, collage, mosaics, friendship bracelets, Play-Doh, beading, etc.
- Create time and space for alone time for family members.
- Play board games and cards. Do puzzles. Make your own Tangrams: https://www.tangram-channel.com/crafts-activities/draw-your-own-tangram/
Outside Your Home (for socially distancing folks, NOT quarantined/isolated):
- Learn semaphore (http://www.cranburyscouts.org/Image/Semaphore/SamsCourse.htm) or Morse Code (http://www.learnmorsecode.com/ or https://morse.withgoogle.com/learn/), and then communicate with your neighbors from a safe distance! (Morse code works at night with flashlights.)
- Make music together (each from your own porch/window/balcony): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/14/solidarity-balcony-singing-spreads-across-italy-during-lockdown
- Write messages of encouragement in chalk. People staying in their homes can sometimes still go outside on walks or sit outside in their yards. Surprise them by writing a chalk message for the next time they come out (just keep a safe distance from them at all times).
- Watch the sunrise or sunset.
- Grab a pair of binoculars and watch some animals. Apps such as iNaturalist help you identify and share information about the species living near you.
- Collect flowers from your garden/yard. Make an arrangement, dry them, or press them.
- If you’re going stir-crazy inside but aren’t able to go for a walk, go for a drive instead.
- Go for a walk, hike, run, or bike alone or with household members. Just make sure you’re staying a safe distance away from others who are out doing the same (at least 6 feet). Be careful about touching things like handrails. There are plenty of sites that can help you find new places to walk. https://www.atlantatrails.com/ and https://www.alltrails.com/ allow you to find trails near you; you can even search by distance and level of difficulty. But Google Maps is a great way to find “secret” trails near you. Or ask neighborhood Facebook groups or on Next Door where you can explore nature near you. (I’ve managed to find nature trails within easy walking distance of every place I’ve ever lived, and I don’t actually search for them before moving. I find this is especially true in the Atlanta metro area.)
- Kayak or canoe (with your own boat).
- If you live with others, get outside and play an active game: tag, catch, soccer, frisbee, etc.
- Have a family “field day” with egg-and-spoon races, sack-hops, three-legged races, water balloon toss, etc. You can do this either in your background or at a park, assuming there aren’t a ton of other people around.
- Plant a garden. Do other yard work.
- Start a compost pile. Rake up the rest of those fall leaves, and start adding food scraps and coffee grounds. (Keep it away from buildings. If you have the materials, build an area to contain it. You want to make it tall, not too spread out. Turn it with a rake and dampen it (until it’s like a wrung-out sponge) a couple of times a week.
- With caution: play on the playground, do parkour, etc. It’s easy to make a strength-training circuit by creatively using what you find in your environment (hill sprints, push-ups, burpees, monkey bars, hanging leg raises, squats, etc.) Bring hand sanitizer and sanitize very thoroughly before and after playing, and wash your hands as soon as you get home. Don’t touch your face! And keep your distance from others!
- With caution: There’s no evidence that Covid-19 virus can be spread by pools or hot tubs, but make sure you’re keeping your distance from others, and keep in mind that other surfaces around the pool (handrails to get in and out, door handles, etc.) can all be contaminated (see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html).
- With caution: some houses of worship are open for prayer during the week, with appropriate social distancing. Use hand sanitizer, be mindful of what you touch, and wash your hands afterwards.
- Find an outdoor chapel (either one so designated, or any space where you feel connected spiritually)
- Do mindful meditation or deep breathing for at least 10 minutes while sitting on your porch, on a blanket or yoga mat in your yard, or at a park (if allowed).
Do you have other suggestions for surviving the coronavirus home quarantine while staying healthy, sane, and connected? Please share below!
Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, is a researcher, author, educator, and laboratory consultant. She studied medicinal plants in the rain forests of Panama as a Fulbright Scholar and then launched a career in science and natural medicine. Early on, she studied ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, and drug discovery at the University of Georgia and AptoTec, Inc. She joined innovators at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory as a medical education consultant helping clinicians use integrative and functional laboratory results in clinical practice. She owns Health First Consulting, LLC, a medical communications company with the mission to improve human health using the written word. Ms. Nelson-Dooley is an oral microbiome expert and author of Heal Your Oral Microbiome. She was a contributing author in Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine. She has published case studies, book chapters, and journal articles about the oral microbiome, natural medicine, nutrition, laboratory testing, obesity, and osteoporosis.