Beyond Cleaning: 13 Free or Low-Cost Activities for Coronavirus Quarantine

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This guide was written by Ciara McLaren

Ciara McLaren Ciara McLaren is a writer based in the Southwest of France. She is currently self-quarantining.

Now that shelter-in-place orders are in effect throughout much of the United States, how will you spend your free time? According to a recent MoneyGeek survey, if you’re planning for a little bit of cleaning and a lot of Netflix, you’re not alone. Thinking up creative, low-cost, indoor activities can be a challenge when you're juggling the new realities of life at home. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of activities anyone can do at home for free — or close to it.


How the Coronavirus Is Impacting Your Free Time

A man is working on his laptop and trying to feed his baby at the same time

In March, MoneyGeek conducted a survey about how the coronavirus is impacting people across the country, financially and otherwise.

Many people are staying at home, but that doesn’t automatically mean they have tons of free time. For people who work remotely, quarantine can be stressful. Caring for children while working from home can create an even greater challenge. According to one parent, “It is a struggle getting my work done and supervising homework activities.”

For others, COVID-19 means decreased wages or unemployment. Over half of Americans surveyed who are currently employed have lost or expect to lose wages due to the coronavirus, and over one-third say it’s “very likely” or “completely likely” that they will lose their employment altogether in the next several weeks.

Whether you’re a college student who just lost your server job or a dad trying to juggle childcare and Zoom meetings, there are certain things we all have in common right now. The future of the economy is uncertain, outdoor activities are suspended, and many people are sheltering in place. In this context, here’s how the people we surveyed are spending their time in quarantine.

Exercise

A man exercises at home

A small-but-mighty 4.5% percent of respondents said they plan to spend their free time in quarantine working out. In these stressful times, they might have the right idea — research shows that 30 minutes of aerobic activity can reduce anxiety and improve your mood for several hours and improve your overall health.

Housework

A couple cleans their kitchen

The number of people surveyed who said they would clean while social distancing came in at 18.4%. It may not be the most fun activity, but considering how much time people will be spending at home in the next several weeks, it makes sense.

Entertainment

A couple watches TV while observing quarantine rules

Kicking back with a streaming service is a popular activity, quarantine, or no quarantine. Now that many people are staying indoors, it’s at the top of the list. 37.5% of respondents said that while social distancing, they would spend their free time watching TV or movies.

Before Netflix, there were books: 25.5% said they would read during the quarantine. A good old-fashioned book or affordable streaming service is a cost-effective way to pass the time indoors.


13 More Free, Family-Friendly Activities You Can Do at Home

You can only watch so much “Stranger Things” and clean so many rooms in the house before getting a little bored. That goes double for kids, who may not understand why they have to be cooped up at home instead of outside playing.

Here’s a list of free and fun things to do at home, for kids and adults alike.

1. Binge Watch, With a Twist

A family of 4 has a movie night at home. They are watching movies and eating popcorn

There’s no need to fight that urge to lay back and watch TV. Go ahead and catch up on all those series you’ve meant to watch. A lot of other people are in the same situation.

Because this is a time of isolation for many, it’s an excellent time to use features like Netflix Party to make streaming social. Connect with others while you watch.

2. Extreme Makeover: Shelter in Place Edition

A woman's hands can be seen decorating a lamp with flowers

If you’re stuck at home, make it the best it can be. To avoid feeling cooped up, orient rooms around windows and houseplants. Every member of the household can get involved by sprucing up their rooms. For a competitive twist, vote on who has the best before-and-after.

3. Create a Collage

A family is having a crafts activity while observing the stay-at-home mandate

You don’t have to write “King Lear” to be creative in confinement. One activity that’s fun for all ages is a collage. Cut up old magazines, get out the glue sticks, and go to town. Arrange and organize your photos by theme or color, or create a vision board of all the things you’ll do once you get out of quarantine.

4. Bake the Stress Away

A woman prepares food on the stove while a little girl looks on, and a boy can be seen on the background looking at recipes on his computer tablet

The process of baking is meditative and calming — and at the end? You get to eat something delicious.

Try a challenging project like homemade croissants, or get the kids in on something simple, like chocolate chip cookies.

Have each family member come up with an idea for something to bake, write each idea down on a folded piece of paper, put all the ideas in a bowl, then have the youngest member of the family choose a piece of paper from the bowl. Whatever is on the paper is what you have to bake.

5. Set Up the Fermentation Station

A man's hands can be seen while he is engaged in making kombucha from home

Speaking of baking, some people are using the slow pace of confinement to start experimenting with fermented foods. Sourdough, sauerkraut and kombucha are some good options for beginners — grown-ups can also try brewing beer. Fermented foods are a healthy, cost-effective way to step it up in the kitchen, and now’s the perfect time to learn how to make them.

6. Send a Message to the Future

A man's hands can be seen as he selects family photos to include in a time capsule

We’re living through truly historic times. Help future generations understand them by assembling a time capsule. Include items of interest, such as:

  • A daily newspaper
  • A letter to the future
  • Photographs
  • Take-out restaurant menu

7. Host a House Party Where No One’s Invited

A family sits in a space decorated with balloons and streamers. They are having a house party at home

Host a party with an exclusive guest list: members (of the household) only. Set a theme that includes a dress code, offer refreshments, pull out the party decorations, put on your favorite playlist and dance!

8. At-Home Yoga Class

A woman does yoga in her home with her baby daughter in her lap

Missing weekly yoga flow at the studio? Free, online classes from instructors like Yoga With Adriene can provide that moment of me-time without leaving the house. Everyone in the house can join in for that yoga class feel. If you’re short on mats, towels, blankets and a carpeted floor all work in a pinch.

9. Fashion Week

A baby is wearing her mom's high heeled shoes playing dress-up, while her mom kneels next to her to help her walk in the shoes

When staying at home all day, it’s tempting to never change out of pajamas. One fun way to resist the urge? Get dressed to the nines. Wear that slinky dress or fancy suit that you usually save for special occasions. Bonus points for modeling the outfit to friends and family over video chat.

10. Karaoke Night

A man is having fun at home singing karaoke with a microphone in his hand, wearing funny glasses and wearing a crown on his head.

Karaoke night doesn’t have to mean going out to a karaoke bar. With websites like Fun’Karaoke and apps like Smule, you can sing your heart out at home. This is another activity begging for a theme: think 80s night, metal rock, country crooning, show tunes, an homage to Britney Spears and more.

11. Storytime

A mom and daughter sit on the daughter's bed and read a book for storytime

Celebrities like Dolly Parton are doing virtual storytime to provide some comfort and distraction for kids sheltering in place due to the coronavirus. Storytime may be for kids, but whether you’re 7 or 70, who doesn’t enjoy a good story, especially when it’s read by Dolly Parton?

12. Night at the Museum

Two parents are with their daughter looking at a virtual tour of a museum on a computer

The British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Musée d’Orsay are just a few museums you can visit virtually. All you need is a computer.

13. Homeschool — Not Just for the Kids

A woman is seen sitting at a desk looking at a computer with headphones on as she takes an online class

Students across America are participating in a nationwide remote learning experiment. Meanwhile, Coursera and Open University have offered free online classes for grownups for years. Consider using this time to learn a new skill. That certificate in digital marketing could be what helps you get your next job.


Stay Active, Be Well

It’s okay to not be at your best right now. It’s a time of stress and economic uncertainty, and coming up with activities for the household on top of that can feel challenging.

One positive takeaway from this trying situation? Having fun doesn’t have to mean going out and spending lots of money. It doesn’t even have to be complicated. That’s something you and your family can take with you long after the coronavirus quarantine has ended.

Whether you bake cookies with the kids or become a yoga guru, take time for beautiful moments, now more than ever.

Sources

Google Arts & Culture. “Places.” Accessed April 2, 2020.

Imagination Library. “The Imagination Library Presents ‘Goodnight with Dolly.’” Accessed April 2, 2020.

John S. Raglin, Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University-Bloomington. “Exercise and Mental Health: Beneficial and Detrimental Effects.” Accessed April 2, 2020.

Mayo Clinic. "Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms." Accessed April 10, 2020.