Monday, March 30, 2020

Fun Stuff to Do While Sheltering in Place

So... life just got pretty weird this month, huh?  Here in the US, anyway -- I know it's been weird for a while in other parts of the world.

My family has been "sheltering in place" for two weeks now, in that Cowboy is now working from home, our church services are now held online, the kids' swimming lessons have been cancelled, and so on.  I do still go out to get groceries, but only once a week, not two or three times, and I don't take the kids with me.

I feel so blessed right now.  Cowboy can work from home.  We already homeschool, so my kids haven't had to transition to a new way of schooling.  We can video chat with family and friends with ease.  My hubby and I are both introverts, so we haven't been chafing under the need to stay home.  My house is crammed with books and movies and games and puzzles and toys, so there's no need to run out of fun things to keep us all occupied.  We own our own home and have a backyard, so the kids can still play outside without having to worry about coming into contact with others, plus we're not sharing walls or ventilation systems with other people.

The thing is, I know there are people who are not this blessed.  Who live in tiny apartments or crowded places, who are having to learn how to teach their children, who are extroverts and need social interaction for their emotional well-being.  Who don't own oodles of books and movies, or aren't entertained by them.  And people who have lost their jobs, whether temporarily or permanently.

For me, this has been a cozy couple of weeks.  For others, this has been a nightmare.  I understand that.  I don't want to give the impression that just because my family is doing okay, I assume everyone else is too.  If you're struggling at this time, please reach out.  To family, to friends, to strangers on the internet.  It's okay to say, "This is hard."  "I hate this."  "I'm having trouble."  "I need help.  Please help me."  If you need help, let people know.  Let me know, if you need to.  You can message me on Instagram or leave a comment here, especially if you have a prayer request or just need someone to talk to.

Okay.  So.  The title of this post is "Fun Stuff to Do While Sheltering in Place," and that's what the rest of it will be devoted to!  I've found a whole slew of things online that are either free or cheap and that I think other people might find fun or helpful.  Here they are:

+ Amazing children's book author and illustrator Mo Willems is doing free lunchtime drawing lessons for kids here on YouTube.

+ Colonial Williamsburg is closed for now, but their website is adding all kinds of wonderful interactive content.  I think their interactive timeline for the Stamp Act is really cool.  And they have all kinds of cool videos done by their historical interpreters (scroll down to find them).  PLUS, they have downloadable activity and coloring sheets.  AND they have some recipes here for 18th-century dishes.  If you're a teacher (public, private, or homeschool), you can create a free teacher account (or use a temporary one) to access videos, lesson plans, and interactive online activities.

+ Homeschool blog Blest the House has some great ideas for educational, fun ways to occupy your kids.  It's aimed at those who are suddenly having to teach their kids at home for the first time, but seasoned homeschoolers can find great ideas there too.  You might find that their Curriculum Potluck series of posts has ideas of resources you might find useful too.

+ The website Learning Through Literature has a lot of helpful articles and links to resources right now too.  I recommend their articles on book-based indoor activities, five tips for home learning, and how to create a rhythm for your day while sheltering at home.

+ ALL kids audiobook titles are free to kids on Amazon's Audible service for as long as schools are closed.

Scribd is offering a 30-day free trial of their ebooks and audiobooks.

+ You can listen to full-cast audio recordings of seven of Shakespeare's plays (including Hamlet!) for free on the Folger Shakespeare Center's website now through June 30.

+ You can watch a video of the Folger Shakespeare Center's 2008 production of Macbeth for free now through June 30.  (WARNING: Looks too scary for kids.)

+ The American Shakespeare Center has had to close their Blackfriars Playhouse for the spring season, but they're offering streamed versions of many of their plays, with "tickets" starting at $10.  (Might not always be child-friendly.)

+ The Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI, is offering their museum coloring book for free download so you can print it off and color it at home.

+ Etsy artist Bookmarks by Faye is offering four dragon coloring sheets for free download.

+ Etsy artist Mandie Manzano has lowered the price on each of her three download-and-print coloring book collections to $5 each.  I love her artwork so much!

+ Several artists, including Mandie Manzano, have created Collective Coloring, a place to find free downloadable coloring sheets.

That's all I have for today, but if I find more cool stuff to share, I'll do another post like this in the future!  If you have resources you'd like to share, post them in the comments so others can learn about them too!


  1. I am definitely going to check out Audible because Micah devours audiobooks due to his dyslexia, and he's been missing them since the library is closed. This might be a lifesaver for us. Thanks.

    1. Jennifer, oh, how cool! I hope that helps Micah (and you). You're welcome!

  2. I never went out much, and I still work which means that I've lost home alone time. But I'm still trying to be productive, so maybe after this ends, I will come out of my hiding. However, hearing about everything all the time was/is crazy-making so it's felt like longer than two weeks.

    I'm thinking I'm going to have to buy Mandie Mandzano's fairy tale coloring book, it looks amazing!

    My library has moved their account online for 30 days (usually you would have to go in to use it). So, I will be taking advantage of that.

    I think Audible Escape was offering a 30 day free trial or something? I saw some mental health app being made free, but I don't remember the name.

    1. Livia, yeah, it's even harder than usual to find good work-life balance right now, I think.

      I LOVE Mandie Manzano's artwork, and I have all 3 of her coloring book packets because they're just mmmmmmm, so gorgeous.

      Lots of good resources available, for sure!

  3. This post is a relief to read. Thank you. <333

    I'm technically an introvert, cognitive functions wise (that is, I'm definitely INFP and not ENFP), but without regular opportunities to leave my house, I am downright miserable. I suspect this has something to do with my depression. Coupled with the fact that I'm being compelled to work from home, over video, and I H A T E teaching over video. Whatever it is--I'm pretty miserable.

    So I VERY much appreciate the encouragement to admit "I'm not doing so great," cuz ... I'm really not.

    I've been taking at least two loooooooong walks every day, just to keep myself from going completely stir crazy. Also reading a ton. And chatting incessantly with friends over various messaging platforms.

    1. You're welcome, Katie. I think the truest difference between introverts and extroverts is how they recharge. Introverts recharge by being alone, and extroverts recharge by being with other people. Introverts definitely do need to be around people, not constantly alone or cooped up! And I can see in all my friends who struggle with depression or anxiety that this whole situation is really hurting them in ways I can only imagine, whether they're introverts or extroverts. So many people are not doing okay, and pretending they're fine is NOT helping. So the pretending needs to stop so forward movement can happen, I think.

      I'm glad you've been able to find ways to cope. I think blogging might see a little renaissance right now because people need to chat and share and connect over stuff like books and movies. And people need things to think about besides The News all the time.

    2. You're absolutely right. Whether extroverts or introverts, we are still social beings who need a certain amount of "other people time"--so this is gonna be hard for ALL of us. Like, definitely, after I do socialize in person I need to relax and wind down alone ... but I still NEED the socializing in the first place!

      Mmmmhhhhmmmmmmmm. Pretending you're fine when you're not is Never Wise.

      In a weird way, this whole thing has reaffirmed my calling as a storyteller, though?? Yes, my writing time has been cut down, but when I do find moments to write, it brings me peace in a way not much else can. And another thing that GREATLY comforts me is the realization that my basic "job" as a writer remains exactly the same. I still sit down at the computer and bang out The Words (TM) the way I always did. So in a scary new reality where my "day job" and everybody else's day job are changing beyond recognition--writing is a welcome bit of continuity.

    3. Katie, I agree. Storytelling is still important to me as a person and to all of us. Think how many stories are getting enjoyed right now by people who have more time to read and watch things! And who are hungry for more things to read and watch!

      I had this bad day when all this first really started impacting us, the day my mom left and my hubby had to start working from home. I was like, "Why am I thinking about and working on this stupid book when there are so many important things going on?" And then... I ate a Dove chocolate that my husband had bought me a week before, and it had this little message printed inside the wrapper that said something like "Your dreams are important -- don't wait for the night to follow them." And it was exactly what I needed to hear, this little reminder that dreams are still important. And I started rewriting and revising again because of it. (I can't remember exactly what it said, -- I folded it up all nice so it showed the message, and I put it on the kitchen island where I could read it every now and then, when I needed a lift, and I looked for it just now so I could write it up here, and I couldn't find it. Turns out my husband thought it was trash and threw it away, so now I just want to punch him.)

      Anyway. It's still good and necessary and important to continue writing. I'm glad you've found that to be true too.

  4. Glad your family is doing okay! <3

  5. I love this post!

    My one contribution would be that AMEB (the Australian Musical Examination Board) are doing free courses on grades 1, 2 and 3 on music theory until June 30th, so anyone who wants to learn music theory for free now has the perfect opportunity (meeee)! :D

    1. *Australian Music Examinations Board ;)

    2. Gabby, that sounds so cool! Do you have to be in Australia to take those?

  6. Good post.

    Nothing has changed physically for me that much (except occasional lunches out with friends) but... the mental change is enormous. I no longer know what day of the week it is. I just keep doing the usual things, but emotionally, am not in the same place. I weave in and out of depression, being fine, optimism, pessimism, etc. It's all very internal for me. I didn't realize either how much joy having people over, fixing meals for them, hosting teas, and planning little things gives me. Now I can't. I can't even plan things, really, since nobody knows how long social isolation is going to last. I'm an extrovert who is a homebody, but without my family to talk to / watch movies with here on the ranch, I'd probably lose my mind. :P

    1. Thanks, Charity!

      Yes, it's been more of a mental/emotional change for me too. I'm mostly just going about life as normal, but when I go to buy groceries once a week, I'm just wiped out for the rest of the day from all the weirdness of being out in the changed world. And I'm sad to have to cancel/postpone things like the fun stuff I had planned for my birthday this month, our summer vacation, and so on.

      I'm an introvert homebody, but I like going places too. And now... not happening. Sigh.

    2. I had to get groceries a few days ago and ... that was seriously depressing. Nobody looking at or talking to each other, staying six feet apart, avoiding eye contact, and seeming depressed and/or scared. It drained me. :/

      Ditto. My birthday is the first Sunday in May and this will be the first time in my adult life I can't hang out with my friends to celebrate it. Bummer. :/

      Happy Birthday. ;)

      Hopefully your summer vacation plans will still be on. We can't sustain this as a society for much longer.

    3. Charity, yeah, it is weird out there. I wear a red bandanna and a black cowboy hat like I'm an outlaw just because it makes me smile, even if no one sees it. And it makes kids smile too, when I happen to see some. But it's still hard. (I've actually ordered a Mandalorian helmet to wear instead, with a face mask underneath, just because... half the time I'm just nodding instead of talking anyway, so might as well. But it won't come until sometime in May, so I'm hoping I won't get to wear it much, if that makes sense.)

      Happy early birthday to you :-) :-( Good thing they come around every year.

      Yeah, I have hope that we'll be able to take a vacation later in the summer, but it won't be in early June, I'm guessing. If only because, if people can go places by then, everyplace will be teeming with people. We'll just play it by ear.

    4. *casually scrolling down to comment to your reply, sees Basil Rathbone Blog-a-Thon banner, and jumps on that like a tick on a dog coz she's been in love with Basil Rathbone since she was twelve*

      Ahem. Where were we?

      That's adorable. I'm glad you do that for yourself and any kids you see. Wonder if there's some clever funny kind of Baby Yoda thing to wear? Though I'm far too vain to wear it. LOL

      Yes, I am PRAYING we are going back to normal by May.

      I'm being inventive, re: entertaining myself. Tomorrow is the TITANIC anniversary sinking, so instead of my annual viewing party, it will be a party of one, yours truly, eating a mini tea spread and drinking ginger ale instead of champagne, wearing her Titanic replica dress and Heart of the Ocean necklace. Pathetic? Possibly. Gives me joy? Absolutely.

      Yeah. You may have to wait a few weeks. Where did you want to go?

    5. Charity -- haha! That's why I put those buttons there :-)

      I love your ideas for the Titanic anniversary! DKoren and I have Mandalorian Mondays every week and watch the next ep together after my kids are in bed. And then I work on reviewing them. It's so nice to have that steady, scheduled friend-date to look forward to.

      Our vacation was going to be our usual round of visiting family members in the Midwest. Maybe this year we'll do something radically different and just go to the beach for a few days or something. Maybe in September when it's not so miserably hot.

  7. Hello there,
    I hope you're still keeping safe and cozy! I've blogged my review of Dancing and Doughnuts

    And I know the comment is late, but in terms of audiobooks, my regional library has over 5000 titles available for free download over the internet, so you might be able to find audiobooks through your library too if you are so inclined!

    1. Hello, VT! Yes, we're safe and cozy so far. How're you?

      And how exciting! I will zip over and read your review :-)

      My library does have loads of audiobooks and ebooks available still... and once my kids are done with school for the year, we may be utilizing those more.

    2. Thanks for your lovely reply to my review! And happy Easter.

    3. VT, you're welcome! Happy Easter Monday to you :-)


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