Spending most of 2020 inside hasn’t been fun. Combat this boredom with your family or solo by painting, cookie decorating, or blanket making.

Think outside the box with activities
Think outside the box with activities
Photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash

I think it’s safe to say self-isolation has been hard on most everyone. Rather than spend holidays and birthdays surrounded by loved ones, many are trapped inside. Now another potential lockdown is looming upon us and the holiday season is right around the corner. It’s the perfect time to find new activities to keep busy.

When the pandemic forced most of us inside, I got creative and found new ways to bond with my family of four and keep myself entertained. For Mother’s Day, I taught a step-by-step painting class to my family. Since we couldn’t have a big family celebration for Easter, we decided to do something different and decorated cookies. In the summer, I taught myself how to make a blanket with chunky yarn. It took days and amazed my family, whom all put in requests for one. With a second lockdown potentially around the corner, here are some ideas to keep you and your family entertained.

Teach a Painting Class From Home

Painting is a great way to decompress
Painting is a great way to decompress
Photo by Guilherme Bellotti on Unsplash

Places like Pinot’s Pallet, where you get step-by-step instructions on how to paint, have grown in popularity. Before the pandemic, I’ve always seen these classes filled. Due to COVID-19 and the many restrictions, this may not be an option.

My mom was hoping to attend one for Mother’s Day, but the pandemic made it impossible. Understanding this, I took things into my own hands-on Mother’s Day this year. I went on YouTube and watched a few tutorials for beginner painters. Once I found a painting I liked and knew my whole family could do, I set out to buy the supplies. On Mother’s Day, I sat my family down at the table, got out all my paints and brushes then taught them how to paint the selected picture. Everyone’s painting came out differently; I helped each member of my family do a different color scheme.

Designs like this allow for an easy blend of colors by Wow Art

What You’ll Need:

  • Canvas.
  • Acrylic paint.
  • Paintbrushes.
  • Paper plates or paint pallets.
  • Easel. (Optional.)

I buy all my art supplies at Michaels, preferring the Artist Loft brand as it’s a good quality for a reasonable price, but any brand works. Unless you’re a seasoned painter, stick to acrylic paint—it’s easier to fix mistakes and the most controllable. Start with something simple like a silhouette or mountain-scape; there’s a lot of great tutorials online. You don’t have to be a great painter to do this. It’s about having fun and bonding with your family. Set your inner artist free!

Bake Your Feelings, Decorate the Treats

These cookies are soft and sweet
These cookies are soft and sweet
Photo by Trình Minh Thư on Unsplash

Cookie decorating is a gratifying experience. You get to have fun and have some delicious treats to munch on. With the holidays coming up, there’s plenty of options for shapes.

Instead of coloring eggs this past Easter, my family got creative. We didn’t want to color three dozen eggs like we usually would since it would just be the four of us and thirty-six eggs without a big family gathering. Instead, I found a recipe online, and we made cutout sugar cookies that we decorated. Your baking by no means has to be holiday-themed; bake a batch of cookies because they’re delightful. Quarantine baking has become quite popular, and for a good reasontreats make us happy.

Baking also allows you to get creative. You can experiment with flavors by using different extracts; most cookies use vanilla. I love adding a dab of almond extract to my recipes for the slightest nutty flavor. It also reminds me of my grandma, who’s always added it to Christmas cookies. Maybe try some peppermint extract this winter in a chocolate cookie. Note that you could use an emulsion instead; however, if the recipe calls for one tablespoon of extract, you should use one teaspoon of emulsion; emulsion has a stronger flavor.

Baking is a fun way to bond with your family
Baking is a fun way to bond with your family
Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

What You’ll Need:

  • Ingredients in a chosen recipe.
  • Rubber spatula.
  • Measuring spoons and cups.
  • Cookie-cutter.
  • Rolling pin.
  • Food coloring.
  • Mixing bowl.
  • Icing bag and tips. (Optional.)
  • Stand mixer or hand mixer.

When it comes to decorating your cookies beautifully, use royal icing as other icings may melt or require refrigeration. You can make royal icing in a few different ways. I recommend using a meringue powder; otherwise, you’ll have to make a meringue with egg whites and sugar.

When I make royal icing, I use Wilton’s meringue powder and follow a recipe online that calls for it. If you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t fret, I didn’t have one until recently, and you can bake this with a handheld mixer. However, should you have a stand mixer, I recommend using it to save time. Once your icing is mixed, feel free to use food dye or gel food coloring to mix up some colors. Spread them on your cookies with a butter knife or an icing bag with a small tip inside for more intricate designs.

Bury Yourself Under Chunk Yarn

Make a cozy blanket to hide under
Make a cozy blanket to hide under
Photo by Sdf Rf on Unsplash

Chunky yarn is a thick, plush yarn that’s been on the rise lately. Making blankets out of it isn’t as hard as it looks. Once you’ve done it, you’ll have the coziest blanket you’ve ever owned.

After you get into a groove, the process becomes more comfortable and a little addicting. The day I learned, I got so wrapped up in it, I spent six hours on my blanket. My fingers and wrists were cramping the next day, so I don’t recommend working for six hours straight.  If you take your time, you’ll have a wonderful blanket and no hand cramps.

Before you go out and buy your yarn, you should check out a few videos online. They will allow you to see the process and decide if you want to do it before spending your money.  Once you’ve decided you want to make a custom, cushy blanket, itis time to head to the store. I prefer using Bernat chunky yarn because it’s incredibly soft and has a bit of stretch. After having my blanket for several months, it’s as good as it was the day I made it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Chunky yarn.
  •  A sewing needle.
  •  Thread.
My favorite tutorial for using chunky yarn by Lisette Bencomo

Making a blanket may seem intimidating, but it’s not as hard as it looks. The process involves interlocking loops of yarn. You’re only sewing when you come to the end of a skein of yarn to ensure the two tails of yarn are connected. You also must sew all four corners down when you finish your blanket to ensure it doesn’t unravel. I throw in a few additional stitches for extra security.

When it comes to size, you’ll need several skeins of yarn. A decent sized blanket is about five, and a large is seven. Of course, you could go beyond that, but seven skeins are about the size of a king mattress with no overhanging edges. However big it is, it’ll be one of a kind and keep you busy.

Being trapped inside is boring, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be hard to find cheer for the upcoming holidays during a lockdown. You could spend your time teaching a family painting class, decorating cookies, or making a blanket. Maybe do all three. Regardless of what you do, finding a way to keep entertained is important. It’ll take your mind off things and give you a chance to bond with those around you.