Analog hobbies for when you want to escape the digital maelstrom

You can stay connected while you do these activities—but you don’t have to.

When our professional and digital lives start to encroach on our happiness, the things we do for recreation become that much more essential. Hobbies let us relax, learn new things, and take ourselves far away from the daily grind. They challenge us in unfamiliar ways and make us more interesting people.

So what makes a good analog hobby in our digital world? These three hobbies (birdwatching, Amigurumi crochet, and model trains) can be practiced when you’re on a detox from all your devices—but they can also be enhanced by online communities, tutorials, and showing off your handiwork on social platforms.

Watch out for those sneaky sparrows. Amazon

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Designed for Eastern bluebirds (which are found in much of the United States east of the Rockies and also as far south as Texas), this house has been field tested by the National Audubon Society. Join other bluebird enthusiasts online at sites like Bluebird Nut or GardenWeb and learn about bullying robins and spookers to keep away sparrows.

Feathered friends for long weekends. Amazon

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To attract cardinals, woodpeckers, robins, and hummingbirds, you have to know what they’re looking for out of the relationship. This book is full of insights on the types of vegetation and bugs birds like to eat, what types of feeders they prefer, and favorite water sources. Once you grasp the basics of birding, you can take this hobby anywhere. Start watching in your own backyard, take this free tutorial from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on how to report sightings to aid scientists, and grab the free app Merlin to help identify what you see.

The Japanese trend is suitable for beginners. Amazon

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Cute and cuddly crochet creatures are a hallmark of the Japanese craft Amigurumi. Often overshadowed by knitting, crocheting is also a yarn craft. This book is suitable for beginners, but has a wealth of patterns all crocheters can enjoy. While materials required are clearly explained as well as basic stitches (with accompanying photos), online communities like Ravelry and blogs like Amigurumi Today are great resources to exchange patterns and tips.

Is it a hobby or a way of life? Amazon

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Adults (and older kids) who still feel a thrill at the sound of a train whistle echoing across the valley, steampunk fans, and engineering buffs can all find something to like about model trains. This hobby can involve skills like woodworking, drafting, painting, and electrical engineering, depending on your interests. For people who want a book that gives an overview of the many skills you can use to build your own railroad, this one fits the bill.

All aboard. Amazon

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Train lovers who can’t wait to start running track across the living room can’t go wrong with a train from Lionel, which has been making model trains since 1900. Don’t worry, it isn’t steam powered—it can be controlled through Bluetooth using the LionChief app. As you add landscape and structures to your line, learn the history of the Transcontinental Railroad, glean tech advice with other enthusiasts, and listen to railroad folk songs.