Forest – Stay focused

Put down your phone and increase your focus


Whether it’s homework or family time, being present and staying in the moment is crucial for both productivity and enjoying quality time with loved ones.

For $1.99, Forest lets you set a timer and it will plant a virtual seed on your screen. Staying off your phone for the entire time will allow the seed to grow into a tree; however, if you’re unable to resist the temptation, your tree will wither.

The best part? Seeing your phone addiction turn into a lush forest complete with over 30 species of trees and soft noises in the background. You can even look back at your forests and view your planting (and phone addiction) journey with the app’s timeline.

Forest allows you to compete with users around the world to see who can plant the most trees, or you can choose to work with friends and family to grow your gardens. By using points earned in the app, you can even plant real trees with Trees for the Future.

Forest can also be downloaded as a free Chrome extension to keep yourself off sites that you choose to blacklist and, although there are fewer features available than on iOS or Android, it gets the job done.

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Group video chats with party games and screen sharing


Houseparty combines everything you love about group calls with many other features to help facilitate social interactions during this shelter-in-place. Resembling a real house party, the app lets you and up to seven other people play games together and even share your screen.

One of the unique aspects of Houseparty is the lock feature. Perhaps you want to have a private conversation with your closest friends; you can lock the room to make sure no one else joins. However, sometimes you want as many friends to join as possible or maybe even want to make new friends—that’s where Houseparty’s lock feature really shines. By keeping the room unlocked, the party is open to all of your friends—even friends of friends—but users must be friends with at least one of the people already in the call to join.

The app’s face-to-face aspect and its multitude of features is what makes it stand out from a group text. It combines video calls, party games, and social networking all into one platform. Now you can see your friends more often and party together in the same room—well, you virtually are.

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Netflix Party

Watch TV shows and movies in sync with friends and family

Netflix Party is a new take on watching shows and movies with other people. Although the shelter-in-place has separated you from your friends, it’s still possible to stay up to speed on the series you started watching together. There’s even a group chat feature that allows you to instantaneously share your reactions! With Netflix Party, everyone streams with HD quality and fast buffering (of course, it’s also dependent on your internet speed).

Whether it’s Netflix’s newest original series or the movie you never got to watch in theaters, everything can be watched with friends! Netflix Party works as a Chrome extension, meaning everyone who wants to join the watch party needs to get the browser on a laptop. Each person you invite will also need to have an active Netflix subscription (or they can activate the free 30-day trial). Besides that, there’s really no limitations to what you can watch or who you can watch with; if it’s on Netflix, it can be watched with others.

No more countdowns to press the space bar are needed to watch Netflix together. For the people who used to sync up multiple screens manually, Netflix Party will make your life much easier and save you a lot of time.

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Ambient noise to replicate the hustle and bustle of the outside world

Click here to visit Coffitivity!

Sometimes you need some background noise to work, especially if you’re used to working in cafés or the hallways at school. Or maybe you just need to tune out yelling siblings, parents on conference calls, and pets zooming around the house.

That’s where Coffitivity comes in. Although the website only offers three sounds for free, it’s enough to supply your workspace with the white noise you need to focus.

“Morning Murmur” mimics the early-morning hum of a coffee shop with light chatter and the soft clanging of metal utensils. “Lunchtime Lounge” resembles the restaurant you stop by to grab a quick bite from, and the sounds of pots and pans definitely makes it the loudest of the three. “University Undertones” is closest to what you’d hear in the Café during lunch; there’s laughter and chitchat complemented by the squeals from moving chairs and the footsteps of students rushing to make a meeting or get to class.

Coffitivity allows you to escape your house for a little bit, and once you start forgetting that the sounds are coming from your computer’s speakers, you might even trick yourself into thinking that you’re sitting at the local Starbucks or Philz.

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Nike Training Club

Stay healthy and active with free access to NTC Premium


Nike Training Club offers over 150 different workouts ranging from yoga to strength and endurance training. To help people staying at home, Nike is also offering free access to their Premium plan, which gives users a chance to explore even more workout routines in the catalog—some of which are formatted as if you were taking classes at a gym.

The workout catalog can be organized by muscle group, workout type, or equipment, with further searches possible through filters for duration, intensity, and format. The list also includes a wide selection of longer programs that last multiple weeks and intensify progressively. From a quick “7-minute Total-Body Desk Detox” between classes or meetings to a four-week “Breakthrough Challenge” that builds strength and healthy eating habits, there is an option for everyone that will help you get some physical activity into your daily routine.

Take advantage of NTC Premium and use this time at home to stay active and healthy!

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Write about your day and practice self-care


If sheltering in place and being unable to see friends has taken a toll on your mental health, journaling might be able to help relieve some of the negative feelings. Reflectly is an app that lets you write a story each day by identifying your overall mood and responding to a prompt that changes daily.

Every morning, the app will send you a notification with a challenge and a quote to prepare you for the day. In the evening, Reflectly will remind you to log an entry for the day. You can even look back at past stories and read about the happy memories with family and how you dealt with negative emotions during quarantine. There’s also a feature that shows you some statistics about your mood and activities.

Journaling is a great way to get stuff off your chest and write about how your day went—maybe about an exciting Zoom class you had or a meal you cooked. Someday, you might even look back at all your shelter-in-place stories and find some great memories you made.

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Learn new languages with the extra time


There’s one thing quarantine has given us for sure: more free time. Although you can’t pursue those projects in the I-Lab or spend your days outside, it’s possible to learn a new language with Duolingo. In each of the 35 language courses available—including High Valyrian from Game of Thrones and Klingon from the Star Trek series—Duolingo helps build a foundation and teaches common vocabulary.

Whether you’re trying to learn a new language for fun or to communicate with someone across the world, Duolingo’s mini lessons will help you learn and retain content efficiently. If you’ve already started learning a language and want to continue on the app, there’s a placement test you can take to properly assess your proficiency so that Duolingo can focus on teaching the content you don’t know.

Within each language program, the course is broken up into units with a few lessons each. From the alphabet and numbers to healthcare and travel vocabulary, Duolingo’s lesson plans are organized so that you learn the basics for many different categories and slowly build up your fluency across the board.

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Easy-to-follow recipes for delicious snacks and meals


Buzzfeed’s Tasty started in July 2015 as a Facebook exclusive page with short aesthetic cooking videos focused on comfort food. Most videos were shorter than a minute and had on-screen instructions to make recipes easy to learn. Since its launch, Tasty has launched cooking appliances and published cookbooks—but with the delivery delays during quarantine, you’re next best option is the Tasty app.

In the Discover tab, you’ll see trending recipes and Tasty’s newest posts in both video and written formats. In the Guides list, you’ll find longer listicles about food and cooking hacks as well as recipes geared toward a certain theme (for example, things to make with an instant pot or worldwide cuisine recipes). The app even lets you add recipe ingredients to a grocery bag that you can pick up curbside at Walmart—a nice way to get your pantry stocked with what you need during quarantine.

From healthy breakfast smoothies to Panda Express’ orange chicken, Tasty has you covered with over 4000 recipes. Couple that with the Walmart curbside grocery pickup, and you’re set to cook!

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Play, learn, and invest in Fantasy Finance


From stocks and crypto assets to ETFs and foreign currencies, Invstr lets players create their own portfolio and invest with zero risk alongside players around the world. With $1 million in virtual cash, it’s up to you to reach the top of the leaderboard by trading to maximize return.

Invstr utilizes live, real-time prices and charts to replicate real trading in the stock market. Each instrument has a score calculated from key signals and other users’ feedback as well as charts that display price changes up to five years ago. Within each detailed panel, you’ll also find articles related to the instrument that might inform your decisions about buying and selling.

Invstr Academy, a 10-module (the first two are free) interactive course written by real investors, teaches players about finance and investment basics. Lessons cover topics from personal investment and financial markets to the driving forces of the economy—all reviewed through mini quizzes.

Whether you’re just looking to learn more about finance or want to put in some practice before you invest in the real world later on, Invstr has everything you need to get started in trading.

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Support your community and help others


You might know Nextdoor to be an app where people complain about problems in your neighborhood and complain about wandering animals, but it’s also a place where you can give back to your community during these trying times.

Recent posts from users around the Bay Area have been focused on providing help for neighbors, notifying others about restocked items at local stores, and donating supplies to others in need. In addition to community news and updates, Nextdoor is also a platform where people can reach out and ask for help—that’s where your youth and intelligence comes in. Maybe you’ve noticed your elderly neighbors going out less because of their increased risk of infection; ask them and see if there’s anything you can do for them outside the house. Grocery shopping, dog walking, tutoring, and letter mailing are some of the more frequently requested services on Nextdoor, but there are also more specific things that your neighbors might need.

After school or on the weekends, consider logging into Nextdoor to see if there’s someone you can help. Whether it’s taking care of pets across the street or tutoring the kids next door, helping others is a show of support and love that everyone could use more of during this shelter-in-place.