We have been staying at home for about 8 weeks at this point. Our blog has talked a lot about how to be productive and work remotely; we gave Zoom tips and tools to help you communicate, share files, and collaborate on projects while you keep your social distancing. But work is only part of our lives. Based on the Back on Track – Indiana plan, we have another 3-4 weeks before we can return to entertainment or social activities. So today, let’s talk about some fun ways to entertain ourselves while at home.

Normally, the only time we’ve shut ourselves in, forsaking our social, sports, and children’s events and canceling appointments is when Mother Nature dumps several inches of snow and ice on us. The longest I can recall in my lifetime was 7 days and we spent our time playing board and card games, putting together a puzzle, and watching TV. I even remember the neighbors walking over and playing board games with us.

Our current situation has certainly lasted much longer than 7 days. By now, our houses are clean, the storage areas have been sorted, and yards are looking great. I’ve even washed my windows. So, it might be time to find some entertainment. But how do we gather around a board game while still maintaining our social distancing? Plus, if you invite friends over to play games, would you have to wear a mask or gloves?

Many people turn to video games on their Wii Switch, Xbox, or PlayStation. There are online computer video games that my 16-year-old son could tell us all about. He can spend hours with a headset talking with his buddies as he plays these games. There are various types of games that can be placed as a family or individual: racing Mario Karts, rocking out with Rock Band, various dancing games, building cities, fantasy quests, online cooperative games, and first-person shooting games.

If you’re like me and not into console games, it doesn’t mean you’re old and should take up knitting, not that knitting is bad, of course! Just for me it ranks up there with watching paint dry. So, let’s check out entertainment options for the rest of us.

Personally, I read a lot, with the public libraries closed for the last 8 weeks and remains closed. We do, however, have Kindle, BookBub, and Audible at our fingertips. Kindle is an app that you can install on a PC, tablet, or phone. You can then purchase e-books to read via the app, operating as part of Amazon. Just like buying books from our local bookstores, the price of e-books can add up. I tend to be cheap…yes, I admit it. That’s where BookBub comes in. Bookbub.com is a website where you can sign up for daily emails of free and reduced-price e-books. You can set your preferences of genres and links to the book selections are delivered right to your inbox. Some of the freebies are Book 1 of a series, and I find myself buying the rest of the series because the author gets me hooked. If you’re not a reader but love a good story, then there is also Audible which is audiobooks. Audible has a $16 / month subscription; beware if you do the “free trial”, it is a challenge to get it canceled if you don’t want to continue it. Another option is Podcasts. There are several apps for listening to these, such as Spotify, Podcast Addict, and others. These tend to be short opinion “talk Radio” type interviews or monologues.

Here in Indiana, I learned about Euchre sitting on my Dad’s lap, and I’m pretty sure it was an official pastime at Purdue. However, our household wasn’t lucky enough to be quarantined with the necessary 4-players. The Stay at Home order got us exploring ways to play Euchre at a distance. If you’re a Euchre fan, you can check out Euchre 3D as an app on your iPhone or Android. If, like me, you would prefer a computer version, then Trickster Cards allows you to play Euchre with friends or strangers online. Both allow you to set up “friends” so you can invite your normal card players to join you for a card game night. With Trickster, you can play Hearts, Spades, or any other of your favorites. Trickster Cards will download to your computer or you can play from their website.

If jigsaw puzzles are your thing, I have found two different sites that give me a fun and challenging puzzle online:

Both allow you to pick the puzzle. In some cases, you can decide how many pieces to change how challenging it is. You can even create a puzzle from your own photos. I find a puzzle or two in the evenings or while eating lunch helps me unwind and reduce the mental strain.

We have also started playing board games with parents and siblings in other states. Board Game Arena gives you over 170 board games to select and play. It has options for real-time games or “play by turns” which allows you to play at your own pace. The free membership allows you to join and play games. However, some games are considered Premium, which requires the upgraded account. The paid upgraded membership gives allows you to set your player color, play the premium games, integrate voice, or video chat with your friends, and even allow 2 players to play using the same device. This upgrade is about $24 / year or $4/month. No download is required, just create a username and password, and have fun.

Another site for several board and computer games is Steam, which has my favorite, Ticket to Ride. They have over 100 free to play, but many more that you can purchase to play. It does require a download to your computer or tablet. You can browse by type of games, genre, etc., and game prices vary a lot, so I recommend you look around.

There are all kinds of games and entertainment options out there. These aren’t new; it just took this pandemic for us to explore the options. There are a myriad of websites and apps to be explored. If you have a favorite board game, I suggest you google and look for an online version. Some games allow full guilds of friends to play ongoing games. One group of friends have been playing the same game via a phone app for 3 years. So, if you’re going stir-crazy, missing your family and friends, or just need some relaxation, how about setting up a Game Night and playing with your friends and family? Get everyone on Zoom, pour yourself your favorite drink, grab some snacks, and have some laughs with your friends and family. If you need a fourth player for Euchre, let us know. : )

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