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We’ve spent a few months huddling in our homes during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has given us the time to take up activities we’ve long neglected or perhaps have always wanted to try. After all, how hard could it really be to learn to play the violin now that we’ve watched all the episodes of “Tiger King”?

But of all the many stay-at-home hobbies, which are the easiest for the impatient beginner? Which are least likely to annoy our family or neighbors? And, maybe most important, which are fascinating enough to last? To help you choose, check out our guide to the pandemic pastimes with the most staying power.

Reading a classic

Why: Checking “War and Peace” and “Moby Dick” off your bucket list will give you smarty pants bragging rights at your next Zoom happy hour.

How hard is it: These classics are rated as “readable” by high school students, so it shouldn’t be that tough.

Will it last: They may discover a vaccine before you get to the last page of one of these tomes. It’s just too tempting to take a short cut, like the Disney-produced “Moby Dick” graphic novel, with Scrooge McDuck as Captain Quackhab. Or the Cozy Classic version of “War and Peace” which boils down Tolstoy’s 560,000+-word epic to just 12 “child friendly” words, accompanied by needle-felted illustrations. (Spoiler alert: “Soldier. Boom!”)

Baking bread

Why: What can beat the smell of fresh baked bread?

How hard is it: It’s a bit like conducting a chemistry experiment. The results are best when you follow instructions, are precise in your measurements, control the temperature and master your technique.

Will it last: Will you really have time to keep your sourdough starter alive, not to mention all that kneading, proofing and shaping? Besides, will anyone still want to eat all those carbs when we’re trying to lose “the COVID-15”?

Solo exercise

Why: Exercising outdoors by yourself or in the privacy of your home is a comparatively safe activity during the pandemic. And because we need to work off all that fresh baked bread, there’s been a boom in biking, inline skating and home workouts.

How hard is it: You never forget how to ride a bike, but be prepared for some aches and pains if you overdo it. Oh, and dumbbells are as hard to find as Clorox wipes.

Will it last: Definitely. You’d never let that expensive new treadmill become a clothes rack, would you?

Playing puzzles and games

Why: With the kids home from school, you want a family activity that doesn’t involve screens.

How hard is it: The hardest part isn’t finding all the edge pieces, it’s finding a puzzle. Booming sales have led to shortages. If you want to try a new board game, has an encyclopedic listing of games organized by genre and popularity and with complexity ratings.

Will it last: If your family is competitive, there’s a good chance puzzles and games will be part of your future.

Feeding backyard critters

Why: Sales of bird seed and feeders have taken flight as people stuck in their homes try to liven up the view outside the window. Squirrel feeding has also become popular, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, with cooped-up homebodies getting social media mileage out of videos of the antics of the urban rodents.

How hard is it: It’s easy to buy bird seed. But it helps to have some video editing skills if you want to be like Mahtomedi resident Randy Lindorff, who got a quarter-million TikTok views on a slow-motion video of a crazy squirrel hanging from on a spinning bird feeder.

Will it last: As long as the coronavirus doesn’t jump between humans and squirrels, we’re good.

Learning to sing or play an instrument

Why: You saw those videos of Italians applauding musicians serenading their neighbors from balconies. You want to be one of those musicians, don’t you?

How hard is it: Every musician thinks their instrument is the hardest of all to play. And they’re all right. But places like MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis are offering live, online music lessons. “Here’s a great chance to learn something new while you shelter in place,” according to the school’s website.

Will it last: Don’t quit your day job.

Learning a new language

Why: Being stuck at home is probably making a lot of us eager to see foreign lands someday.

How hard is it: Apps like Babbel and Duolingo make it cheap and easy to get started in an abundance of different languages.

Will it last: It’s hard to say which will come sooner, fluency in a new language or other countries allowing Americans to enter.

Backyard farming

Why: We’ve all acquired a bit of a prepper mind-set since the pandemic hit. The idea of starting a vegetable garden and keeping chickens sounds better than masking up and facing shortages at the grocery store.

How hard is it: You can weed, water and fertilize, but you may find it hard to beat supermarket quality and prices. Also, you’ll have to wait a while for your first cucumber or egg to arrive.

Will it last: Maybe, if knowing that you grew it makes it taste better than store-bought.


Why: You’ll feel like you’re making a difference in a difficult time if you volunteer to churn out a few dozen cloth masks.

How hard is it: You might have to drop a few hundred dollars to get a decent sewing machine. And there’s a bit of a learning curve. Thread tension? Bobbin winders? The Singer Start 1304, a beginner model, has a 73-page manual and a 30-item troubleshooting guide.

Will it last: Well, someone will have to turn all those cloth face masks into quilts once this is all over.


Why: Now that you’re home a lot, you may look around and wonder, “Why do I have all this stuff?” Especially as your house fills up with board games, jigsaw puzzles, musical instruments and sewing paraphernalia.

How hard is it: Closings and high demand during the pandemic made it hard to find a place to donate stuff. But the garbage service hasn’t stopped. Or maybe you can try to host a socially distant garage sale.

Will it last: Depends on if all the stuff you acquired for your lockdown hobby continues to spark joy.

Cardboard cat architecture

Why: Instead of recycling all those boxes from Amazon, you can create an elaborate, multilevel, cardboard dream house for your cat.

How hard is it: All you need is tape and a box cutter. Which you can have delivered from Amazon.

Will it last: After you finish the mansion, your cat will probably also want a cardboard pirate ship, a cardboard plane, a cardboard convertible ...