Skills to Learn in Your Family’s Pandemic Downtime

The Worst Year Ever™ is officially behind us, but the world as we wish it was is still on pause and 2021 isn’t off to the most promising of starts. Even though we’ve got a vaccine in the works, it looks like it’s going to be a while before life returns to normal. 

If your kids are like mine, they’ve been passing more time watching YouTube videos and playing Minecraft. And if I’m being completely honest, I have been using far too many of my off-work hours for binging entire TV series at record rates myself (The Wilds, anyone?). But that’s not to say I haven’t accomplished anything…I think I’ve refined my doomscrolling  and Google Play skills fairly well in the past few months, thank you very much. 

With at least a few months more of socially distancing ahead of us and way too many hours logged playing Gardenscapes, I thought it would be a perfect time for everyone in my family to learn a new skill. Fortunately, the Internet is filled with plenty of awesome free learning opportunities, and I’m sharing some of my favorites with you below. If you love the idea of using your pandemic time to level up on some skills with the fam, check out this list and encourage your kids to spend some time learning for fun. 

1. Become a Chess Master

Chess is something I believe everyone should take the time to learn, and most children past about second grade are capable of learning the rules. It’s a fantastic game for building problem-solving skills, developing memory and focus, and learning good sportsmanship and patience as well as a host of benefits. And it can even give kids a leg up in the all-important STEM fields

Brilliant Little Boy Playing Chess With His Distant Relative Or Uncle, Uses Laptop For Video Call. Remote Online Education, E Education, Communication With Family, Homeschooling.

After spending a year in a school chess club, Arthur (12) loves playing chess. When he got a Harry Potter chess board for Christmas, he was hype to play with the fam, but the rest of us are terrible at it. I can’t strategize to save my life. As I stare down the chess board, I find myself stunned by all of the pieces like a deer in headlights and I find it hard to understand how people can plan their steps several in advance. 

Thankfully, there are tons of fantastic resources for beginning and intermediate chess players. Chess Network has a playlist called “Beginner to Chess Master” that breaks down some basic gameplay and strategies. For younger kids, Chesskid.com has all kinds of free animated videos to help kids visualize the chess pieces in action and learn gameplay. If you don’t already have a chess board, I highly recommend picking one up. You can buy a basic chess board for starting around $10. 

2. Make Beautiful Music

There’s no substitute for professional music lessons when it comes to learning an instrument, especially if you need help with something like posture or positioning. But aside from those issues, there are many opportunities to learn an instrument online via distance learning or video instruction. Many music instructors like my violin instructor friend Aquiles at Stradivari House of Phoenix are offering professional virtual instruction. Udemy and other virtual learning sites are also offering plenty of opportunities for learning guitar, keyboard, vocal music, harmonica, and more. 

Cute Little Girl Playing The Guitar

If you’re not ready to commit to lessons, you can find loads of great resources online. Depending on your city, some local libraries offer free online music lessons for guitar and piano. And of course, there are plenty of YouTubers who offer free guitar lessons, piano lessons, violin lessons, voice lessons, and more. 

3. Learn Some New Lingo

I’ve been using my pandemic time to work on my Spanish and German thanks to Duolingo. After taking Spanish and French in high school and college and trying to learn through various methods from listening to CDs to various apps, Duolingo has been the most useful resource I’ve found personally. 

Duolingo Logo

One thing I love about Duolingo is that it’s very simple and approachable for kids as well as adults. It’s free, although it does feature an unfortunate heart rating system that tries to push you into the paywall if you miss too many questions. It’s also notorious for harassing you when you don’t maintain your streak, a quality the company once good-naturedly lampooned in an April Fool’s joke

The beautiful thing about learning a second language during the pandemic is that streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix are offering more international streaming content than ever before to reinforce those second language lessons (like Dark, a German sci-fi series I’m loving right now). 

4. Fix Your Face

Tara from Spaghetti on the Wall has been using her Corona time wisely by honing her cosplay makeup skills. Instagram is an endless resource for cosplay makeup ideas and tutorials. In my somewhat limited experience in the cosplay world, it seems like the best way to learn it just to jump right in with both feet and go for it. Tara follows Brenda Mazzoni for some pretty mind-blowing cosplay makeup artist inspiration. If you’re looking for simple tutorials. you can find loads of them from YouTubers like these

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5. Doodle Better

As a writer, I’ve always believed that writing isn’t as much about talent as it is about practice, and I’ve come to learn the same principle seems to be true with almost anything. A few years ago, my friend decided she wanted to learn to draw, like really draw. She set her mind to it and just started practicing every day, and now she does commissions. During the pandemic, Lucy has used Instagram to improve her art skills by signing up for Draw This In Your Style (DITYS) challenges, and pushing herself to draw regularly has made a tremendous difference. 

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If your kids love manga, anime, or chibi style art, the YouTube and Instagram art communities are an awesome place to build those skills. Check out these YouTubers to get started.  

Have you been learning any new skills and drills during the pandemic? Hit me up in the comments and have a safe and lovely little week in your nebula!


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