When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are more worried about boredom and frustration of sheltering in place than the risk of contracting the virus itself.
Sure, lounging around the house and playing hooky is fun for a day or two. Then, the boredom and cabin fever set in, and you wonder how you can possibly stay confined within those same four walls for another 12 days (or more).
If you find yourself staring into the abyss of self-quarantine or a shelter-in-place order, take heart. In today’s world, you have endless options for entertainment, self-improvement, family-friendly activities, and even communication with the outside world.
Ways to Stay Entertained & Busy at Home
1. Card & Board Games
You probably have some of these around the house already. From classics like Monopoly and Scrabble to newer games like Settlers of Catan, you and your family can enjoy yourselves for hours with good board games. If you have a sense of humor, check out Pandemic: Legacy as a fun outbreak-scenario game.
Even people with no board games in the house still probably have a deck of cards. Brush up on the rules of rummy and all its variations, hearts, and even bridge if you have four people in the house old enough to understand its nuances. And if you’re holding down the fort solo, you can always fall back on solitaire.
2. Yard Games
Just because you’re quarantined doesn’t mean you can’t step foot outdoors. If you have a private yard, you can get outside for some fresh air.
Get your classic yard games like badminton or croquet out of the garage and dust them off, or order a new set. You can also have some fun with tailgate classics like cornhole or ladder toss. Alternatively, get a little quirky with games like Giant Jenga for the yard.
It gets you and the kids out of the house and gives all of you a chance to burn off some pent-up energy.
3. Do a Puzzle
Puzzles offer a chance to relax and let your mind wander, perhaps listening to some music or an audiobook — and optionally, enjoying an adult beverage.
We spend all day every day focusing (or trying to focus) intently on our work. When we stop working, it’s nice to let the mind unfocus, to drift a little, and perhaps explore recesses we ignore in the franticness of daily life.
4. Artwork & Handicrafts
Yes, you can put together creative arts-and-crafts ideas for kids to keep them occupied for an hour or two. But set aside your preconceived notions and think a little broader.
Did you once have a penchant for painting? Or maybe you’ve always been fascinated by graphic design but never felt like you had the time to pursue it.
Well, you have the time now.
Learn how to crochet, sew, sketch, paint, or design. Try your hand at making your own clothes. Brush the rust off your old skills, and take to the Internet to develop some new ones.
5. Indulge in a Video Game
I confess I unwind for a few minutes at the end of a long day by playing a video game on my phone (Boom Beach, if you must know). It provides a way to reset my brain, which spends all day operating in one set of patterns. If I come home and try to interact with my wife while still in laser-focus work mode, we quickly butt heads. So I break the brainwave patterns.
You have thousands of options for smartphone games. But you can also get more elaborate with computer games or console games through your Xbox, Playstation, or old-school platforms like Nintendo or Sega consoles.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a gamer, you can still have a blast with retro games like Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Guitar Hero, or even the calorie-burning Dance Dance Revolution. Read up on fresh ideas for gaming gifts, even if they’re for yourself.
6. Play Physical Games
Video games are all well and good, but kids also need to move around. For that matter, we could all use less screen time.
If you have a yard, you can play games like tag or a miniaturized variation of capture the flag. But even without a yard, you can still play games like hide and seek in the house.
Balloon volleyball is an easy game to play indoors. Just tie a string “net” across the room, and inflate a balloon to serve as the ball.
Another simple indoor game is a hat toss. Turn a chair upside down and assign a different number of points to each of the four legs. Then take turns tossing a hat, with each person getting five tosses total. The person with the most points at the end wins.
7. Create Your Own Pampered Spa Experience
You may not be able to visit a salon for a manicure, pedicure, or facial while social distancing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t DIY some beauty treatments on your own.
Or break out the nail polish, clippers, and file and spend some time on yourself or your kids. No, it’s not the same as having someone else pamper you. But you can still enjoy it, and it certainly costs less money.
While you’re at it, give yourself that trim you’ve been waiting on all these months. Use this guide from Men’s Hairstyles to find the perfect pair of hair clippers for at-home grooming.
8. Prepare Your Tax Return
If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, you’ll never have a more convenient time than while under quarantine.
Today’s tax preparation software through companies like TurboTax or H&R Block is smarter than ever, helping you squeeze out every last deduction. Many even help alert you to audit triggers so you don’t inadvertently bring down the wrath of Uncle Sam.
Follow these tax preparation tips to streamline the process and knock it out while you literally have nothing better to do.
9. Update Your Resume
Spending several weeks under quarantine offers the perfect opportunity to take a step back and think about the exact life you want to live. And in many cases, that involves a job or career change.
Dig your resume out from the recesses of your hard drive and look it over. Then get to work rewriting a great resume tailored to the kind of job that can provide both more money and more meaning in your life. You can even upload your resume to TopResume and they will provide you with a free expert review.
10. Take an Online Course or Certification
Of course, your resume may be missing a few key achievements or certifications. Luckily, you now have the time to level up on your skill set.
Whatever you need to learn to boost your resume, you can probably learn online. And many websites offer a variety of free online courses, so you may not have to pay a dime. One of our favorites is Coursera, which has available courses in just about every subject. Plus, if you’re interested in learning how to code, you can even sign up for a free class through Codecademy.
11. Learn to Meditate
Being stuck in your home for two weeks also makes for a fantastic opportunity to learn how to meditate.
From lowering stress to boosting happiness, meditation has a slew of benefits. And while mindfulness remains one of those words people love to throw around without fully understanding it, mindfulness brings with it far more control over your mental and emotional state.
When you feel a surge of anxiety, don’t try to patch it over with external bandages like retail therapy. Calm needs to come from inside. You can’t always control your external environment or circumstances. You can control your internal state — if you learn how.
12. Try New Recipes (With the Whole Family)
Cooking is as fun as you make it. If you think of cooking as a chore, remember that everything gets more fun as you learn and gain confidence.
Start by listing your five favorite meals of all time. Then commit to making each of them over the next two weeks.
You’ll probably need to order groceries online. Many local supermarkets offer delivery services, either free or for a small fee, and services like Instacart or Amazon Pantry also delivers groceries. If you’re a true novice in the kitchen, consider buying a meal kit service like Home Chef or HelloFresh.
Involve the whole family in the process, which serves you in several ways. It keeps your kids or spouse occupied. Plus, it forces them to buy into the process and results so they don’t look at your final platter with suspicion.
But it also teaches them a life skill. Everyone should know how to cook, and as they do more cooking with you, they may find they love it. If nothing else, you get to spend some quality time with someone you love in a collaborative process.
If your local stores are experiencing shortages, try your hand at these quarantine recipes using items from your pantry.
13. Do an At-Home Wine Tasting
Have you ever wondered how cabernet sauvignon differs from shiraz, pinot noir, or merlot?
Now’s as good a time as any to boost your oenophile knowledge and comparison taste different wines. If you don’t keep wine around the house, you may be able to order it online through Drizly, depending on your state’s laws. If your state forbids online alcohol sales, you can call in a favor with a friend and ask them to drop it off at your door. Just don’t shake hands or talk face to face, given your quarantined status.
Many volumes have been written about wine appreciation and beginner wine tips. But overall, serve red wines at cellar temperature (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), rather than room temperature. While you should serve most white wines chilled, you can taste them better if they’re a little warmer than refrigerator temperature, such as in the 40s.
Taste white wines before reds. Within each color, drink lighter wines first and progress toward heavier, bigger-bodied wines, which tend to look darker. Taste sweet or semi-sweet wines last.
Since you probably won’t polish off four to six bottles in one sitting, pick up a way to preserve your opened wines. The two main options include vacuum pumps to pull air out of the bottle and wine preservation gas, which blankets the wine with a layer of inert gas to separate it from oxygen. These options extend open bottles’ life spans from one or two days to five to seven days.
That’s enough time for you to make some recipes that pair well with each bottle for a week’s worth of perfectly paired dinners.
If you’re a more advanced tippler, consider doing a horizontal or vertical tasting to spice things up. In a horizontal tasting, you taste wines from the same year, the same region, and the same grape or style. For example, you could taste 2014 Sonoma Valley cabernets from different winemakers. In a vertical tasting, you taste the exact same wine from multiple vintages.
14. Do a Home Improvement Project
Maybe it’s time to get on that DIY home improvement project you’ve been putting off.
It could be as simple as repainting a room or as elaborate as a major plumbing project. Some home improvements even reduce your homeownership costs.
Find ways to involve the kids or spouse as well. Like cooking, home improvements offer a collaborative project for quality time and bonding and a chance to teach valuable life skills.
Beyond a teaching opportunity, it can also raise your home’s value and make it a more pleasant place to live in the meantime.
Home Depot offers free delivery on most orders over $45, so you can load up on supplies without stepping foot out your front door.
15. Catch Up on Past Oscar Nominees
Don’t stop at just best picture nominees. Try to watch all the best picture, best director, and best screenplay nominees. Inevitably, some end up disappointing, hyped for their political messaging rather than their technical prowess or entertainment value. But many live up to their reputations, and some pleasantly surprise.
A few ideas from recent years to kick-start your list include:
- “Birdman” (or “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”)
- “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
- “The Martian”
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
- “Silver Linings Playbook”
- “Life of Pi”
- “The Descendants”
- “Midnight in Paris”
- “The Fighter”
- “The Hurt Locker”
You can rent streaming movies on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play Movies.
16. Video Streaming Services
While this is most obvious source of home entertainment, it still had to appear on the list. Whether you subscribe to Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, all three major streaming platforms offer spectacular content, both original and licensed.
Sure, you’ve probably already binged on major hits like “Stranger Things” and “Ozark.” But the major streaming platforms also offer a rich library of older films and TV series, indie flicks, foreign films, and documentaries. Try digging deeper this time around and exploring something that’s not the latest pop-culture darling.
Or just try out some new series you’ve been meaning to get around to. If you love gritty gangster dramas, catch up on “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix. The eerie alternate reality of “The Man in the High Castle” makes for fun what-if drama on Amazon Prime, and “The Wrong Mans” serves up hilariously absurd action comedy on Hulu.
17. Try New Home Fitness Routines
Your house isn’t the only thing you can improve while stuck at home for two weeks.
Get serious about fitness while you have so much free time. You don’t necessarily need anything special. You can start with home exercises that don’t require equipment.
My personal favorite in-home exercise is power yoga, which moves faster than standard yoga for a more physical routine. It’s an intense workout — and one that complements other routines like cardio and weight training by working muscles without impacting joints or requiring muscle recovery periods. You don’t need anything but a mat and a video, which you can stream online. All major video streaming services offer workout videos, including yoga videos. If you don’t subscribe to a video streaming service, you can find many free routines on YouTube. You could also subscribe to a service like Aaptiv, which offers thousands of different workout routines.
Just imagine the surprise on your co-workers’ faces when you show up to work after a few weeks’ absence looking leaner, stronger, and younger.
18. Borrow Digital Books From the Library
There are many ways to get access to cheap and free e-books, the library being the most obvious. Even if you’re stuck at home, most public libraries today offer digital collections of e-books, which you can read on your Kindle or other mobile devices. Without spending a dime, you can read as many books as you can finish.
Call your local library to ask them about their digital catalog and how you can access it. Many libraries use Overdrive, which is simple to access on any device.
19. Listen to Audiobooks
Public libraries don’t just provide e-books. They also maintain digital collections of audiobooks. You simply check them out digitally and download them to your mobile app (in many cases, the Overdrive app).
But that’s not the only way to access cheap or free audiobooks. You can also open an account on Audible. For a $14.95 monthly membership fee, you get one book credit, although they routinely offer two-for-one credit sales.
You can and should listen to purely entertaining fictional novels. But you can also use audiobooks to improve your career and your life in general with personal development audiobooks. My career took on new life after I started listening to business audiobooks, and my finances followed suit when I started listening to personal finance books.
20. Catch Up on Sports
Obviously, you can watch this week’s games live for some fresh escapism. But if your favorite sport isn’t running right now, consider catching up on last season’s games.
While watching past games lacks the thrill of live sporting events, it can still be fun if you do it right. For example, with NFL GamePass you can watch any regular-season or postseason game with no commercials. You can even watch condensed versions of the games, which just show the plays, and run 40 to 45 minutes apiece.
Ask friends about the most exciting games from last season or look them up online. Just be careful to avoid spoilers.
To complete the game day effect, create your own at-home tailgate party. Throw on your jersey, make your family’s favorite tailgate food, and get the kids or spouse involved. Kick back with a brew and scream at the TV until you’re hoarse.
21. Do a Deep Clean (Physical or Financial)
Being quarantined at home leaves no excuses for failing to clean.
Start by cleaning and decluttering the kitchen. Empty the refrigerator and throw out those moldy leftovers from three months ago. Empty all the cabinets and dust them. Toss all the stale items in the pantry. Clean out the ice overflow in the back of your freezer.
Then tackle the bathrooms and get every crevice between every tile.
Keep going until the whole house is clean and organized. You don’t need to spend a fortune to do it either. There are plenty of ways to clean and organize your home on a budget.
And don’t stop with physical cleaning. Take this opportunity to do some financial spring cleaning as well. From reviewing your budget – or set one up through YNAB or Personal Capital – and financial goals to checking up on your net worth, your money needs regular attention.
22. De-Stress With a Coloring Book
Coloring books can keep your kids quiet for a little while, creating some precious silence around the house. And for you, they let your mind wander freely, breaking the cycle of intensive focus and goal-oriented thinking you practice all day every day.
For a good irreverent chuckle, order an adult coloring book on Amazon and make use of it before, during, or after your wine tasting. For a free, kid-friendly alternative, try this fantastic digital resource instead.
23. Take a Virtual Tour
Dozens of museums have teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to create virtual tours that are available from the comfort of your couch.
It’s not the same as being there in person. But it sure beats the alternative of watching another rerun of “The Office.”
A few of the museums offering virtual tours include:
- The British Museum
- The U.S. National Gallery of Art
- The Musée d’Orsay in Paris
- Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
- The Pergamon Museum in Berlin
- The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City
In addition to museums, some historical and cultural sites also offer virtual tours. Free examples include:
- The Taj Mahal
- Machu Picchu (an endangered site you should also see in person while you still can)
- The Acropolis in Athens
Tour these iconic museums and attractions virtually for now, and then make plans to see them in the flesh once the pandemic passes.
24. Catch Up With Loved Ones You Haven’t Seen in a While
Video chats aren’t the same as catching up in person, but they’re a heck of a lot better than liking the odd Facebook post.
Take this forced free time to catch up with your old high school buddies, former college roommate, or out-of-state siblings. While you might feel awkward calling up people you haven’t spoken with in months or years, they’ll be surprised and delighted to hear your voice.
Life is short, and ultimately, it’s people that provide it with meaning.
25. Connect With a Therapist
As social animals, human beings find it incredibly challenging to go weeks without contact with the outside world. When you run out of entertainment and distractions, your inner angels and demons often get louder. The issues you thought you’d buried start percolating up to the surface.
Now makes the perfect time to put those issues to rest once and for all. Not by sweeping them under a mental carpet, but by addressing them head-on, the way you should have done years ago.
You can unload your thoughts and feelings from the comfort of your own couch and finally find the peace and mental quiet you’ve always wanted. If you’re on a tight budget, check out these ways to get affordable mental health treatment.
I’ve been telecommuting for 12 years now and can’t imagine having to put on a suit and go into a traditional office. I get to spend 10 months of the year traveling internationally with my family.
For many Americans, the coronavirus pandemic provided a first taste of telecommuting. Most inevitably found it awkward at first, but then it starts to grow on them.
If you find yourself enjoying remote work, start looking into jobs that let you work remotely full time. You can work from home if you like. But you can also move to a city with a lower cost of living, another state, or even another country. The quarantine may just provide the spur you need to rethink your perfect lifestyle and location — and start taking steps to make them a reality.
What are your best ideas for home entertainment to keep the boredom and cabin fever at bay during a quarantine?