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masked women on a socially-distanced walk together
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It's official—2021 is here and so is COVID-19, at least for now. As we all prepare for continued time in quarantine and limited access to our friends and family, you may find yourself trying to come up with some creative ways to stay connected until the outdoors "open up" again. Author Kinyatta E. Gray, author of the memoir 30 Days: Surviving the Trauma and Unexpected Loss of a Single Parent as an Only Child ($12.99, barnesandnoble.com), says that being safe is a worthy sacrifice. "We know that the safest thing to do during the pandemic is to practice social distancing. While it may leave a void for some people, it's a small sacrifice to make to be reunited with everyone safely again," she says. "This time also gives us all an opportunity to create deeper bonds and strengthen our attachments with people that we care about, because after all, it takes a lot more effort to remain connected virtually in a creative way rather than just swinging by Mom and Dad's place with a potted plant."

During this new normal as we look forward to the future with our loved ones, we can come out of this with stronger bonds, more significant attachments, and fond memories. With that in mind, we asked Gray and others to share their favorite creative ways to stay connected when you can't see loved ones in the outdoors.

Join a Virtual Arts and Crafts Class

Tap into your creative side together. As for one way? "Painting is an enjoyable hobby and one that others who don't usually paint can learn to enjoy," suggests Gray. "Adding the wine certainly adds an element of excitement." Paint-by-the-number kits are available in different subjects with everything you need for supplies: paints, brushes, a canvas, and disposable easel.

Or perfect for a cozy day indoors, Gray says that virtual guided candle-making classes are an excellent activity to coordinate with family and friends. "Companies such as KSM Candle Company in Maryland offer virtual classes and will send you the complete kit to make a scented candle of your choice," she says, adding that this kind of entrepreneurial innovation "could lead to a new business idea!"

Share Your Fondest Memories

Opt for something even more tangible than social media when it comes to life updates. The Simply Smart Home PhotoShare Digital Picture Frame ($189.99, bestbuy.com), which allows you to upload photos and videos to an app that will display on the smart digital picture frame for all family members who have it. "Each family member can add pictures and videos at any time," says Gray. "This smart picture frame is truly one of the best ways to stay connected with distant family members."

Indy Blue Severe, influencer and founder of Lonely Ghost, believes that you can still show your loved ones how much you love them, even during a quarantine. She's even created a collection centered on different ways to say 'I love you.' "This year, it's so important to connect with the ones you love, we are so lucky to live in a time where technology is so readily available," she says. "My favorite way to stay connected is through making videos to send and share. It's honestly my favorite thing; with finding music and editing there is so much thought I put in it for the people I'm sending them too. Find old footage and start creating." 

Entertain Kids with Virtual Storytelling or Book Reading

Why should the children miss out on storytelling or book-reading by their favorite aunt or uncle? "Caregivers of children can ship a box full of the child's favorite books to the designated book reader and set up a weekly virtual book-reading or storytelling session," suggests Gray. "Why not throw in some popcorn, cocoa, and fuzzy socks?"

Start a Virtual Book Club

"If the pandemic hasn't sparked anything else, it sure has sparked a ton of new book readers," remarks Gray, who says that now is the ideal time to launch a virtual book club that otherwise might have been harder to schedule and coordinate with a group in person. "With a few clicks on the computer, you can schedule the virtual book club and send your participants a text or email about the book that will be read and discussed!"

Host Virtual Dinners and Bake-Offs

While the idea of a virtual dinner party may have lost its novelty, you can make things more interesting by designating an entertaining theme. "You can get creative with this—host a virtual themed dinner according to music genres (hip-hop night, country night, and '90s pop night). Wouldn't it be fun to see Grandpa dressed up in his best version of hip-hop attire and share what he knows about current hip-hop culture?" says Gray. "This kind of dinner and entertainment is sure to produce a virtual family dinner you won't soon forget."

Danni Adams, body image positivity activist, coach, and creator of AmaPoundcake, suggests making a moment by hosting a Zoom baking contest. Have the children in the family decide what all participants will bake, and get the seniors in your family in on the fun by having your favorite elders serve as judges, she adds.


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