With COVID-19 keeping families home for weeks or even months, everyone’s going online to do important stuff like working, learning, and keeping in touch with loved ones. We’re also online for less critical things, like keeping our minds occupied and ourselves entertained.
Since bandwidth is a limited resource no matter what ISP you’re using, it’s important to practice good online citizenship during these trying times. If everyone’s streaming movies 24/7, we’ll all notice the drag on the network.
But that doesn’t mean we still can’t have some fun online. Below are some low-bandwidth online activities to help occupy the mind, body, and soul.
Read a good book.
There are a number of free online resources (often starting with your local library), especially online books. A few to try include:
- Project Gutenberg has more than 60,000 free ebooks which can be read online or downloaded to your ebook reader.
- The University of Pennsylvania has made more than 3 million books from its library available online.
- Open Library has more than 20 million books — and because the software is open, everyone is welcome to fix typos, write annotations, or add books to their ever-growing collection.
Music and podcast streaming
Audio files are a good way of staying informed and entertained that use significantly less data over other streaming methods (we’re looking at you, video) — especially if you configure your player for low-resolution playback. A few favorites for music and podcasts:
- Spotify offers access to thousands of albums and podcasts through its free, ad-sponsored service — as well as an ad-free paid service.
- Pandora also offers free and premium versions of its service, which connects you with your favorite songs, podcasts, and more.
- Iheartradio follows the free/premium model, with access to live radio, playlists, podcasts, and more.
To minimize data use, some streaming services allow you to change the audio quality to “low” or “medium.” Here’s how to do it on Pandora.
Visit a virtual museum
Get a dose of culture without leaving the comfort of your couch by taking advantage of immersive, online museum tours.
- Google Arts & Culture has amassed a treasure trove of online art and antiquity collections by partnering with more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world.
- Here’s a Smithsonian Magazine article with 10 more virtual museum ideas.
*Note: Any video content on these or other sites will use more data.
Free online magazines
Go to your local library’s website to see if they offer RBdigital or another service that will allow you to use your library card to check out monthly magazines.
Learn a little
If your child’s school isn’t offering an online curriculum during school closure, there are a number of online resources available to help continue your child’s education.
- Scholastic Learn at Home has daily projects to keep kids reading and learning.
- Open Culture has links to a large number of free curriculums available online.
- SmartMusic is offering free access through June 3, 2020 to help young musicians continue their musical education.
Audible has just launched Audible Stories for children and teens stuck at home during the pandemic. It’s a free service where kids can stream audiobook versions of everything from folk tales to books for small children up to classic literature for high schoolers. (Streaming audio does use some data, but nothing like video does.)
For the kids (and young at heart)
Who doesn’t love to color? The New York Academy of Medicine’s Color our Collections site lets you download free digital files of art from over 117 institutions. You can print them out for family fun.
Children in grades 3 to 12 can learn to write their names in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, in this step-by-step guide from the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada.
From at-home science experiments to free online coding courses, MommyPoppins is an outstanding resource for hundreds of ways to keep little (and large) hands occupied at home. The site now has a special “Coronavirus Guide for Parents” with hundreds of activity ideas and other resources.
Play a game
Can’t live without your online gaming but looking for a low-bandwidth alternative? Try these old-school options.
- Gamezer is an online gaming resource that specializes in simple, low-bandwidth games.
- Arkadium is a good source for online board games, card games, puzzles, and more.
In uncertain times like this, everyone can benefit from practicing a little mindfulness. Here are a couple of resources for your mental health.
- Headspace offers a free two-week trial of their guided meditations and mindfulness activities.
- Mindful has a wealth of information related to meditation, mental health, and coping with the COVID-19 crisis.
The weeks and months ahead will be a challenge in many ways for people all around the globe. Now more than ever, we’re committed to keeping you connected to enable you to get the online information and entertainment you need during this difficult time.