Illinois entered Phase 4 of J.B. Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state a few weeks ago, but many people are, and should be, still practicing social distancing with friends and family. Everyone misses larger gatherings such as grandkids’ weddings, senior community events and trips to museums and art galleries. However, it’s a good idea for the foreseeable future to err on the side of caution when you can.

There are plenty of ways to stay connected during social distancing by going virtual. Here are some of our favorite ways to adjust to the “new normal”:

Stay connected during social distancing

Online communication skyrocketed when COVID-19 swept across the world. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction, but virtual calls allow family and friends to join each other for casual catch-ups, high school reunions, family celebrations and much more. If you haven’t learned how to virtually connect with others through video, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

  • Zoom – One of the most popular video communication tools, it allows you to have conversations with up to 100 people at a time. All you need to do is download the app to your computer or phone and set up an account.
  • FaceTime – If you have an iPhone, this is one of the easiest ways to communicate virtually. It is automatically on your phone and you can FaceTime any of your phone’s contacts, similar to how you would call them.
  • Google Hangouts – Google’s version of virtual communication allows you to send photos, videos, maps, emoji, stickers, and animated GIFs. It also allows for free group video calls with up to 10 friends. You can download it here.

There are countless other apps and platforms to communicate with friends and family, but these are great options due to their popularity and user-friendliness.

Play games during social distancing

We’re all looking for ways to pass the time. If you can’t play Bingo, cards or board games in person, why not take them online? Games keep your mind sharp and can lead to lots of laughs. Here are some great options to get started:

  • Trivia – Pick one person in a group to come up with a list of questions. Have everyone join a virtual call on Zoom, Facetime, Hangouts or another video technology. Then, have that person be the host and ask questions to everyone else in the group. You can even get creative and do themed trivia!
  • Houseparty – This app calls itself the “face to face social network.” It includes a ton of games to play with friends and family while social distancing. These games include different versions of charades, Pictionary, finishing song lyric challenges and much more. You can download the app here.
  • UNO! – This card game is a fan favorite, but it can also be played online. Download it here.

Virtual games are a great way to have a friendly competition with your loved ones. There are so many more out there, so if none of these are up your alley, you can find a larger list here.

Explore during social distancing

The world is full of places to discover and things to learn. In 2020, you don’t even have to leave your couch to experience them! Check out some of these virtual experiences that you can share with friends and family while social distancing.

  • Wine tour – Whether or not you enjoy wine, why not explore the beautiful wine country? With up to 14 friends, you can see different vineyards in California. If you do enjoy wine, they’ll ship it right to your door prior to the virtual tour. Take a look here.
  • Book club – If you’re looking for free books and good conversation, think about starting a book club with family and friends. New York Public Library and Penguin Random House offer live events, free access to books and other resources to enjoy yourself.
  • Museum tours – If you like art, history or science you can find some wonderful opportunities to explore world-renowned museums virtually. Take a look at this list of 12 museums you can tour from countries like France, South Korea and the United States.

No matter your interests, people are finding ways to give you unforgettable virtual experiences to share with family and friends. Use these resources to learn something new, explore somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or simply catch up with an old friend. The virtual world is your oyster.

If you have suggestions for the CMSS community to stay connected during social distancing share them with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn!