An 80s Kid’s Guide To Staying Creatively Entertained During Isolation.

Jason Zada
8 min readMar 19, 2020

You’re stranded at home, let’s have some fun — 80’s style!

I was born in 1974. Both my parents worked all the time, so my brothers and I were home alone a decent amount of the time. Like many Gen-Xers, we grew up as latchkey kids in the early 80s. Our parents were always at work, so we had to self-entertain during the summer and after school. My daughter is 14 and whines to me, “there’s nothing to do”. 80’s kids were the conquerors of “nothing to do”. We were the masters of being creative while self-entertaining.

Let this be a handy guide to keeping yourself entertained during our self-imposed quarantine. Remember that when times were simpler, we used our creativity to make and create the things we didn’t have. This article contains a bunch of ideas, links to resources and a little bit of nostalgia. So have fun and be safe.

Design a text adventure game.

I loved creating. You can easily create one online, without any knowledge of coding. All you need is a story idea, some time on your hands (ahem) and some creativity. Back in the day, I made these on my Commodore 64. Now you can make them or play them (like ZORK!) online. Have fun.

Sit in front of the TV.

In the 80s, we lived for MTV. I could sit in front of the TV and watch music videos all day. Why not do the same thing? There’s nothing wrong with being a couch potato. Click this link and pretend you’re back in 1984. Watch a bunch of great 80s commercials.

Build something (with Legos).

I’m still really pissed my mom threw out all my legos from when I was a kid. I would build small towns for hours and days. You can buy a modern Mandalorian set or buy Lego by the pound on Amazon. I know that sounds super risky right now, but you can easily wash them. There are great tutorials online.

Make an 80s lunch.

A salad? Hell no. Let’s go old school. When I was sick my mom would make me a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup (recipe here). Spaghetti-Os with Franks were my favorite lunch food. Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli was another super winner. Who says you can’t have sugary cereal for lunch? NO ONE, ’cause you’re the boss now. Sure you can’t get any Mr T. cereal, but you can still get Count Chocula and a bunch of others.

Play video games.

Sure you can easily buy and play old school games on the Switch or any other console, but I have a better suggestion. Build a Retro-Pie kit. It’s super easy and you can download all the original ROMs from the arcade. It’s a little techy, but it’s so worth it. I have all the ROMs from Sega Genesis, NES, Gameboy, etc. If all of that sounds like a big pain in the ass (I get it, but seriously it’s a good use of time), you should support indie creators and buy some modern games. My favorites — Stardew Valley, The Cave, Life Is Strange, Oxenfree, Thimbleweed Park, Night in the Woods, Gone Home, Inside.

Play board games.

Clue, Monopoly, Stratego. Nothing better than disconnected from technology and playing to win. Or you could make your own board game.

Play Hide-n-Seek.

You need your exercise during quarantine, so why not play a version of hide-n-seek? Or if you don’t have kids, play an alcohol-induced version of hide-n-seek. Either way, get your exercise, bruh.

Walk the dog.

Part of my allowance when I was young was to walk our dog. Walking a dog, without music playing in your ear, is a wonderful way of getting some fresh air and clearing your head. And dogs rule. If you don’t have a dog, go for a walk. If you want to go on a dog walk and don’t have a dog, here’s a virtual dog walk. If you want to be a dog running free, watch this. Or if you like cats?

Learn to program a video game.

It might sound super complicated to some, but there are easy versions and more difficult versions of learning to code. If you are semi-familiar with coding, check out UDemy’s RPG Game Development course. It’s cheap and Unity is free. Super simple coding is fun and easy with Scratch. And even easier is Apple’s Swift.


I can’t draw to save my life. But I hung around people who could. Drawing is super cheap and everyone has something to draw with and draw on, so this one ranks high up on the “do-able” scale. Buy a Trapper Keeper from Amazon and do it as you once did in Math class.

Listen to music.

So, music is what runs through the DNA of almost every 80s kid. If you have a tape walkman, grab it and top an old tape inside and chill. Listen to Mike D and Ad-Rock talk about the art of the mixtape. If you have a first-generation iPod, fire that bad boy up and rock out to 1000 songs in your pocket. If you have some vinyl, put on an album and do nothing but listen to it. Or pop in a virtual mixtape YouTube style.

Read a book.

You can easily buy choose-your-adventure books on Amazon. They usually come in a day or two (maybe a little longer right now) and they are hours upon hours of fun and enjoyment.

Watch some cartoons.

Get some mega nostalgia by firing up an old Saturday Morning Cartoons you loved as a kid. Or introduce your kids to your favorite 80s cartoons. Or you can have a good laugh at how ridiculous most of the 80s cartoons were. Or you could just watch every 80s cartoon intro for the next four hours. Heres a list to get you started.

Make a short movie.

Anyone can make a movie on their phone now. Back in the day, we either had to buy some film and shoot it on a Super8 camera or lug around a giant VHS player/camera. Since you have a full movie studio at your fingertips, get super creative. Download a camera app, an editing app, or a screenwriting app. My friends Carlos made this incredible animated film with help from people all around the world. Tangerine (feature film) was shot all on an iPhone. Watch some short films from amazing directors to get you inspired.

Make a stop-motion movie.

Stop-motion — fun to watch, hard to make right? Not really. Just time-consuming. You move something, take a photo, move it again, take a photo. 12–30 of those per second start to add up and before you know it you have a short stop-motion film. There are a few great apps out there to make it right on your phone. Here and here and here are a few great short stop-motion films for inspiration.

Become a DJ.

You can throw the ultimate house-isolation party in your living room thanks to the awesomeness of DJay. You don’t even need to have the equipment. Or a music library — it hooks up to Spotify. Listen to some live DJ shows here. Watch at DJ play 80s music. Or have your very own 80s dance party in your living room. Or get inspired with some 80s electro/dance mixes. Or take an 80s mixing tutorial. If you’re short on time, try a mega-mix. I personally love DJ Bueller’s Safety Dance on First Wave XM. When you feel ready, broadcast it LIVE on Facebook or Instagram. I’m going to do one soon.

Social inspiration.

In the 80s we had BBS’s. I ran one on my Commodore. It was a lot like this. When you dialed up, it sounded like this. It would take a minute to download a photograph. Now we have high-speed internet with moving pictures! So, why not host a virtual happy hour. Or if you have something you’re good at, ask others to join you. You can cook? Host a nightly cooking class. Good at drawing? Host a drawing class. Why not have a glass of wine + host a figure drawing class. We all have a web camera and access to Google Hangouts. It’s totally free.

Whatever you decide to do during this extremely interesting time in history, enjoy yourself and hopefully, this will get you creatively inspired. If you create anything from above, please put a link in the comments and inspire others. Keep calm, carry on and make stuff.

- Jason



Jason Zada

Jason is an Emmy Award-winning storyteller and director. Best known for Take This Lollipop, The Forest and countless bad karaoke songs.