Let’s face it—there’s not a whole lot to do at home that we haven’t already done. We can read; we can binge-watch Netflix; we can do workout videos; some of us can work remotely.
Gwyneth Paltrow urged everyone to write a book or learn a new language while quarantined. That’s not exactly realistic, especially if you’re homeschooling kids, juggling a full-time job or are really just looking for something to do while you’re listening to your favorite podcast or daydreaming about what it would be like to walk through TJ Maxx again.
Here’s another idea: Try art. Not “I’m going to sell this painting” art, but “I’m never going to show this to anyone” art.
Art therapy has been used for years for both adults and children to overcome anxiety and depression, heal from trauma, cope with stress, and boost self-esteem. It’s also a great mindfulness tool for living in the moment. “The colors, textures and sounds of creating pull us into the moment,” artist Amy Maricle told The New York Times for their feature on meditation with art.
Here are some specific ways to do your own kind of “in-home art therapy” right now:
Adult coloring books. They’re available by the thousands on Amazon, and they range from just a few dollars to expensive ones made with high-quality paper. This is a great thing to do to spend more time with your kids instead of reenacting stories with dolls and cars all day. Colored pencils or thin markers are the best tools for coloring intricate drawings.
Watercolors. Watercolor is possibly the easiest of all art mediums, because it looks good even when you mess up. Everything has that hazy, dreamy feeling, and “mistakes” look intentional. It’s also easy to clean up. One great way to use watercolors to make a really professional looking piece of art is to trace a stencil or the outline of a picture onto watercolor paper with a thin black marker, then fill it in with watercolor.
Do Mo Willems’ lunchtime doodle class with your kids. Seriously, the finished pigeon looks really, really good!
Abstract art. Use masking tape to create shapes and fill them in with paint. Or trace items around the house to make perfect circles and squares in different patterns.
Try an art subscription box. These kits give you just enough materials for a project or two each month, and guide you through how to do them.
Zentangle. This relatively new art form allows you to create intricate, structured drawings with no experience. It works best when you have a perfectly square paper card (which you can buy online), with a thin black marker. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to make different designs.
Paint a landscape. Channel your inner British romantic and try landscape painting. It’s a great way to force yourself outside this spring. Paint what you see in your backyard. It will be a great memento to show your kids of “that time when we couldn’t leave our houses for three months.”
Calligraphy. If you can learn this skill, your gifts will always be nicer than mostly everyone else’s (a calligraphed notecard set with someone’s name, a bookmark with an inspiring quote, a handwritten letter…). Some types of calligraphy take years to learn, but some can be learned in just a few hours.
Tracing. There is something so meditative about tracing that we forget as adults. Buy a tracing lightbox or a projector, and you can recreate pretty much anything.
Paint by numbers. We all love these as kids, and somewhere along the way we forget how much fun they are.
The next time you’re scrolling through Amazon (probably, if you’re like me, in the next five minutes), consider throwing a couple of art tools in your cart. It will make you feel slightly more productive and way more relaxed than Netflix.