October 31, 2020

Bored at home during the Coronavirus lockdown? Learn these new hobbies online

Feeling burnt out on Netflix? There's a lot more you can do to keep yourself busy.
siavash ghanbari jZi0Ih47EDY unsplash

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari on Unsplash

A couple of weeks into the lockdown, you’ve probably seen all the shows on your watchlist, read the books on your pending list. and perhaps even caught up with all the games you’ve been meaning to play. Now what? If you are starting to feel bored, there’s a surprisingly long list of hobbies you can pick up online. From educational courses to essential skills and even brain development exercises, there’s a lot to keep you occupied. 

If you’re in quarantine, there’s a good chance that you can’t (and shouldn’t) step out to pick up gear. We’ve restricted the list to activities and skills that need minimal or no equipment. Stay home and pick up some new skills!

  • Learn how to cook
  • Pick up drawing or painting
  • Learn how to make some music
  • Upskill yourself
  • Master a classic game like chess
  • Pick up a new language

Pick up some cooking skills

Beer taps in a WeWork with kitchen appliances in the background.

This is an easy one. While restaurants are an absolute no-go at the moment, delivery services might also be severely limited depending on where you are. I know I’ve been craving sourdough bread ever since my favorite bakery shut down because of the lockdown. Necessity is the mother of invention and it really got me thinking. Why not bake my own bread?

Craving your favorite dish, why not make it on your own?

Even if you don’t have a stash of recipe books collecting dust in a corner, the internet is full of resources to teach you how to cook or bake. Not only is it a near-essential skill to have, but you’ll also realize just how much money you can save by cooking your favorite dishes instead of ordering in every single time. I’ve found YouTube to be an amazing resource to pick up new recipes. I got hooked on to Food52’s channel while browsing for a great sourdough bread recipe. However, there are loads of channels around catering to varied tastes. 

Listen, I’m not going to hide the fact that I’ve gone through more packs of mac and cheese than I can count. It’s comfort food. But if there’s a way to improve the overtly processed taste, I can totally get behind it. Over at Munchies, the focus is a bit more on upgrading the taste profile of your store-bought food in addition to teaching you easy to make recipes. Turns out, elevating the taste of regular food isn’t as hard as I’d thought :shrug: 

Of course, you can also refer to our list of great cooking apps for Android. Personally, I use Cookpad for discovering new recipes. It has an extensive database that is organized well and helps me find exactly what I need in seconds. Another app well worth downloading is Paprika. It lets you maintain a database of your favorite recipes. In fact, it goes a step forward by integrating with the Android share menu allowing you to grab any recipe you come across over the internet. With companion apps available across platforms, you should be able to access these from anywhere. 

Learn some art and craft

Color by Numbers Oil Painting screenshot

With sustenance sorted, perhaps now is the time to focus on finer things like art. Ever found yourself scratching your head trying to make sense of an abstract at a museum? You’re not alone. EdX has a fantastic course taking you through the paintings of European greats like Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt and promises to help you not just identify, but also interpret paintings better. Oh hey, I can finally look smart when at the museum with friends. 

Looking for something a bit more hands-on? Drawing and sketching are some of the most popular hobbies because of ease of access. All you need is a pencil and paper to take your ideas from mere thoughts to something tangible on a piece of paper. Beyond the artistic aspect of it, it is a great skill to have on hand for everyday use. It can make understanding and explaining abstract ideas a lot easier. Udemy’s course on drawing comes highly regarded in customer reviews and teaches you the essentials of playing with light and shadow as well as understanding human form better. 

I got exposed to water-color painting early on in my life thanks to my mother. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit any of her talent but I find myself dabbling with painting on occasion. When I’m looking for inspiration, I often end up turning to Bob Ross. Seriously. There are over 24 seasons worth of painting lessons available on YouTube, for free. As an added bonus, his soothing voice can serve as borderline therapy in these uncertain times. Win-win. 

If you’ve been feeling anxious, painting can be a very calming exercise.

If you are looking for something a bit more traditional, this Udemy course should guide you through the essentials of watercolor painting. The course takes you from the basics of working with paints, all the way up to painting a 3D structure. 

Make some tunes

Headphones DJ Music ProductionEnvato

If you’ve ever considered picking up an instrument, this is a great time to finally commit to it. Provided you’ve already picked up an instrument, now would be the perfect time to brush off the dust and spend some serious time with it.

Like almost every other skill, there are a generous amount of resources available online, but I would highly recommend a structured approach to get it right. As an amateur guitarist, I’ve found myself returning time and time again to Justin Guitar. The website is a step-by-step free resource that can take you from the basics of holding a guitar right, all the way to shredding your favorite solos. Highly recommended. As an added resource, the excellent music theory and guitar scales courses by the Berklee College of Music go a long way in explaining the science behind playing music and are musts for any learner. 

Do your preferences lie towards electronic music? Now is as good a time as any to start experimenting with it. In fact, almost every major Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) maker is offering extended trials for premium software in addition to light versions of popular apps, plugins. Notable options include extended trials for Logic Pro by Apple, Adobe’s Ableton Live and Steinberg’s Cubase

Making music at home has never been more accessible.

I get it, Pro-grade DAWs like Logic and Ableton can be daunting to work with if you’re just looking to have some fun. If you’re just looking to sample some beats or create a few loops, your phone might just prove to be sufficient. Apps like Voloco and Music Maker JAM can serve as the perfect gateway to the world of beat making. The apps are sufficiently powerful for creating simple rhythm patterns and when you are ready to graduate to something more full-featured, you can grab one of the DAWs mentioned above. Looking for even more apps to make music using your phone? See below.

Train your brain with classic games

LG G8X ThinQ Review photo sample chess board

I’ll be honest, between work, Netflix, and just spending time on the phone, I’m feeling a bit burned out on screen time. Over the weekend, I took out time to play a round of chess with my brother and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Turns out, the game has a lot more to it than meets the eye.

What the game lacks in flashy graphics, it delivers in gameplay. The game requires you to learn the rules, study tactics, and employ strategic decisions to progress. Easy enough to pick up, but difficult to master. If you don’t have a board at home, you can grab one of the many chess apps on the app store and play a round. Absolute beginner? Follow the link below for step-by-step lessons on playing the game. 

Puzzles can also be an excellent tool for brain training and to boost critical thinking. Growing up, I was a big fan of solving crossword puzzles and some of the best ones are those published by The New York Times. Accessing it on The New York Times website requires a subscription, but since the crossword is syndicated to hundreds of newspapers, you can easily find it online. Case in point, over at The Seattle Times. Yes, there are apps available as well. 

Crosswords and puzzles are an excellent way to kill boredom while also stimulating the brain.

And if you need something even more challenging, you’ll find Sudoku right up your alley. The game uses logic and combinatorial placement of numbers to fill a grid. The catch here is that the number cannot be repeated in horizontal and vertical rows. The rules are simple enough, but figuring out the puzzle gets hard rather quickly. I haven’t had much luck at mastering it, but you might fare better. 

Learn a new language

Duolingo language apps repetition

Your travel plans might have been put on hold but that doesn’t mean you can’t start brushing up on your French while you dream of your trip to France. Perfecting a language takes time, and if you are getting bored without much else to do, learning a new language can be a fun new project. Duolingo comes highly recommended by Android Authority’s Adamya Sharma who has been using the app to learn Mandarin. 

Personally, I prefer a more linear approach with ample theory and examples while learning languages. I’ve also found success with audio courses like those by Pimsleur. Learning Spanish has always been on my radar and the basic Spanish course over at EdX has been very useful for picking up language essentials. It is a cinch to find similar courses for most popular languages. 

Upskill yourself

Programming Books Learn Online

So far we’ve focussed on hobbies that teach you life skills or provide entertainment, but upskilling yourself is a great way to kill boredom while adding to your skillset. Yes, I get it. It’s not really a hobby but spending time on yourself can pay dividends at your job or even in everyday life and that’s hardly something to be scoffed at. 

Even if you are not looking for a job in programming, the skill can teach you logic which can be easily applied in everyday life.

The most obvious one here is to learn to program. It’s a common suggestion and for good reason. Even if you are not looking for a job in programming, understanding the basics can teach you a lot about logic which is a great skill to have in of itself. Take it a step forward though and you’ll find yourself writing short programs and scripts to ease daily tasks.

I’ve got a folder full of scripts that automatically sort out files into folders or segregate images to their own directory when triggered, saving me a lot of time. I would recommend starting off with Python as it doesn’t overload you with complicated syntax and is quick enough to get a hang of. Al Sweigart’s Python course is a brilliant way to get started as it teaches you programming through practice instead of inundating you with theory. 

I polled the Android Authority team for recommendations on what they’ve been up to, and it looks like a lot of my colleagues have been busy teaching themselves new skills. My colleague Tristan Rayner has been brushing up on his Excel skills using the data fundamentals courses over at 365 data science. Meanwhile, Suzana recommends the Pixar storytelling course over at Khan Academy. The latter explores the Pixar process to help you develop a unique perspective, create compelling characters as well as world-building. If you fancy yourself as an author, this course might be right up your alley.  

What have you been up to during the Coronavirus lockdown? Are there are any interesting skills that you’ve picked up? Suggestions that we might have missed out on?

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