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As the days shorten and the nights draw in, it’s all too easy to go into hibernation mode. Add the UK’s very anti-social lockdown restrictions and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some serious alone time.
So what’s a person to do with their evenings when the options are increasingly limited? Whether you live in a household with kids, a house-share, as a couple, or alone, here are some ideas.
And you’ll be pleased to know, there’s not a Zoom quiz in sight.
Mystery box game
Megan Douthwaite, who has more than four years experience in events planning, recommends creating a mystery box and testing your family or friends’ knowledge of their favourite festive treats in the run up to Christmas.
“Everyone knows food is the best part of the festive season,” she says. “This is a great activity for kids of all ages and really easy to set up.”
Get yourself a couple of boxes of any kind and size – an empty cereal box, shoe box or whatever you can find – and cut a small, hand-shaped hole into the top. Fill each container with a festive treat such as mince pies, Christmas cake, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce or even Brussels sprouts.
“The objective is that each person feels inside the box, guesses what the item is, and the winner is whoever guesses the most correctly,” says Douthwaite, who points out you could also play this game with other festive items such as pine cones, Santa hats and Christmas baubles. It’ll be worth getting a few items that may feel the same, so it’s harder to guess!
“Part of the fun could be decorating the mystery boxes with festive colours and glitter before playing the game,” she adds.
We said no Zoom pub quizzes – but that doesn’t mean video calls are out of the equation. Douthwaite, who now works at digital marketing agency Spike, recommends creating a family portrait with a twist. “If you can’t see your family or friends in person this year, this is a lovely, fun idea to get everyone involved in and feeling a little bit creative,” she says.
Her advice is simple: get dressed up in your best outfit, jump on a video call with your family (or friendship group) and task each person to draw a portrait of someone else on the video call.
“This could be as simple as a mini pencil sketch, or you could go full-on brightly coloured paints on A3,” she says. “Whack some tunes on in the background, get the bubbles flowing and who knows, you could end up with a lovely gift to frame – or not, depending on how many glasses of fizz are consumed.”
One way to indulge in some classic Big Night In (BNI) action is to bring the party to you – enter stage right: the Waitrose Cocktails at Home experience box. (There’s also a whisky one if that’s your jam.) It’s perfect for a special occasion – such as birthdays – if you’re planning on staying in.
The two limited edition boxes include the key ingredients and kit to make either gin cocktails with a bottle of Roku gin, or whisky cocktails with Toki whisky, as well as John Lewis high ball glasses, cocktail spoon, jigger and a booklet containing two cocktail recipes and a range of garnishes.
Inside each box is also an invitation to an online masterclass with a Waitrose drinks specialist, where you can find out more about your chosen spirit and learn to mix the cocktails like a pro. Bottom’s up!
Ok, so movie nights are a pretty standard thing in most households, but if you really want to pull the stops out, why not try something a bit different?
Recreate the cinema experience at home with homemade tickets, popcorn, pick ‘n’ mix and ice cream. Set up some seats near your TV screen (but not too close!), turn the lights and your phone off, and enjoy the showing.
Homemade Christmas decorations
If you’re flying solo and looking for something fun to do, Douthwaite recommends making your own Christmas decorations.
“Lots of online craft shops sell some great, budget-friendly craft kits to make your own baubles, or you could even use what you’ve got in your cupboards at home or head outside to source your decor,” she says.
You could also make your own candles, paint pine cones silver and attach some string to hang off your tree, or glue some hazelnuts together and paint them as a snowman, she suggests. “Maybe you could give wreath-making a go – head out for a walk, pick up some twigs, dried leaves, pine cones and whatever else you can find and create a lovely table or door piece,” she adds.
“This is a great way to spend a cosy night in, is really cost-effective, and could be a lovely homemade gift idea as well.”
For those wanting to forego the literal pumpkin guts this year, why not try sculpting clay pumpkins instead?
Just as messy, but a little more long-lasting. Sculpd have created a limited edition Halloween Pottery Bundle – it has everything needed to craft and paint realistic clay pumpkins and Halloween decorations at home, including a pottery kit, eight paints, and a video tutorial detailing how to actually sculpt pumpkins.
Board game battle
If there’s a few of you at home – whether you live in a house or flat-share, or you have kids – host the ultimate games night by playing three different board games and whoever wins the most games, wins the night (and a prize that you’ve all chipped in for).
Opt for board games that won’t take up the whole evening (Monopoly, we’re looking at you). And if it does run into the small hours, a midnight feast wouldn’t go amiss – especially if you have kids.
Get a takeaway with your mate
For that all-important feeling of connection, why not book in a virtual date night with your mate? Get set up with a video call, order your takeaways so they arrive at roughly the same time, and spend the evening catching up properly.
Have a glass of wine – or your preferred non-alcoholic alternative – then eat good food and have a proper DMC (deep and meaningful chat).
Of course, if you live with people who are up for a takeaway evening, too, then you don’t have to do it virtually.
Barbecues aren’t just for summer – especially in Covid times. If you have a garden, choose your menu (we’d opt for sausages and mash), wrap up warm, get some sparklers on the go, light some candles, and enjoy the magic of the darker nights.
If you don’t have a BBQ, cook a hearty chilli con carne inside and enjoy it outdoors wrapped in blankets, while looking at the stars.
Learn sign language
Airbnb host a huge range of virtual experiences to help keep both adults and kids entertained throughout the pandemic. One event that might appeal is learning sign language. Matt, the host, lives with profound hearing loss and is on hand to help teach festive phrases in sign language, as well as Christmas carols. Tickets cost £20 per person.
The class will start by everyone getting to know each other before breaking into teams and learning vocabulary, gestures and the alphabet. Any one of any age can join – and this class is suitable for beginners. A truly fulfilling way to spend the evening for adults and kids alike.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.