The Best Things in Life are Free. Really.

Social distancing.  Self-isolating.  Quarantine.  If you’re following current federal and state guidelines, likely you are at home trying to stay away from others.  For some, this time is peaceful.  It’s uninterrupted family time without the constant busyness of everyday life.  There is no rushing from here to there and all points in between, no gatherings, no appointments, no activities.  For others, it is a time of stress and anxiety.  Worries about one’s own health or the health of loved ones, concerns about the economy, and actual (or potential) employment loss, can make the days long and frustrating.  For many, if not most, emotions will range from gratitude to grief, from worry to relief.

Those who routinely relieve boredom by shopping or attempt to alleviate stress by eating out with friends, may be at a loss as to how to fill the time and ease the worry.  The good news is that there are plenty of free resources worthy of turning off the news or pausing that Netflix binge-watching.  

Visit the Howard County Library, online.  No library card?  No worries.  Fill out the simple online application for immediate access to a wide range of eContent, including e-books and e-audiobooks; streaming TV, movie, and music; online classes; and digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.  Even if you don’t want to apply for a card, the site offers free, on-demand, self-directed educational resources for learners of all ages.  Go ahead, sharpen that skill, learn a new language, or just get lost in a book.  It’s all free.

Get outside and take a walk, run or ride.  Admittedly, given the COVID-19-saturated news, it was easy to miss, but spring has sprung.  Get outside and exercise however you want—just be sure to stay at least six feet away from others on the paths or sidewalks.  If the weather isn’t in agreement with your plans, check out the free video workouts and live streaming sessions by the Columbia Association (CA).  Looking for activities?   CA’s website provides free activities for kids and adults by Columbia Art Center, CA’s School Age Services, and Columbia Archives. 

Eighteen years old or younger and hungry?  The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is providing free Grab-N-Go meals to anyone 18 years of age and younger and/or any HCPSS student, regardless of age, throughout the state-mandated school closures, extended through April 24.  Participants will be given a snack, lunch and dinner for that day, as well as breakfast for the following day, so bring a bag to carry the food home!  There is no application, enrollment, or fee for this program.

Looking for more?  Check out the following sites, which are free for all:

Discovery Education:  You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy these free virtual field trips.

GoNoodle:  Physical activity for the younger set, focusing on mindfulness and engagement.

Library of Congress:  Check out the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse.

NASA STEM:  STEM engagement through building, playing, reading, problem-solving, and coloring. 

PBS Kids:    Educational games and videos.

Smithsonian:  Find a topic of interest and explore and learn online.    

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