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Globe Magazine

75+ things to do while coronavirus has you stuck at home

As cabin fever sets in, try these all-ages ideas for fun, self-improvement, and even a little stress relief.

luci gutierrez for the boston globe

Editor’s Note: We’ll be periodically updating this list during the pandemic shutdown (though you should still check organization websites for most recent information). And we want to hear from you: How are you keeping busy at home? Send ideas, and your comments, to magazine@globe.com.

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After a sudden and disorienting national shutdown, many of us are now stuck at home a lot more than we’re used to. But we can reframe that as an opportunity. Many parks, gardens, and trails remain open, though social distancing is important. And you may have more time for self-improvement: work on personal finances, take up a hobby, deep clean a closet, bond with your housemates, and help your community. It looks like we’re in this for the long haul, and we’re all in it together; never before have we been so connected, even as we remain physically distant. Here are dozens of ideas, tips, and projects to help keep us healthy, sane, and having a little fun.

GET ONLINE

1. Sign up for Internet access if you need it. The Internet is more crucial than ever — for news, work, and school. The coronavirus crisis, however, is foregrounding lack of access. If you are in need, you may qualify for free or discounted service. Comcast, for example, is offering 60 days of free service to new, qualifying low-income customers, as well as unlocking all public Xfinity hot spots (800-934-6489).

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ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

2. Listen to children’s books read aloud by celebrities and astronauts. Betty White delivers an utterly charming rendition of Harry the Dirty Dog (find her reading and lots more examples at storylineonline.net). Dolly Parton is launching her GoodNight with Dolly readings, including of The Little Engine That Could, starting on April 2. At Story Time from Space, astronauts aboard the International Space Station read books and perform demonstrations. Lack of gravity makes it extra fun.

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3. Go on a nature scavenger hunt in your backyard or in a nearby park. Make up your own, or use a premade sheet like those from DIY blog Make and Takes. Just remind kids that they must stay 6 feet away from other people in public spaces.

4. Write and mail letters to your friends and family. There’s something comforting about ink on paper, but they would surely also welcome e-mails and video chats.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Now’s a good time to brush up on ballet, saxophone, or other lessons at home. Ask your children’s coaches and extracurricular activities teachers to make practice charts, post videos online, or to suggest ones to watch.

6. Stretch out with yoga. The cheerful and inventive Cosmic Kids yoga series offers themed classes inspired by Frozen, Harry Potter, and more.

7. Smarten up with online learning platforms, many of which are offering their work for free or at deep discounts. ABCMouse.com, for ages 2-8; ReadingIQ, for 12 and under; and Adventure Academy, for upper elementary and middle school students, are granting resources free to schools. If yours isn’t signed up, you can access 30 days free; annual subscriptions are currently about half price. These fun and safe sites (no external links, no pop-up ads) use games to teach reading, math, and more.

8. Kickstart math and other skills with Khan Academy, a free online learning tool for all ages that covers subjects from grammar to calculus. The traditional tutorials are straightforward and clearly explained, and let students move at their own pace and track progress, including for SAT and Advanced Placement prep. They’ve created great scheduling templates for homebound students, too, available in multiple languages.

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9. Learn to draw beloved cartoon characters during episodes of “Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems,” starring the wildly popular children’s author from Massachusetts famous for books including Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

10. Watch an aquarium live feed. You can see African penguins courtesy of the Mystic Aquarium or an octopus feeding through Boston’s New England Aquarium. Both aquariums are offering lots of virtual learning and engagement opportunities for kids, including daily Facebook Live animal broadcasts.

11. Put on a sock puppet show. Find all the single socks at home, sew on buttons and add yarn for hair, then have your kids release their inner Jim Hensons. Why not put on a show for far-flung friends and family through a video chat?

12. Leave chalk drawings and notes for neighbors and friends who the kids cannot play with. You might be surprised by how much joy a neighborhood pen pal can bring.



BOND WITH FAMILY

Luci Gutierrez for The Boston Globe

13. Draft a to-do list of projects you could do (but don’t have to right now), which can keep the doldrums at bay. Charades, painting, and family concerts are great go-to activities; putting together a master list upfront alleviates the pressure to come up with ideas on the fly when kiddos start to get cranky.

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14. Create a Lego challenge where each competitor builds a particular type of creation — say, a truck — in a finite amount of time. Or spend several days constructing an epic Lego masterpiece as a group.

15. Host an elegant family dinner. Write up a menu and break out the fancy glassware and candles, even if it’s just a meal of chicken nuggets. Get dressed up and let the kids (or your non-cooking partner) do the serving — you’ve earned a break.

16. Set up a regular schedule for connecting, through calls or video chats, to friends and extended family. Friendly faces and voices can do wonders for people with young kids and others, and a schedule lends some structure to the days.

17. Work on jigsaw puzzles together. They’re great family projects (and can be quite soothing, too).

18. Schedule time for cards or board games. Planning ahead can help avoid sibling fights. Pro tip: Choose a game based on the amount of time it takes. Monopoly averages 60-90 minutes if you play by the official rules, for example, while Sid Meier’s Civilization can take days.

19. Learn to juggle. Seriously.

20. Organize a cheerful community artwork hunt. Use Facebook or Nextdoor.com to coordinate with neighbors, then draw or cut out a shape like a rainbow or a heart and place it on a window or door. Kids can look for them as they walk or are driven around the neighborhood.

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TACKLE YOUR TO-DO LIST

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21. Research a dream trip. “Thinking forward to better times is an important and powerful thing,” says travel expert Scott Keyes, who runs Scott’s Cheap Flights. Airline tickets are temptingly cheap right now, but Keyes cautions to only consider flights at least three months out and opt for fares with flexible change and cancellation policies.

22. Pick a spot and deep clean it. “Start with the easy-to-complete, low-hanging fruit,” advises organization expert Stasia Steele, founder of The Little Details in Cambridge.

23. Rid the pantry of expired items, purge junk mail, toss mismatched socks (or repurpose them for puppet shows, see above). “What matters most is experiencing a high-success, low-stress activity,” Steele says, “so you don’t get burned out.”

24. Clean dirty windows — to be honest, you’re likely spending a lot more time looking through them.

25. Bag up unworn clothing, then store it to donate later. Charities like the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation have temporarily stopped scheduling pickups and donation centers are closed. Check bbbsfoundation.org for updates.

26. Paint a room a fresh color or rearrange the furniture or art on the walls. Presto! New look, fresh perspective.

27. Knock off items on the career to-do list you’ve been putting off, such as updating your résumé and LinkedIn profile.

28. Review and organize your personal finances, though experts advise fighting the urge to tinker too much with your 401(k) right now. Mint is one free service that helps tracks bills, balances, accounts, and budgets all in one spot.

29. Delete old photos taking up space on your phone. “Don’t worry about organizing them,” says Steele, who also offers online digital organizing sessions, workshops, and more. Simply trimming unwanted files is “a huge feat in itself.”

30. Do the same for your old work and personal e-mails. Can you get to the fabled “inbox zero”?

WORK FROM HOME

Luci Gutierrez for The Boston Globe

31. Set up regular daily schedules. Maintaining routines is critical, says productivity expert and author Paula Rizzo, “especially when yours have been uprooted.” Doing so will help sustain a sense of normalcy.

32. Resolve not to become a slob. Step one: Make your bed. Shower and get dressed, in something other than pajamas. Stop for lunch. No Kardashians until quitting time. Set boundaries that work for you and keep them.

33. Reward yourself regularly. Finished that TPS report? You earned a piece of chocolate.

34. Fabricate a coffee shop vibe by brewing a cup, relocating to the living room, and opening Coffitivity, which adds the ambient chatter of a bustling cafe.

35. No more commute? Claim the extra “me time” for an activity you otherwise too often push aside, like yoga or playing piano. “Enrich yourself and do something good for you,” Rizzo says.

ENJOY THE ARTS

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36. Browse great works of art online. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art offer ready access to their collections, plus videos of gallery tours, lectures, and artist interviews. The MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are posting with #MuseumFromHome on their social channels. Scroll through the FeministFuturist exhibit online at the Boston Center for the Arts, which features photographs and videos of the feminist Utopian-themed exhibit.

37. Visit the world’s treasures. Google Arts & Culture is a gateway to art, architecture, and other global icons. Search by era, color, or location or just dive in randomly to marvels such as the Taj Mahal (at right), Angkor Wat, Frida Kahlo’s diaries, and thousands of other curiosities. You can also use it to tour top museums.



38. Rent or stream a movie. Globe film critic Ty Burr has offered seven mini movie festivals you can watch from home, rounding up classics, comedies, and more. Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally make the lists, as do lesser known rom-coms such as The Lake House. Masochists can dig into the pandemic-themed dramas, including Contagion and Outbreak.

39. Check out a TV show made for “easy binging,” as Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert put it in his compilation of 17 no-guilt-necessary shows. Among his favorites: the dark comedy Dead to Me and the mini-series Olive Kitteridge, with a title character “as jagged as the Maine coast where she has spent her life.”

40. Watch a new movie. Missed your chance to catch Emma in the theater? NBCUniversal will make some films available on-demand on their (would-be) theatrical release dates. Warner Bros., Sony, Disney/Pixar, and others have followed suit. The films are available, for a fee, on various on-demand platforms including Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, and Disney+. Unprecedented times, indeed.

41. See a free documentary (or many, many documentaries). PBS SoCal has compiled a list it calls “179 History Documentaries You Can Watch Right Now (No Membership Required,” which includes offerings from Frontline, Nova, and, of course, the inimitable Ken Burns.

42. Experience the natural world in real time with Explore.org’s YouTube channel, which brings you to remote places around the globe via live feed. From eaglets to hummingbirds to rescued kittens, the cuteness and wonder are real.

43. Take an “art break.” That’s what the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has named its three short, uplifting “only at MASS MoCA” videos and photographs posted every day on its social media channels. Recent snippets include a dance performance by choreographer David Neumann and a glimpse of a crystal chandelier cloud created by artist Nick Cave (not the singer).

44. Stay connected to local artists through the Social Distancing Gallery, where you can peruse a range of art, from watercolor drawings to plastic sculptures. The feed is from the Piano Craft Gallery, a volunteer-run nonprofit in the Piano Craft Guild, where artists live and work in the South End.

45. Download free coloring books from 113 museums from around the world. Then pass the time brightening illustrations of anthropomorphized mandrake roots and intricate Lithuanian maps. Local contributors include UMass Amherst, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Andover-Harvard Theological Library. Afterward, share your creations with the world using #ColorOurCollections.

46. Tap the wealth of libraries. They may be closed, but their online resources are vast. Download the Libby app to access ebooks, audio books, and magazines. You can even stream video with the Kanopy app through participating libraries. If you’ve never gotten around to signing up for a library card, it’s not too late. Boston Public Library’s eCard gives any Massachusetts resident access to its massive online offerings of books, videos, learning tools, and much more. Even more options here.

47. Convene a virtual book club via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a similar service that lets you gather your gang, free. Support local bookstores while you’re at it — online ordering is still an option.

48. Play classic board games virtually. If you love games like Catan and Scrabble but are stuck home alone, don’t worry. These and many more can be played online with friends or strangers.

49. Stream classical music from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which is opening up its vaults for a new online series. A “BSO Homeschool” page will include videos and other educational offerings for children. The Globe’s Zoë Madonna has also offered a list of 9 other places to livestream classical music.

50. Get your sports fix. Movies, books, and podcasts can help fill the void for sports-deprived fans. The Globe’s sports staff recommends classic flicks like Rudy, Raging Bull, and A League of Their Own. Hockey fans should check out the podcast Puck Soup.

EXERCISE AND BE WELL

Luci Gutierrez for The Boston Globe

51. Make a list of things that make you happy, activities that cheer you up, or things you can do to distract yourself if fear, anxiety, or sadness starts to creep in.

52. Safeguard your mental health. Many therapists will offer services by phone or video chat, especially under the current circumstances. Or try an online app, such as Talkspace, which offers therapy via text, audio, and video messaging. Happify is another self-help app for emotional well-being. If you or someone you know is in immediate distress, call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746); the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255 or via chat); or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741). Asking for help takes courage.

53. Meditate. Pray. Be mindful. The benefits are real. Headspace.com and Calm.com are two resources that can help.

54. Seek spiritual comfort. Old South Church is live-streaming services and prayer groups; the Atisha Kadampa Buddhist Center has moved dharma teachings and meditation classes online; and many others are, too. Vimeo’s Spiritual page also offers a broad collection of live and archived events. Your local church, temple, or mosque may also offer streaming services on Sundays.

55. Living-room workouts for yoga, pilates, and more don’t have to take up much space, time, or money. Two to try: Boho Beautiful and Taryn Toomey’s The Class. A customized HIIT program from Daily Burn lets you choose your intensity, total time, and preferred exercises (find it at dailyburn.com, now offering 60-day free trials). Steezy Studio brings dance class to you. Think of it as the Peloton of popping, with one free class per day, or more with a subscription.

56. And try these 5 free workouts you can do from home.

CONNECT WITH NATURE

Luci Gutierrez for The Boston Globe

57. Ride a bike around Jamaica Pond, through the Fens, or out to Castle Island. All of these 10 rides are fairly flat and easy to pedal.

58. Plant seedlings or plan your garden. It’s the perfect time to begin thinking (and dreaming) about the bounty of summer months. If you don’t have access to outdoor open space, try planting seeds in an egg carton and putting it on a sunny windowsill.

59. Bird-watch from your windows. You don’t need binoculars, but they may make it more exciting.


LEARN SOMETHING

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60. Learn to knit. Get started with the South End’s Third Piece tutorials (search “Third Piece” at YouTube.com). Or bust out the sewing machine you put into storage.

61. Read a classic by a regional author. The Globe has compiled a list of 100 essential books about New England or written by local authors, including Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and, for the truly ambitious, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

62. Learn to code. Codecademy and Khan Academy both offer free tutorials at different skill levels.

63. Immerse yourself in a foreign language. Linguistica 360 uses current events to teach lessons in French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

64. Cook up a storm. Break out the crock pot. Bake cookies. Master soufflé. Elevate “procrastibaking” — the art of productively baking to avoid work — to an art form.

65. Sign up for the Globe’s new cooking newsletter. “Cooking From Home” is a new, two-week newsletter from food critic Devra First about cooking during a time of coronavirus.

66. Study up to advance your career or satisfy your curiosity at edX.org, where a collection of “massive open online courses” includes roughly 3,000 free classes — many from Ivy League curricula — in every category you can imagine, from theology to art history to engineering.

67. Learn to play an instrument. Guitar maker Fender offers online guitar, bass, and ukulele lessons (with a free three-month trial period). Meanwhile, on YouTube, find any play-along song you can imagine for countless instruments.

BE A GOOD CITIZEN

68. Learn how you can help. Boston Helps from Boston.com connects those who are able to those in need in a variety of ways, including help with groceries, transportation, and housing.

69. Give blood — but only if you’re healthy and symptom-free. The Red Cross is experiencing severe shortages.

70. Volunteer as a delivery driver for Meals on Wheels.

71. Write out postcards for your preferred political candidates. It’s old-fashioned, but highly personal — and perhaps more effective — to send a handwritten letter of support than slick marketing mailers. Check out Postcards to Voters or contact your candidate’s campaign directly.

72. Complete your 2020 Census forms. You have to do it anyway. It’s the law.

73. Give money to local food pantries, such as the Greater Boston Food Bank (which works with roughly 500 groups around the region), or other essential community services.

74. Donate new, unused face masks to hospitals and first responders who badly need them. If you sew, join the coalition of crafters making them at home, including the Facebook group Masks for Massachusetts.

75. Support local businesses by purchasing gift certificates or merchandise online.

76. If you can afford to, pay your housekeeper or other service providers in advance, but ask them to stay at home.

77. Display a big red or pink heart on your front door or mailbox to show support for health care workers on the front line, as suggested by the Facebook group Hearts for Healthcare Workers. “A little encouragement can go a long way,” writes the community’s founder, the wife of an emergency room physician.

78. Be a good listener. Check in by phone with older friends and family. Many are feeling particularly isolated.

79. Reach out to anxious friends and neighbors. Challenge them to a virtual chess game, trade recipes, or share photos. Drop off groceries at their front door. Let them know they’re not alone.

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Meaghan O’Neill is a writer based in Newport, Rhode Island. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.