Coronavirus cabin fever? These ideas will help you make the most of your backyard, outdoor spaces
Get a break from COVID-19 cabin fever by going on a hike. Make sure you still practice your social distancing and these other tips. Buzz60
Stuck indoors working from home, helping the kids with their schoolwork and trying to pass the time in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it's no surprise many of us are feeling a particularly nasty case of cabin fever.
However, many New Jerseyans are making a point to enjoy the springtime sunshine in any way possible.
"Even just looking out my home office window, there are a ton of people out there jogging, walking, biking and just trying to de-stress however they can," said Kevin Lau, a sales specialist at Marlton REI. "A lot of the well-known local trails have been packed lately. I get a feeling some backyard 'camping' will be popular this summer."
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Lau, who has worked at outdoor store REI for 15 years, said although the coronavirus situation is by no means a pleasant one, he's glad to see so many people utilizing the outdoors who normally would not.
"It's great to reconnect with nature, and just spending 15 to 20 minutes outside helps calm the nerves," he said. "I see a lot of families out there. I hope that aspect of this stays — people rediscovering being outside, in whatever shape that may be."
Across the state, families are getting creative when it comes to using their outdoor spaces. They're bringing schoolwork and dinner outside, and making the most of the ground that they have.
Here are some ideas you can use to change up your view, pass the time and get a breath of fresh air:
Backyard golf lessons
One petite, left-handed golf club, a putting flag, 50 fluorescent golf balls and $500 spent on Amazon later, Alexandria Township residents Pam and Alan Bergstrom are teaching themselves a new skill Pam said they probably wouldn't have attempted if they weren't quarantined: golfing.
"We’re nearing retirement age and thought it might be something fun we could enjoy together in our golden years, and since we’ve got nothing but time and no one to watch us, why not?" she said. "We have no grandiose ideas that we are going to be any good at this, but at least we will have fun trying."
Pam said it's been fun to see practice their swings and see their improvement, but not so much fun searching for the fluorescent balls in the grass.
"Check in with us in a few weeks and we will let you know if we’re going to continue, or throw the clubs in the pond behind the flag," she joked.
A bar in the yard
Laurie and Matt Guagenty of Manasquan may not be able to grab a drink at their favorite local bar at the moment, but thanks to their new "pubshed," they can now do it in their own backyard.
The couple spends their evenings at their pubshed, which has removable windows and a TV, watching movies with warmth from a propane heater. Now, they're working on building out the inside of the bar with vinyl flooring and ceiling, and shiplap walls that they recently ordered online.
It's been an ideal project for the both of them, they say. Matt loves to do home projects and build things, so it's been a stress reliever from work. Laurie has been enjoying designing the inside space and shopping online for decorations. Plus, as they work as a team, it's bringing the couple together, said Laurie.
"We can’t wait until it’s finished and the isolation orders are lifted so we can have our friends over to enjoy it with us," said Laurie. "It’s something to look forward to during this stressful time."
Camping close to home
It may not have felt much like spring break when kids got off from "virtual school" a few weeks ago, but to make it feel more like vacation, Old Bridge resident Noël Simonson and her family — her husband Dan and kids 8-year-old Gwen and 6-year-old Cassie — camped out in their yard during the first day of the kids' spring break. Since then, it's become a new trend for the household.
"They loved it, but it got too rainy to stay the whole night," Noël said. "We are going to try again tonight. It felt good to get out of the house for a few hours, even if we got a little wet."
It all started when one of her daughters asked if they could make s'mores over the fire pit. They figured it couldn't hurt to set up their tent along with it. Soon, the tent was decorated with pictures and stuffed animals as they enjoyed the s'mores and read books by flashlight.
"With the distant learning, they’re on computer screens for hours and then add the TV and iPad time — it’s just too much sitting still with a screen," said Noël. "When we’re outside playing in the yard, we’re happier and I feel better they’re not just staring at a device and actually moving and playing."
Fencing as an art space
East Hanover mom Stacy Canzonieri and her children, 2-year-old Olivia and 13-year-old Jaime, are working their creativity while getting some sunshine thanks to the fencing outside their home, which they are now using as a giant chalkboard with rainbows, hearts, stars and positive messages.
After seeing the idea on Instagram, Stacy decided to try it herself with the kids to help relieve some of their boredom and release their creativity, she said. She's finding her own comfort in the new art board, too.
"My kitchen windows look out to the backyard and I love seeing all of the color," she said. "It makes me happy and since there’s no much sadness out there, I like having something bright and cheery to look at."
Picnic in a pickup
Middlesex resident Jennifer Perrin and her kids, 9-year-old Jayden and 7-year-old Jenna, recently put together a list of interesting outdoor activities which Jenna dubbed "Coronavirus Blues."
When the idea of having a picnic emerged on the list, Jennifer decided to make it a little more interesting for the kids and surprised them with the picnic — in the back of her pickup truck.
She set up a table and chairs in the back of the pickup, and since then, the girls have been up there often, even just hanging out on it or doing their homework there for a change of atmosphere.
"The girls absolutely love it," said Jennifer. "We live on a small street, but people often walk or bike ride by. Many have stopped and said how much they love it, too. The girls have been enjoying waving to everyone."
A pool-sized hot tub
It might still be a little chilly outside to open the pool, but that didn't stop Mendham resident Susan Guenther from opening up hers — with a twist.
"My son had spring break this week, so we opened our pool early, cranked the heater up to 90 and blew up all pool toys," she said. "The air was cold, but it was like being in a hot tub. It took our mind off things for awhile. We’re glad the pool is open for the season."
Guenther said that normally during spring break, she and her 11-year-old son Christopher and her 18-year-old son Nicholas would have done day trips all week, such as visiting the zoo or Point Pleasant. The giant hot tub hasn't been a half-bad replacement.
"Both of my kids love it," she said. "My son has been playing basketball in the pool and jumping off the diving board. It’s a great way for him to get some exercise in. My older son will go in the pool in between classes. It really feels like a big hot tub."
Annie and Maddie Chassey, a pair of 11-year-old twins from Navesink, love "The Secret," a book which details how 12 treasure boxes were buried at secret locations in the United States and Canada. So, their mother, Jodi Chassey, decided to make a real-life "Secret" scavenger hunt for them throughout their neighborhood.
She created 10 riddles for different neighborhood spots and the girls found a rock with a word at each one. At the end of the two-hour scavenger hunt, it revealed, "The best is yet to be. Soon we will rise."
"I thought this downtime would be good to utilize their interest and our interesting neighborhood to do it in," said Jodi. "We can sit and wallow or we can transcend."
Sidewalk math lessons
Red Bank resident Kiera Johnson has been busy trying to keep her energetic 8-year-old son Bryan and 3½-year-old son Adrian occupied while also making sure Bryan is completing his schoolwork. It hasn't been easy. So, she decided to combine the two — Bryan is now completing his math homework with the help of sidewalk chalk.
Since Bryan doesn't love math, Kiera said, she tries to make sure he does a little every day while outdoors. He also reads outside, a practice she started for her son right after school closed in mid-March.
"With two boys, I watch them actually vibrate if they're not given the opportunity to expel energy throughout the day," she said. "So, we have to get them outside."
Sports camp for the kids
Ten-year-old Gianna Bentrovato and 16-year-old Giuseppe Bentrovato are active Boonton Township kids. So, when sports canceled for the foreseeable future, their dad Giorgio Bentrovato decided to bring the sports right to their yard, with a multi-sports camp with ever-changing activities.
The family already had a baseball net, lacrosse bounceback and goal, basketball hoop and soccer net. So, Giorgio used these and also added Wiffle ball, Nerf football, jump rope, kickball, ladders, as well as activities using cones and other items from around the house.
After doing a walk around the block as a warm-up, the kids spend 20 minutes each at various stations alongside music and rest and snack breaks. Plus, they do a different themed lunch every day, including "pizza day" with homemade pizza.
"This will help keep them ready if and when their sports seasons start up again this year, but also not burn them out with just the same activity and/or drills provided by their teams," said Giorgio. "Everyone just feels so much better and has so much more energy after being outside."
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.