13 Ideas and Activities to Stay Busy at Home During This COVID Winter

Simple at-home ideas to keep your family engaged and happy this winter

By Barbara Evangelista, publisher of Macaroni Kid Lowell, Mass. January 15, 2021

OK, we've been at this COVID thing for a long time now. Unfortunately, it's even more necessary now to stay home and hunker down until things get better. 

But we need a Quarantine Plan B, or D, as the case may be. We've pretty much finished all of Netflix, played every game in the house and walked around our block enough times to finish a marathon. Now it's time to really think outside the box and try some new ideas to stay engaged and get through the next few months of winter.

I love to read and my main passion is historical fiction. I find it fascinating to read about people living in another era — World War II, Regency England, Colonial America — and imagine what daily life was like. Since there were few labor-saving devices, most people worked very hard. But they really got creative during recreational time because there was no technology to distract them. People put on plays at home, read, learned musical instruments for the pleasure of it, painted, rode their bikes (and horses), and made all kinds of home crafts.  

What kinds of things would you have done if you were living in those simpler times? Not quite into the no tech thing? Here are 13 modern ideas to try this winter:

1. Virtual reality travel

We all miss traveling so much, but it's possible to visit many far-off destinations through the magic of VR. If your kids have a VR headset, borrow it and try out some of the travel experiences. Basic VR headsets are pretty cheap if you don't have one already.

2. Learn a language

Have you always wanted to learn Italian to speak with your grandmother? Or Japanese, for a future trip? Now's your chance to begin learning. There are quite a few apps, videos, online services, and even DVD sets from the library to help you learn other languages. Learning a second language has proven benefits for your brain!

3. Online mystery games or escape rooms

I haven't tried these, but I hear they're fun! There are even monthly subscription boxes, like Hunt a Killer, to really dive deep into an interactive mystery.

4. Video games

My kids love video games, and I'm getting a little jealous of all the fun they're having! Perhaps it's time for me to play too.

5. Stop putting off tasks

  • Go through your digital photos and delete the bad ones. Get a digital frame and upload photos — the kids will love seeing photos from years ago.
  • Got piles of coins or other collectibles getting dusty? Make a commitment to sort and catalog them, or decide it's time to let this hobby go.
  • Estate planning. Yep, making your will and setting up guardianships is not a fun topic, but it's absolutely necessary. If you've been putting it off, do it now!

6. Learn a new creative skill

Try knitting, photography, drawing, art, weaving, or calligraphy. What else are you interested in that you can do at home?  It's amazing how fun it can be just allowing yourself the time to truly get creative.

7. Reading

My favorite. Branch out from your usual genres and explore some books you haven't tried before. Maybe science fiction, non-fiction, or history?

8. Earn an online certificate

So many colleges are offering online education in a huge variety of fields. Now's the time to take some courses and earn a certificate or degree that will help you when things are a bit more normal.

9. Walking

Walking can be such a stress reliever. No need to push yourself with regards to distance and time. Just get out every day, breathe the fresh air, and move.

10. Learn to cook or bake

If you're frustrated with your cooking skills, now is a great time to learn. The library has so many cookbooks, including good, basic "Learn to Cook" manuals. You can browse library catalogs online, request the books, and then pick them up within a day or two. We've enjoyed watching the "British Baking Show" — who knew there were so many varieties of sponge cake?

11. Learn an instrument

Have you always wanted to learn the guitar? Now's your chance! There are so many online resources for learning music.

12. Meditate

I'm not a regular practitioner of meditation, but I do use it to help me fall asleep at night. It has been incredibly helpful; instead of hours of insomnia every night, I'm now getting a good night's sleep almost every day. I've read that regular meditation — 2 or 3 times a day, just for 10-15 minutes — can be life-changing in terms of focusing, stress reduction, and achieving goals.

13. Write

This is a big and scary one. Have you always thought you couldn't write but wanted to? Why not give it a try? Set aside 15 minutes every day to write in a journal or even try writing fiction.  

I hope these ideas will help make a difficult time pass quickly and more pleasantly for you and your family! 

Barbara Evangelista is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Lowell, Mass.