10 free things you can do while stuck at home during COVID-19

·5 min read

We get it. COVID-19 has you stuck inside, or at very least close to home, and after seven weeks it's getting boring. But there are things — free things — you could be doing with your free time right now that will help you in the future.

(Yes, we also get that some of you have zero free time, but you might still find some fun activities in this list.)

Here are some things to do before the lockdown lifts and some free supports to help you:

Scan those old family photos

They're probably sitting in dusty old albums in your attic or basement, but now more than ever a lot of us are thinking about who and what really matters in our lives. So what better time to go through those treasured memories and preserve them digitally?

Not only will you be making sure they're safe from deterioration, but they'll also be a fun way to liven up your family WhatsApp chats.

There is a whole bunch of free photo-scanning smartphone apps out there from companies like Google.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Learn a new language

Use that extra time you have on your hands to take up a language you've always wanted to learn. You can practise out loud in the privacy of your home, call up friends or family to practise, or even watch films in different languages to sharpen your ear.

And, sure, travel restrictions make it impossible to get away during the pandemic. But once life returns to normal, you'll be ready to impress that waiter with your linguistic prowess — or at least be able to ask for directions.

Plenty of online resources are available for free to get you started. Duolingo is a popular one. Rosetta Stone is offering a free three-month subscription. Babbel is offering three months of free classes as well. And there are countless resources on YouTube.

Lock down your digital privacy

You've spent the lockdown navigating Zoom, Skype and FaceTime calls, but have you thought about protecting your email and social media accounts?

The University of Toronto's Citizen Lab offers this interactive tool that evaluates your internet use and recommends steps to strengthen your digital security.



Let's face it. You've put off organizing your closet for long enough, and once life goes back to normal, the last thing you'll want to do is spend your time cleaning. So pick a room you use most and start there. The bedroom, the kitchen — sleeping and cooking will be that much smoother and might just motivate you to take on some of the bigger eyesores in your home, like the basement or den.

So get your Marie Kondo on and get cleaning.

Shutterstock / varandah
Shutterstock / varandah

Learn to cook a restaurant-quality dish

Toronto's restaurants are hurting right now, but that hasn't stopped some of the city's top chefs from sharing recipes for some of their favourite dishes. Sure, they'll probably do it better than you, but until you can get back out there why not take a crack at homemade pizza, bulgogi, cassoulet, or chocolate babka.

This is also a great time to learn to cook cheap, nutritious staples.

Canadian Leanne Brown's free online cookbook Good and Cheap, first published in 2013, remains a classic. Its entire goal is to leave readers eating well for $4 a day.

Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal
Supplied by Julie Van Rosendaal

Host a virtual dinner party with friends or family

Pick one recipe everyone can cook at the same time and enjoy dinner together. Breaking bread online can can be especially fulfilling if you live on your own.

Submitted by Barry Parsons
Submitted by Barry Parsons

Do your taxes

This is a groaner, we're sorry.

For a lot of people, this will be impossible right now as you grapple with how to deal with programs like CERB or EI -- and there's no pressure, as the federal government has pushed the deadline for filing your taxes back to June.

If COVID-19 is hitting your wallet hard, here are three key tips from a personal finance expert.

But, if you can, why not get those taxes done?

There are plenty of online tools to help you do it, and don't forget to check your CRA account to see if you have old uncashed cheques just sitting there.

James Kost/Shutterstock
James Kost/Shutterstock

Mend your clothes

You can online shop for new clothing. Or, you could take this time to try mending what you already have.

Yes, it'll require some tools, but as CBC Radio's Aparita Bhandari reports, there's real enjoyment in repairing your worn-out favourites.

Submitted by Aparita Bhandari
Submitted by Aparita Bhandari

Work out

There are plenty of options for working out in physically-distant ways.

The Toronto Raptors strength and conditioning coach has been issuing fitness challenges via Instagram during the pandemic. You can do them in a condo-sized space, but be warned, they're not easy.

Other places are offering some free online classes, like City Dance Corps, Muse Movement Pilates and Saana Yoga on Instagram live.

The library is not closed, it's online

The Toronto Public Library has a lot of stuff available online for you to discover, even if you don't already have a library card.

If you need something to occupy the kiddos, Markham Public Library is holding a Spring Reading Challenge for children up to age 12 to keep their skills sharp while schools are closed.

And the Mississauga Library holds live story-time sessions every weekday at 11 a.m. on Facebook.

If you have other ideas or resources to help out your neighbours in and around Toronto during this time let them know in the comments below.

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