While more than 310 million Americans self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology, at the very least, is helping us work, learn and socialize.
Tech is also responsible for keeping us entertained. Whether it’s bingeing shows on streaming services, playing video games or downloading ebooks.
Sometimes, a high-tech device can be used to create low-tech fun while its user is cooped up indoors.
For instance, your printer.
There are several ways this device can be used to keep the kids (and kids at heart) entertained by printing crafts, games and activities.
None of it costs anything, other than ink and paper. Here are five fun suggestions.
The web has a seemingly infinite number of coloring pages to print out, including many tied to holidays (such as Easter and Passover), licensed characters (such as Disney princesses and Star Wars villains) and adult coloring pages to keep mom and dad occupied.
Crayola, for example, has several printable options for free. You can browse by section or type a keyword into a search window, such as "baseball" or "maps."
Once printed, break out the crayons, coloring pencils or markers.
Some printers, including many in the Epson family, let you print coloring pages by simply using your voice – through Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. For example, say, "Alexa, ask Epson printer to print coloring pages."
A game company called Asmodee offers a handful of free "Print & Play" board games to download for self-quarantining families.
Modeled after the company’s popular board games, there are six titles offered: Dobble (also known as Spot It! in the USA), a colorful matching card game that rewards concentration and speed; Unlock!, a cooperative escape room-themed riddle game; Dixit, an enchanting story-based card game for up to six players; Combo Color, the game of conquest by colors; Cortex/Braintopia, which challenges your memory and reflexes; and Timeline Classic, a history-based adventure.
Each game features the same artwork as the originals, but some slight modifications have been made to some board games to simplify play.
All half-dozen board games include a video on how to play and printable rule sheet.Origami
The Japanese introduced us to Origami – the art of paper folding – and your computer printer can be used to print off designs.
From the classic paper crane and pointy stars to flowers and cute animals, several thousand websites let you print origami shapes for free, many with step-by-step instructions (usually in PDF form). Once downloaded, you may need scissors to first cut the paper in a square shape, before folding on the dotted lines.
Many add color, such as this cute baby penguin from Supercoloring.com; others suggest you manually color in some shapes on the paper with pencil crayons or markers before you start folding.
The social media platform Pinterest has origami activities and other paper crafts to print out for the kids and encourages you to share your final creation.Jigsaw puzzles
Ideal for regular sheets of paper but even better with thicker stock or craft foam, you can make the most out of a rainy afternoon by creating, cutting and completing a jigsaw puzzle with the kids.
There are two ways to do it.
The simplest way is to print an 8.5 x 11 photo and simply cut it into pieces – and you can decide how many pieces, and the shape and size of them (perhaps based on the skill level of the kids).
The second way to print jigsaw puzzles is to visit one of the many sites that offer templates, print them and use scissors to cut them into the specified shapes. Then, mix up all the pieces on a table or desk and work to complete the puzzle. Education.com offers many jigsaw puzzles and worksheets to print out for young hands. Templatelab.com and Fun-With-Pictures.com have many as well, to name a couple.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you can laminate the puzzle page before cutting it into shapes (which will make the pieces easier to grip and more durable) and perhaps place magnetic strips on the back to place on a fridge or print directly on magnetic sheets of paper (see below).Fridge magnets
Proudly display your photos in a place you visit several times a day: your fridge.
You can do this if you have magnetic sheets of paper – usually found for about $16 per 5-pack – which can be fed through any regular inkjet printer.
Cut them down to the appropriate size and shape, and have fun dressing up your fridge door with photos of family, friends, pets or fun places you’ve been.
Tip: You can slip these homemade fridge magnets into birthday cards to friends and family.
Alternatively, print photos tied to what your kids are into – TV shows such as "Paw Patrol," fancy cars, a favorite singer, Marvel movie characters and so on.Bonus activities!
Word puzzles, such as Crosswords and Seek-and-Find/Word Search, and number games (such as Sudoku) are other ways to keep your brain sharp while holed up at home. (USA TODAY has many of these puzzles to play here.)
There are Connect-the-Dots puzzles, Spot-the-Difference games and mazes to print out for the kids.
All you need is a computer printer and access to the web, and you’ll find many hours of free low-tech fun.