You know those things you always said you’d do when you had the time? There’s no time like the (self-quarantined) present, and many of these activities are free or low-cost

Nicole Clausing  – March 27, 2020 | Updated March 29, 2020

By now, even the most introverted of us is starting to crave a little connection, a little of the big world out there, or at least something different than the same four walls and meals out of the pantry. (Although we are enjoying the challenge of can cooking more than we expected.) Here are a few of our favorite new ways to pass the time, most of which are kid-friendly and free, at least for now. You might just learn something, and with the wealth of activities out there, you definitely don’t have to be bored.

Learn a Language

If you’ve been meaning to brush up on your high-school French, or wish you’d studied Spanish in school, now’s the time. Babbel has thrown open the doors to its virtual classrooms for all students living in the United States. Just visit the site and sign up for an online coupon. Online lessons in 12 languages are free this spring for anyone currently enrolled in school. (There’s also a half-price offer available to everyone right now.) One silver lining of all this isolation could be the ability to talk to more people once we’re all allowed outside. Price: Free for three months; then $13/month

Guitar Lessons

Learning a musical instrument is another project a lot of us have on our “when I’ve got the time and some extra cash” list. If Covid-19 has given you the time, Fender Guitars has temporarily taken care of the cash part. It’s offering three free months of guitar, bass, or ukulele lessons. That’s plenty of time to learn a few big numbers, as lessons are based on actual popular music by artists like Johnny Cash and Kelly Clarkson, as opposed to the nursery rhymes and public-domain ditties you may have had to start with growing up. Cost: Free for three months; then $10/month

MOOC and Other Online Courses

If you’ve never looked into Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs before, now is a good time. MOOCs are serious courses of study, often from prestigious universities, and often for free.  If you’ve ever wished you had paid attention in calculus class, learned what Italian opera is all about, or could re-take a history course with an adult’s understanding of the world, now you can. Less lecture-oriented are the offerings on the Skillshare site. These tend to be interactive and oriented toward developing professional skills like photography and illustration. (Free for two months, then $36/3 months.) MasterClass, too, is an excellent way to boost your professional skills, allowing you to watch video classes from teachers at the top of various fields, with instructors including Stephen Curry, Gordon Ramsay, and Annie Leibovitz. Unfortunately, there’s no current sale. $15/month for unlimited access

Scratch

Scratch is an initiative out of MIT that prepares kids for a future very much like today: conducted creatively, collaboratively, and in front of a computer screen. Kids (or anyone, really) can learn to code through fun interactive activities. They can share the games and animations they’ve created, making connections while real-time testing. We can’t think of a better way for kids to get through an isolated today than by learning skills that will prepare them for a high-tech tomorrow. Cost: Free

Fitness

With the “I’m too busy” excuse off the table, now is a good time to get serious about fitness. Online classes have been around for a while but lately we’re noticing more options than ever. Gold’s Gym is offering its Daily Burn online classes for free through May 31 (normally starting at $8/month) and Planet Fitness has a free class every day at 4pm PT. With a little poking around, you can find free classes in yoga (two free months), meditationdance, and just about anything else.

Get Your Sports Fix

I don’t know about you, but I could watch Carli Lloyd’s 2015 World Cup goal from the half-field line over and over again. And now I can: FIFA is streaming memorable World Cup soccer games on its YouTube channel. That’s just a taste of what’s available free right now, though. You can watch a replay of every NFL game played in the last 11 years with a free Game Pass, all of last year’s NBA season plus a few classics from years past with a free NBA League Pass, and 2019-2020 hockey action at NHL.tv. Also worth noting: PBS is streaming Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary for free this spring. That’s nearly 20 shut-in hours filled right there.

Virtual Concerts and Cultural Events

It’s true that nothing can take the place of being part of a live audience, but you can still partake of major cultural events from inside your home. The Metropolitan Opera, for example, is currently streaming operatic performances nightly for free. And we’re noticing a growing trend of popular musicians streaming live shows for fans, often with an interactive Q&A session afterward. Check your favorite artist’s social media to see what they may have planned. And if it’s a nice, quiet stroll through a gallery you’re craving, you can do that virtually now. Google’s remarkable Arts & Culture platform lets you browse the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, the Hermitage, and other major museums all over the world.

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