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.

yarn and birdhouse
Knit a sweater! Build a birdhouse!Giulia Bertelli via Unsplash

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.

The best activities are ones you can start easily but offer ample room to expand your knowledge over time. It's also fun to have things to save up for—like a rare railroad car for your train set or a spotting scope for long-range bird watching.

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.

Woodlink NABB Audubon Cedar Bluebird House

Woodlink NABB Audubon Cedar Bluebird House
Watch out for those sneaky sparrows.Amazon

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.

Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips

Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips
Feathered friends for long weekends.Amazon

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.

Whimsical Stitches: A Modern Makers Book of Amigurumi Crochet Patterns

Whimsical Stitches: A Modern Makers Book of Amigurumi Crochet Patterns
The Japanese crochet trend is suitable for beginners.Amazon

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.

Hoooked Ziggy Giraffe Kit W/Eco Barbante Yarn-Spring

Hoooked Ziggy Giraffe Kit W/Eco Barbante Yarn-Spring
Crochet your way to Instagram fame.Amazon

Jump straight into making an Amigurumi giraffe with this kit from Hoooked, which contains everything you need except for stuffing. If you feel stuck, you can find step-by-step videos on their website. Craft your adorable new friend in a cabin in the woods or at home with a cup of tea—and when you are ready to get back online, share your creation with #amigurumi on Instagram, which appears in well over 5 million posts.

Building a Model Railroad Step by Step

Building a Model Railroad Step by Step
Is it a hobby or a way of life?Amazon

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.

Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Electric O Gauge Model Train Set

Lionel Pennsylvania Flyer Electric O Gauge Model Train Set
All aboard.Amazon

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.