How To Spend Your Covid-19 Lockdown Time – Free Things To Do

 Camping is STILL not a sensible thing to do, whatever some people say. Think of the communities you’d be putting at risk. This will all be over sooner if we stay as close to home as possible.

So, here are some ideas for how to stay sane during this crazy time – ways to help, games to play, activities to keep you connected and more.


Latest update: February 2021



Campers are a resourceful lot, so we’re in a good position to be able to entertain ourselves – hopefully with some energy left over to do a few kindnesses too.

Stay safe – stay home – and see you on the other side of the chaos.

Learn something new

Make music

 Get practising now and you’ll be ready for your next trip. Here I am in better days with a baritone ukulele. Bet your eyes immediately strayed to that precious toilet roll in the background[/caption]

Get out the guitar or the recorder and dust off the piano. But if you don’t have an actual instrument, download a music-making app that gives you an on-screen keyboard, drum pad or synth. 

Make music together

Use WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom to jam with friends and family.

Join Jess Gillam’s virtual orchestra. Whatever your level (or lack of it) and whatever your instrument, here’s a chance to play together. 

Learn a language

Learn a language for when we get to travel again. I personally don’t like Duolingo, but my 84-year-old mum loves it (she’s already tackling German, Norwegian and Mandarin). Plenty of other apps for phones and computers. 

Open University

The Open University has a big range of free courses. They’re at a range of levels and lasting from a few hours to a few weeks. Polar biology to beginners’ Chinese.

Open Culture courses

Open Culture has masses of free courses from the world’s top universities. 1,500 online courses from universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and more – from history, philosophy and literature, to physics, biology, psychology, and computer science.

YouTube tutorials

Our woodshed is the result of a free YouTube tutorial, so are my rag dolls and my box cushions. Crafts, DIY, art, cooking…there’s no end to the options.

Do something for someone else

I’ve called my mum almost every day since my stepdad died a few years ago. Now, I can’t get through. She says she’s never had so many people calling her every day – and she LOVES it!

The simplest way to help is to call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Do you know of anyone who might be on their own at home? Then call them too. And remember that it’s not just older people who’ll be feeling isolated now.

Good Samaritans

If you want to do more, the NHS needs volunteers to help vulnerable people (at a safe distance). You can find out more and sign up at Good Sam. They need patient transport drivers, community response volunteers and people to ‘check in and chat’ over the phone.

Mutual Aid groups

Within days of the crisis really taking hold, hundreds of Mutual Aid groups had been launched in local communities. They’re a local focus for volunteering help (whatever’s needed) and for getting help for those self-isolating or ill. Find out more and check if there’s already a group in your area here.

What’s App and GoogleGroups

Our area has had a GoogleGroup for residents for many years. It’s a great way to stay in touch with far-flung neighbours, to share recommendations for tradespeople, find out where the lost dog (or sheep) has got to and to offer and receive help. If you don’t have a group, then now might be a good time to set one up. 

Staying in touch with family and friends

If you’re finding it difficult to talk about anything other than Covid-19 when you speak over the phone, here’s a tip from Carla – play a game with them instead or as well.

She recommends a Scrabble game, either an app or on Facebook. WordFeud is good, Puzzlr is good. But any multiplayer game that allows you to select friends to play will work too.

Other online game sites we’ve tried include Board Game Arena and Trickster Cards. Browser-based games (rather than phone apps) are clearer for many people to use, by the way.

Camp at home – and win a prize!

Get out the tent, sheet, barbecue, hammock, fairylights…whatever it takes. Just have fun! And send us your photos!

Pop over to the Big Camp-at-Home competition page for inspiration and details of how to win a prize or two.

Can’t explore the world? Then explore the nightsky

Have a look at our special article on back- garden tents especially for stargazers.

Get fit for free

Did you hear about the Parisian man who ran a marathon on the balcony of his flat? If that’s not your cuppa, then there are millions of YouTube fitness courses. I’ve really enjoyed the 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene, but there’s also everything from high-intensity interval training to pilates.

 If you didn’t know about Joe Wicks before, you’re sure to now. He does online PE for kids, but he’s also a hit with anyone wanting some fun exercise. Great for older people too.

Or you could try Kathleen’s keep-fit regime: “I found a hula hoop in the shed…blowed if I could get it to stay round my waist !! Mind you I am 70 and way out of practice! I used my push-along scooter round the garden and had a few bounces on the trampette!”

Set yourself a challenge

Run a marathon in your garden like Sidcup’s James Page. Add 20 seconds a day to your plank exercises. Give yourself a goal, maybe add in some charity fundraising. Here’s your chance to get a bit fitter or more flexible  without any pressure.

Get stuck into crafts, art, writing, anything creative

Now’s the time to get out the sewing machine, paints, notebook and pens.

I’ve made some Tilda dolls, Sashiko-darned a sock, restored a chair and my next project is a best-selling novel…or maybe I’ll just laze in the hammock.

As mentioned earlier, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube and many crafters and artists are running livestream sessions. Hobbycraft, for example, is hosting a daily craft club for kids.

Read and listen for free

Audible is making hundreds of titles available free for as long as the schools stay closed. There’s something for every age and every taste. Just visit to begin. Logins and bank details aren’t needed.

Thanks to Sally H for the reminder that local libraries usually have an online service or app that gives you access to digital books. Just visit your local council’s library service online.

The National Emergency Library has free access to 1.4m digitised books, largely aimed at studying, but with an amazing array of subjects. 

Have a laugh

The Stay at Home Festival has comedy, science and more. It’s been put together by Robin Ince to keep us all smiling now that there are no festivals to go to.

Daily shows plus catch-up.

Visit a virtual museum or art gallery

The Museum of Broken Relationships.

Lots of museums and galleries have opened their doors online for virtual tours. Here are just a few suggestions.

Plan for better times

This WILL be over some time. Plan for where you’ll camp next, with a renewed sense of freedom and fun.


Practise putting up the tent in the garden (or even the bedroom), reorganise the campervan or caravan, check through your camping gear to see what’s never been used and what’s missing.

I’ve been poring through the Wild Guides and I now have a BIG list of places I’ll be heading.

A brilliant series of guides that help you discover lovely landscapes, places to swim and camp, unusual and special places to eat and more. There are guides to ScotlandCentral England, the Lakes and DalesWalesPortugalCornwall and the South WestScandinavia and wild swimming in the UK, Italy and France.

Have a look at the Ordnance Survey website and get yourself some maps for planning walks and camping trips.

Plan your next walking routes on the great Viewranger app (we’ve negotiated a discount for you!).

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And thanks to our friends on Facebook and Instagram, here are some great ideas…some beautifully weird, some heartwarming


My 96-year old-aunt, riddled with arthritis, is getting out her long- stored paint by numbers sets. She will struggle to hold the brush but wants to exercise her hands. Proud of her, she lives alone in London. BL


Let the dog (or monkey) win!

Unfortunately (well fortunately for financial reasons, of course) my other half is working as normal so I don’t get to play board or card games with him. So, instead, I persuaded the dog to play backgammon with me. He beat me. Might try cards with him tomorrow or Battleships. RH

Pretend you’re camping

We’ve set the stove up in the summerhouse. We can hear the fountain trickling in the pond and I’m pretending we’ve pitched the bell tent by a stream. It was great till one of the neighbours started powerwashing his drive! JRD


FaceTime hide and seek

We played FaceTime hide and seek with cousins today, worked surprisingly well.

My daughter hid while my nephew counted. With the phone camera turned around to view our house he then instructed me where he wanted me to go and find her. Then they switched places. It got us all running around and laughing and the kids got to play a game with each other, albeit over WiFi . KH

Sing with an online choir

Gareth Malone’s virtual choir. SOM

Get repairing, cooking and foraging

A bit of Sashiko mending practice

Mend moth-eaten jumpers and worn/torn jeans. Sort out the freezer. Make up new recipes for leftovers. As part of your daily exercise, forage for firewood and sticks and pinecones for kindling. FH


Caravan to studio

I spent all day clearing out my damp, mouldy caravan to turn it into a studio… I’m ecstatic!! Patsy

Make Morsbags

These are bags made from recycled textiles, distributed free in place of plastic carriers. CT


Get organised, get dancing

File your books in alphabetical order, read them. Do the same with your music, but this time you have to play every track and sing and dance along. TP

Garden games and more

Boules (petanque)

Easy, quick, fun and packable. Plus you can play on sand, grass or gravel. The cheaper steel boules tend to rust after a while, but they’re more traditional than coloured plastic. Most come with etched lines so that you can tell whose balls are whose. The Jacques boules set is treated to resist rust for a ‘lifetime’…or you could go professional and opt for intimidatingly black and expensive Obut carbon boules!


A great outdoor game, with a bit of strategy thrown in too. Kubb is a Viking game of knocking down blocks and whacking a king. Go for a heavyweight set – pine and lightwoods are too flimsy for real fun.


We love skittles too. You can find some funky sets, but decent weighted pins are a must or you’ll find they flop over in a breeze or on uneven ground.


Recommended by lots of readers. Molkky is a Finnish version of skittles using numbered peg things. You have to get 50 exactly, so there’s some strategy as well as throwing skill.


Also called Rebound or Slammo and great fun. Two players or teams bounce a ball off a floor-standing net. Rules included so you’ll know how to play!

Badminton and hacky sacks

If it’s too windy for your badminton set, you can get ‘wind rings’ to give the shuttlecocks a bit more weight.

Wind isn’t a problem for games you play with a hacky sack. Invent your own, or simply see how long you can volley the hack between players before it hits the floor.

The aim is for each player to get a touch (called a hack, and then a double hack). And it’s a chance to show off your acrobatic (ish) skills. No hands allowed!I

Board games we love

BEWARE…Abalone is addictive

Abalone is our current favourite game for two. Simple to learn, tactile, strategic, portable. 

You simply aim to push six of your opponent’s pieces off the board by moving one, two or three of your own marbles. Sounds easy, but there are endless challenges and ways to improve your play. There are even tournaments…but we’re a long way from that!


Catan – a lovely game involving building roads and settlements. The travel edition doesn’t need as big a table as the standard game. Two to four players, kids and adults.


Dobble is a game of speed, observation and reflexes. Find matching images on the special cards. It’s harder than it looks!


Can you say “Open the bomb bay doors, Hal?” in a Swedish accent. You’ll soon find out you don’t know your Mumbai from your Mevagissey with this hilarious game of Accentuate for four or more.


Good old Yahtzee. So addictive I’ve been known to invent a solo game! Just five dice and scorecards, so super-portable.


We can’t take this camping because it needs a biggish surface to play on, so the kitchen table is now a French walled city for some of the time. For two or more people, Carcassonne is a real classic and fabulous to play.


It’s a bit like gin rummy with tiles and a good choice if all the word-based games aren’t your thing. If you get the travel version, you can take it on your next trip.


A nice mini-sized version of the fast-talking description game, Articulate. Great fun. For two or more players,.


Now this is interesting! Try to get your team to choose the right words by finding a connecting idea. Hard to explain, but easy-yet-compelling to play. There are lots of editions of Codenames too, including a Disney and a Marvel version.

Nothing beats cards

And, of course, just a simple pack of cards (and a folding cribbage board)…oh, and a chess set.


A fun conversation and personality game with lots of twists and opportunities for hilarity. For two players or more.

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