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8 new skills to learn while in lockdown, from cooking to photography

If you’ve binged on all your favourite TV shows, made it to the bottom of your reading list or are feeling fidgety on your weekends, we’ve found the online resources you need to learn something new

Louise Whitbread
Tuesday 05 January 2021 12:19 GMT
We’re all sick of baking banana bread and Zoom quizzes, so here are some alternatives
We’re all sick of baking banana bread and Zoom quizzes, so here are some alternatives (Getty)

As Boris Johnson has announced a third national lockdown in England, we’ll all be looking for ways to keep busy as we face more than a month of staying at home. And let’s face it, we’re all tired of baking banana bread and Zoom quizzes this time around.

Weekdays without a commute (for some) and weekends with little place to go can leave you feeling restless, but you can dedicate some of that extra time on your hands to learn a new language, improve your culinary skills, start painting or even take part in dance classes.

There’s a huge volume of free tutorials, apps and resources to take advantage of too, so mastering the art of coding, photography, make-up and more needn’t become an expensive pastime.

Below we’ve found the best resources to take up a new hobby or skill during lockdown.

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Learn a language

An obvious one, but what better way to start thinking about all the holidays you’ll be able to take once this is over than by learning the language of the countries you visit.

Plus, it’s always useful to have on your CV and if working abroad has been on your mind, then get a head start by picking up the local lingo.

Duolingo is a free to download, language learning app that you can spend as little as 10 minutes a day perfecting your Spanish, French, German, Japanese or even Latin. There are 30 languages to choose from and your plan is personalised to your ability across speaking, listening, reading and writing.

You can also take virtual language classes too with italki. Users can choose from more than 130 languages to learn from a bank of 10,000 teachers. Each teacher has their own course price, by the hour, and you only pay for the lessons you take. It’s a more focused way of seriously committing to learning to speak fluently.

Don’t forget about absorbing vocabulary through TV and film, Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services which have many movies, reality TV and documentaries in languages like Korean, Hindi and Tamil, subtitled for support. It’s a good way to get used to hearing a language in everyday conversation.

Learn to cook

A skill that will need very little investment, improving your culinary prowess or starting from scratch with cooking isn’t as daunting as it sounds. There’s plenty of cookbooks to suit every palette, budget and diet.

Flick through the pages of Jack Monroe’s brilliant Tin Can Cook: 75 Simple Store-cupboard Recipes for an easy one to start with, using ingredients you’ll already have in the cupboard, or are inexpensive to buy in corner shops, that won’t necessarily involve a trip to the supermarket. In it, Monroe refutes the idea that good food needs to be farm-fresh and expensive, while the recipes are easy-to-follow and rewarding.

For coeliac sufferers, Hassle Free, Gluten Free by Jane Devonshire is a no-brainer for even the most amateur of cooks. Devonshire, the 2016 MasterChef winner, developed her skills for cooking without gluten following her son’s diagnosis with coeliac when he was two. Fifteen years later, she has compiled tasty dishes from hors d’oeuvres to dessert, all the while avoiding gluten cross-contamination during food preparation. No wonder it was IndyBest’s top choice for gluten-free cookbooks.

If you’re looking to focus on nutritional meals, try working your way through Eat Yourself Healthy by Dr Megan Rossi. Otherwise known as The Gut health Doctor, Rossi brings her decade of knowledge as a dietician and clinical research to 50 recipes that will inspire your mealtime choices. Think fig and courgette banana loaf, chickpea crepes or tofu skewers, alongside helpful advice on dealing with IBS, bloating and intolerances.

For the more adventurous of cooks and lovers of all things Italian, why not try making your own pasta, for fresh, restaurant-quality plates of carbs, creamy sauces and comfort food. We loved the KitchenAid 5KSMPRA food mixer attachment pasta maker in our review of the best pasta makers for how speedy and simple the process was. It’s three attachments that slot into an existing KitchenAid, pricey at £155, but totally worth it for pasta that would make Nonna proud.

Calligraphy is easy to start, and all you need is a pen and paper – and some ink (Getty) (Getty Images)

Learn to dance

Brighten up lockdown with free online dance workshop hosted by the professionals at Sadlers Wells. Back in the first national lockdown, it launched a platform called Digital Stage where it presents performances and curate classes for children and older people to do at home. The teachers are artists from around the world and alongside the classes, you’ll also be able to watch dance performances from the likes of BalletBoyz and Rumpelstiltskin by balletLORENT, all shows that were due to run at the theatre pre-coronavirus.

For a dance-led fitness class, look no further Camp Fit’s retro aerobics classes. Landing a spot in our review of the best online fitness classes to livestream during lockdown, our tester said: "These 40-minute dance classes got us through a fortnight in quarantine."

“The classes, which are shot from the winningly ordinary confines of instructor Carl Harrison’s flat, are high energy – wear your best Eighties trainers and sweatband – with a fabulous soundtrack, but there’s a sprinkling of yoga and stretching (done, gloriously, to Natalie Imbruglia’s song Torn) in the mix to help you catch your breath,” they added.

With livestream Instagram classes on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, our reviewer said that they are “perfect for anyone who misses dance fitness sessions or who needs a bit more sparkle in isolation.”

Learn to paint or draw

Continuing with a creative outlet, art classes and online tutorials are in abundance, but can also be done off the cuff as long as you have a canvas and colours to work with.

Drawspace offers free and paid drawing lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced artists, and cover everything from contour drawing to symmetrical design. YouTube channel WowArt, is also an easy resource to take advantage of during lockdown with its 30-minute tutorials using household items like cotton buds, toothbrushes and spoons.

Watercolour sets, oil-paints and chalks can all be found for little expense online, and are also a useful lesson to incorporate into home-schooling and keep kids of all ages occupied. If all else fails, grab a colouring book.

Calligraphy classes are another option to consider, Obby offers free classes and beginner sets of a nib, straight pen and black ink costing £14, which are an affordable way to get started. It’s a great tool to perfect if you’re planning a wedding and want to create the invitations yourself. In light of the coronavirus, it’s also hosting online group watercolour, photography and mandala flower drawing classes from £10 per person for upwards of an hour.

Learn photography

Avid photography fans or those new to the craft can pick up tips, polish existing skills and further your interest with an online photography class.

While the newest iPhone has cameras to rival a DSLR, if it’s a skill you want to invest in, we found the Panasonic Lumix DC-TZ200EB was well worth the price tag of £629.99 in our review of the best DSLR cameras. Compact in size but with a huge zoom lens (15x) and excellent battery life makes it spectacularly good for everything from wildlife to sports photography. So when you’re next in the garden, snap away.

Once you’ve started shooting, sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud, for a little under £20 a month, you can have access to Photoshop and InDesign, along with other editing tools and access to Adobe tutorials in 20-minute video segments for you to follow along to.

From arts and crafts to tech-savvy skills like coding, there’s plenty of free tutorials online to take advantage of (Getty) (Getty Images)

Learn to code

If coding is completely new to you, start with an online class such as Code Academy, which offers free classes and paid monthly memberships from £15.99 where you’ll be set projects, have access to step-by-step guidance by coding experts and peer support from other students, all without leaving the sofa.

If it’s something you want to do together with your kids, try Detective Dot. Suited to children eight-year-olds and older, it’s focused on encouraging more women to work in tech. The megapack for £18.99 includes a storybook that doubles as a lesson in coding, six STEM-based missions, stickers sheets, a personalised letter from the mock-CIA, membership card and a lifetime CIA membership to online missions and games.

Learn how to do make-up and nail airt

If the boredom is setting in and you’re missing your beauty appointments for a touch of TLC, try teaching yourself to master nail art. Michelle Lee, editor-in-chief of Allure magazine, is a nail art aficionado who regularly posts her nail tutorials on Instagram, from the surreal goldfish patterns to bold tie-dye prints on polished fingers, often using only nail polish. As mesmerising as they are impressive, it’s a never-ending page of inspiration.

While there are many makeup schools online to dust up on your smoky eye and colour matching skills, the best place we’d recommend is YouTube. Everything is free and there’s no shortage of experts to watch. Lisa Eldridge, pro make-up artist and global creative director for Lancome, creates easy-to-follow tutorials for wearable looks using a mix of high end and affordable products from a woman who has touched every corner of the industry from editorial shoots to creating her own line of lipsticks – which FYI, are excellent.

There’s also the big YouTube make-up stars, such as Chloe Morello, Nikkie Tutorials, Alissa Ashley, Jackie Aina and Nyma Tang who have hours of videos to binge on that will help pass the time, while you pick up a few tips along the way.

Learn arts and crafts

If you’re on a budget, then learning origami is an inexpensive and easy way to fill your time, while doing something productive. is a helpful resource that has more than 120 models that you fold using just paper, from animals to food and drink objects that will brighten up a window sill.

Knitting is also a simple skill that can be mastered while you relax on the sofa. Head to LoveCrafts for everything from patterns, needles, tips and tricks, yarn and hooks in one handy place. It has a detailed editorial section too with inspiration on projects to start, new techniques and seasonal designs such as Father’s Day gifts or egg cosies for Easter.

Read our round-up of the best apps to play games with friends during lockdown

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