How many times a week do you think “I’m bored”? Kids and adults get bored pretty easily when they don’t feel stimulated, and the I’m bored refrain gets thrown around freely and frequently.
But boredom and stir-crazy have taken on whole new meanings recently, and Canadians all over the country are striving to find ways to stay occupied, keep kids entertained, and stay sane.
People are getting very creative with how they’re spending their time right now, and when it comes right down to it, there are millions of ways you can while away the hours when you’re not working, not at school, and being instructed to stay home and away from people.
If you’re looking for fun, free, educational, and other ways to stave off boredom when you’re stuck at home, here are things you can do right now to keep yourself and your family entertained and healthy.
1. Build something
What kid — and let’s be honest, what adult doesn’t love a good fort? There are pillow forts, bed sheet forts, tree forts, lawn chair forts, and the list continues. You can build any kind of fort you want out of just about any material you have around the house, and when you get bored of making forts, you can take on other projects, such as making a:
Looking for even more ideas of things you can build together? Check out these great family-friendly engineering projects.
When you’re done building your projects for the day, you can wind down with some crafts that are fun for the whole family. Depending on your interests, whether you have kids, and how old the kids are, you might want to try projects like:
- Making jewelry
- DIY candles
- Practicing or learning to knit
- Homemade slime
- Creating a snow globe
- Working with clay
There are plenty more crafting ideas all over the internet, including here and here, for people of all ages.
3. Learn a new language
Learning a language takes time and dedication, and luckily a lot of us have plenty of free time right now. So why not use that time to improve your brain and learn a new language? There are lots of free language-learning apps and programs out there, including:
4. Take a free course
Want to learn something but don’t want to tackle a whole new language? The internet has a wealth of resources you can use to learn anything from how to waltz to how to make your own hand sanitizer. Here’s a list of some online resources that offer free (or affordable) courses on things like graphic design, IT, physics, and more:
- Free university courses from all over the world
- Free courses from Harvard
- Online courses from MIT, Berkeley
- Khan Academy
- Free online flash cards
- Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12
5. Explore the world virtually
Just because you’re not supposed to leave the house doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the world, and thanks to the internet you can walk the halls of an art gallery, inspect ancient artifacts at the museum, or even swim with the sharks. Here’s a list of a few of the virtual tours you can check out with the family during the pandemic:
- Georgia Aquarium – Ocean Voyager and Sea Otters
- Explore.org nature cams – Oahu, Hawaii and Decorah Eagles
- Monterey Bay Aquarium – Penguin Cam
- San Diego Zoo Baboon Cam and Polar Cam
- Ripley’s Aquarium
- Museum of the World – The British Museum
- Take a close look and discover details of famous works of art
- Tour famous sites and landmarks on Google Street View
- Great wall of China
- Google Earth
- Popular tourist attractions such as Trevi Fountain – Rome
- And here is a great list of Canadian museums
6. Get help if you need it
There’s no doubt that things have drastically changed in a very short time. Right now, a lot of people are experiencing loneliness, anxiety, extreme stress, depression, and other mental health crises. The good news is there are places you can turn if you need help, including the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Affordable Therapy Network of Toronto and Talkspace.
7. Get fit and keep moving
Exercise is a great way to pass time and your brain, body, and spirits will thank you. Although most gyms, community centres, outdoor workout equipment areas, and other public fitness spaces are off-limits right now, there’s a plethora of workouts, moves, and fitness routines you can do from the comfort of your living room or while out enjoying nature.
Even if you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of online tutorials and routines you can follow along with. Here are just a few ideas to get you moving:
- Download the Peloton app and get 90 days of free access to thousands of exercise classes
- Guided workout playlists on the Nike Training Club fitness app
- Try yoga for the first time, or find new routines
- Try Zumba
- Go for a walk or a jog
- Take the family on a bike ride
- Make a circuit training station in your house
- Jump rope
- Do some strength training
8. Play sports
While we are supposed to be staying away from most people right now, it is still okay to participate in activities with the people you live with and are self-isolating with. There are a number of sports and activities you can play in your yard or neighbourhood, including:
- Tossing a football
- Hacky sack
- Bocce ball
To be safe, make sure everybody washes their hands properly before and after play. If you want to be extra cautious, you can even wash the equipment before and after you’ve used it with an alcohol-based or EPA-certified disinfectant.
9. Take time for self-care
Take time to do what refuels you and improves your mental and emotional health. Meditation can help keep you calm and relaxed, especially when it seems the world has been turned upside-down by a pandemic. Don’t worry if you’ve never meditated before and don’t know how to do it. There are plenty of resources out there, including apps like Headspace, online spaces like Calm, and meditation how-to guides.
10. Watch shows and movies with your friends
Watch with your friends: Dying to watch that new movie or the latest season of your favourite show with your friends but can’t get together because of social distancing rules? Don’t worry: Netflix Party has you covered.
Just download the app on your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet and Netflix Party will let you synchronize what you’re watching with your friends and let you hold group chats while you do it.
11. Check some books off your reading list
It’s true that most libraries across the country are closed right now, and even if you don’t have a shelf full of books that you’ve been meaning to read, there are still opportunities to relax and take in a good book right now.
For one thing, many libraries have a catalogue of ebooks, Audiobooks, digital comics, manga, newspapers, magazines and stream movies and television shows that are available for loan, usually through Overdrive and the Libby app, and all you need is your library card number and a password.
Even if your local library doesn’t offer ebooks, there are still thousands of titles available through apps like Amazon Kindle.
If you prefer listening to your books, then apps like Audible have hundreds of thousands of audiobooks available that you can download right now. To make life a little more pleasant for all of us right now, they even just made hundreds of titles available for free.
Lastly, there are free public domain audiobooks available at LibriVox and Project Gutenberg and digitized books at Open Library.
12. Host virtual get-togethers
Itching for some face-time with your friends? You might not be able to host in-person hang outs right now, but technology makes it easier than ever for you to get together with friends and family all over the world through the magic of our phones and computers. The reason for the get-together could be a trivia night, book club, or simply to catch up.
Apps like FaceTime (for Apple users), Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, and other video messaging and conferencing apps mean you can still enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, even if you can’t be in the same place.
13. Have a movie night at home
Going to the movies is a treat for kids and adults alike, but ever since the early days of the pandemic, most movie theatres have been closed. And it’s not like we can just pop over to the video store anymore, either. Luckily, we have apps like Netflix, Crave, Amazon Prime Video, and more to keep us entertained from the comfort of our homes.
But why just watch something when you can turn your night into an evening of epic entertainment. Think movie theatres and think popcorn, licorice, fountain pop (thanks, Sodastream), and other goodies and treats. Hit the lights, turn up the volume, and settle in with your snacks for movie night in the living room!
You might also want to check out an opera, play or symphony:
- Watch The Metropolitan Opera’s Nightly Met Opera Streams
- Listen to performances by Seattle Symphony
14. Watch archived games of major sports
- NHL Live
- NBA League Pass
- NFL Game Pass is free until May 31st
Being involved in the community through volunteering and helping people has always been important, and this is true now more so than ever. Even though people can’t be doing face-to-face volunteer work right now, there are lots of ways you can get involved and help out in the community while also maintaining social and physical distance.
For one thing, a lot of local businesses have started offering delivery options, and some of them might be looking for volunteers to schedule deliveries and make drop-offs. For example, Open Lab created the Friendly Neighbour Hotline to help connect Toronto seniors with local volunteers who can deliver food and other essentials.
You don’t need an organized system to get involved, either. Call your neighbours and relatives or talk to them when you see them outside. Ask how they’re doing and if they need any help. Volunteering can be as easy as that.
15. Host a stay-in-your-own-yard BBQ with the neighbours
Nothing says summertime like a backyard barbeque with your favourite neighbours. But that’s not to say that neighbourhood BBQs are completely out of the question, they’ll just look a little different this summer. You can still cook together, toast each other, and chat over the fence.
16. Go camping in your backyard or living room
Even popular campsites and hiking trails are being closed down in parts of Canada to discourage large groups of people from congregating, but there’s nothing stopping you from going camping in your own backyard.
Set up the tent, get out the sleeping bags, light some candles, pull up the camp chairs, break out the ghost stories, and get to roasting those marshmallows on the barbeque. And the best thing about camping out at home? Not having to fumble your way to the outhouse in the dark.
17. Have a picnic
Looking for something fun to do during the day after your backyard camping adventure? Head into the kitchen and pack up a picture-perfect picnic. Put away the tent, lay down the blanket, and get ready for a gourmet backyard picnic. Not sure what to pack? Here are some great ideas for easy and delicious picnic foods.
18. Explore new cuisines and recipes
Do you love cooking but find you just never have enough time to indulge in the passion? Modern families are busy, and we don’t always have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.
But for many Canadians, the pandemic has meant more time at home with the family, and that means more time to dedicate to experimenting with your favourite ingredients, preparing fancy meals, trying out new recipes, or having fun with:
- Making ice cream
- Experimenting with versions of your favourite chocolate bars such as skor
- Trying your hand at soufflé
- Bake some chocolate chip cookies
- Rolling up your own sushi
- Having a make-your-own-pizza station
- Learning quick recipes from a chef in first-person
You can even get really creative and have themed meals with the family (dressing up optional!), like Christmas in April, foods that are all the same colour, murder mystery dinner, or a tiny-food feast.
19. Make your own TV show
Kids have been hosting news casts, television shows, radio programs, and other forms of entertainment from their basements and bedrooms since the dawn of wired communication. This time, get the whole family involved and create your own TV show, pilot, news story, or movie. Interviewing parents or grandparents on their life experiences is an interesting way to connect and build memories together.
This is easier than ever thanks to smartphone cameras and a tripod that comes with a remote, and there are a number of apps you can download that will let you edit (Splice and Adobe Premiere Rush), animate (Stop Motion Studio and Toontastic), and share your creations with friends and family.
20. Create a journal or scrapbook
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a moment of history as it was being made? A lot of us have had that thought, and that’s exactly what’s happening right now — we are living history in the making.
Years and years from now people will still be talking about 2020. Your children will learn about this in school, so why not create a first-hand account to pass down to them and help them learn about (or remember) the good ole days?
You can create a scrapbook or journal by documenting your days with photos, taking notes, and amassing mementos of your time in self-isolation. There are also apps if you prefer digital scrapbooking, and you can even play around with your photos with online photo editing apps before you catalogue them.
21. Play games
Families have connected by playing games for thousands of years, and thanks to technology, we have more options now than ever before. Games include things like board games, strategy games, video games, and role playing games, and they can engage everyone from young children to elderly grandparents. Looking for some ideas for games you can play together after dinner tonight? Try some of these:
- Do a puzzle
- Play a classic board game online such as Monopoly, Scrabble Go, or Risk
- Invite friends for a card game such as Spades or Euchre
- Try a more challenging game such as Codenames or Pandemic
- Play online party games such as Jackbox Party Pack, Drawful 2 and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (how to play remotely)
- Try a strategy game online like chess or backgammon
- Play an online multiplayer game that’s family-friendly, such as Minecraft, Stardew Valley or Dreams
- Play retro Game Boy and Super Nintendo games on Emulator.online
- Have a game of charades
- Work on a crossword together
- Play fun and educational games with the kids
- For low-tech options, try these pen and paper games
22. Assist scientific research
Get involved with citizen science projects to help:
- Astronomers classify galaxies
- Transcribe anti slavery manuscripts
- Monitor and protect bird populations
23. Listen to a podcast
Whether you’re into sports, politics, news, true crime, nerd culture, history or interviews, there is a podcast that will entertain, inform and help you pass the time while you do some of the other activities on this list.
- LeVar Burton Reads
- Stuff You Should Know
- Hidden Brain
- Planet Money
- Science Rules! with Bill Nye
- Casefile True Crime
- This Podcast Will Kill You
- Hardcore History
- The Daily
- 99% Invisible
24. Look after yourself
Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you should neglect personal hygiene and grooming. Now is the perfect time to:
- Paint your nails or even learn to do nail art
- Grow out a beard
- Learn how to cut your own hair (for women and men)
- Try and practice new makeup looks
- Look and feel your best with skin care products such as self tanner, face moisturizer or hand cream
25. Get creative
- Color in designs with an adult colouring book
- Color by numbers on the Happy Color app
- Learn how to do calligraphy with 2 pencils
- Upload your own tutorial, story or review to YouTube
- Write a short story or get started on that novel
- Here are some creative activities to do with kids
26. Plan your next trip
Even if traveling isn’t realistic in the near future, you can always spend the time required to plan your next vacation upfront by researching and finding your favorite destinations and attractions and putting together an example itinerary on a given budget. Starting from scratch not your thing? Use a vacation planner like TripHobo to automatically generate a prefilled-in itinerary that you can then modify.
27. Turn your garden into a family project
Plots of earth all over the country have been neglected for years because families are too busy to tend a garden. Growing your own food will ensure your family has access to all your favourite fruits and veggies throughout the spring and fall.
Starting a vegetable garden with the family is a great opportunity to learn new things, teach the kids about agriculture and where food comes from, and get everybody involved in a project. Plus, you’ll all get to enjoy the benefits of your labour when you’re picking berries or eating sun-warmed tomatoes fresh off the vine come summer.
Not sure where to start? The Farmer’s Almanac has a handy guide for starting a vegetable garden.
28. Give everybody a room to redecorate
Creative pursuits occupy your mind, keep you physically and mentally engaged, provide something to work toward, and give you something to be proud of when you complete a project.
And why not get the kids involved as well? Go online and look at colour swatches, décor styles, and motifs that you could use to bring new life to the living room, kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. Come up with a plan for each room and give everybody a job, or let each member of the family choose a room to tackle. It could be as simple as re-arranging the furniture.
While non-essential shopping trips aren’t recommended right now, you can call your local home and hardware stores to see if they’re offering delivery or pickup options for the tools and equipment you need for the projects.
29. Get everyone to pitch in with spring cleaning
Now is the time for spring cleaning, and working on this as a family project will take the load off and get everybody involved and busy. Put on the radio or load your favourite playlist and get to work. Here are some common spring cleaning tasks to get you started:
- Wash the windows
- Clean rugs and drapery
- Rake leaves
- Clean the eaves
- Set aside clothes and other items you don’t use anymore for donation
- Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
- Throw out old food from the refrigerator and pantry
- Clean the refrigerator and pantry
- Clean the oven
- Dust fans, light fixtures, picture frames, baseboards, curtain rods, and other places you don’t get to regularly
- Put away your winter clothes and gear
- Sweep the porch, patio, deck, and other outdoor areas
- Trim the trees
- Get out the summer patio furniture
30. Take time to reflect
While the answers might not always may not always make you feel comfortable, when done properly, introspection is a process of healthy self-reflection, examination, and exploration, which is good for your well-being and your brain. To start, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- What have I accomplished in the last year?
- What goals am I setting for myself in the next year?
- What are three things I want to pay closer attention to?
- Are there any relationships that I want to repair or improve?
- Do I feel and express enough gratitude and appreciation for what I have?
- If I had a genie, what would be my top three wishes?
- What are three things I can do regularly to reduce stress?
- What is currently on my bucket list?
31. Getting your affairs in order
This one is not fun, but it can be free. Half of Canadians do not have a will. Writing a will may be at the bottom of your to-do list, but since you’re looking for things to do at home, now would be a great time to check this one off – and you likely won’t have to update it again for years.
- Fun Things to Do at Home – Must Do Canada
- 25 Fun Things to Do with Kids Inside Your Home – To Do Canada
- Check out the other 25 streaming services in Canada that aren’t Netflix
The world might be in a bit of upheaval right now, and there are a lot of things we aren’t allowed to do. But there are plenty of ways to spend our time in the coming days, weeks, and months, even if we can’t stick to our normal routines and do the things we’re used to doing every day.
Many Canadians are off work, on a hiatus from school, or working from home because of the pandemic, and that means we have lots more time on our hands than we’re used to. So let’s make the best of this time we have together with our families and loved ones by staying busy, staying active, and taking advantage of this opportunity to connect and make memories.
Over to you
What ideas have you come up with to keep yourself and your family busy, healthy, and engaged? Share your great ideas with other families in the comments below.