Looking for ways to keep my hands busy while watching TV
January 6, 2021 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for games, puzzles or fidgets to keep my hands busy while watching TV. Details inside

I like to have games to play when I'm sitting on the couch watching TV or listening to podcasts. I like things that are relatively easy to play without fully engaging. I am not necessarily looking for brain busters. I like games that have sorting and such that can be done without too much deliberation.

I want to be able to hold a conversation and keep my hands busy as I get anxiety. Puzzles are OK. Really, I want something along the lines of puzzles, sorting etc. I am not looking for crosswords or board games that require too much thought.

Thank you in advance
posted by Alvin80 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
My roommate likes to do digital puzzles, I don't have a specific app to recommend but they seem like a good fit for this.
posted by radioamy at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

My absolute favorite relaxing puzzle game is called Flow Free. It's on an iPhone, not sure about other OSes.

There are varying levels of difficulty, there is no time limit, you can do a bit and come back to it later. There are endless levels on the paid version. It's just a very easy relaxing puzzle game that is perfect to do while watching TV.
posted by bondcliff at 10:05 AM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

posted by phunniemee at 10:08 AM on January 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

I really like 1010 for this, and have found coloring/cross-stitch apps (which are basically color-by-number) satisfying for when I don't need to watch the screen closely.
posted by SeedStitch at 10:16 AM on January 6, 2021

My first thought was knitting/crochet. You usually have to maintain a count of some kind, but for scarves and whatnot it's pretty easy to count the stitches on the row if you lose track.

It's not really a game, but you do get a dopamine hit from progress and it does keep your hands busy. (And the little anxiety voice is busy counting stitches.)
posted by Anonymous Function at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2021 [13 favorites]

Seconding knitting. Especially a one-color hat in the round--easy to pick up and there isn't even a lot of counting to do, especially with markers.
posted by gideonfrog at 10:54 AM on January 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

I've been keeping fingers busy on the couch by practicing playing card tricks - one handed cuts, shuffles, passes, fans - that sort of thing.
posted by niicholas at 10:57 AM on January 6, 2021

This is an expensive investment, but I found that my Nintendo Switch does this for me. In particular playing Animal Crossing (which is relatively mindless) allows me to keep my hands occupied while watching tv!
posted by something_witty at 11:02 AM on January 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm told that making chain mail is the perfect thing for this. You can order the rings online, and you need two pairs of pliers and patience.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 11:05 AM on January 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

I crochet in front of the TV, but the learning curve to get to the point where you can do it mindlessly is a bit steep.
posted by jackbishop at 11:12 AM on January 6, 2021

it's totally basic, but I use Solitaire on the iPad or Golf on Mars on the iPhone for this.
posted by supercres at 12:09 PM on January 6, 2021

The easy answer for me is Digital Games on my tablet - Dots, Two Dots, Dots & Co. if you pay attention, you'll do better, but it's fine to mindlessly play. Other similar games are Hex and Flow. Also, I Love Hue, Kami 2 and Set

But sometimes I also engage in:
Origami (usually requires a hard surface, like a table or lap desk) - I often make the large modular projects that require a number of very easily folded parts (some as few as 6 or as many as 32). It's a very cheap hobby, I buy the paper at the Japanese dollar store (Daiso)
Photo Corrections - I've been scanning old photos during the day and doing the dust removal & correction at night while watching TV
Mending - you'd be surprised at how much stuff might need a hem fixed or button attached
posted by typetive at 12:15 PM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just bought a bunch of pecans in the shell (from Etsy, of all places). These are a great way to use your hands -- you can just crush two nuts together, then pick at the shells a bunch, make sure you don't have a bad/bitter/dried out nut, then eat the little meats (or put them in a bowl for cookies or salads).

Other similar items: peas, beans in the pod/shell, peanuts.
posted by amtho at 1:18 PM on January 6, 2021

Flow free is good, but I have to dispute "endless" in the paid version. There is, actually, an end; although there are a great many puzzles and so it should work for a good long while. It's very soothing and part of my going-to-bed ritual these days.

Another option which actually does produce endless puzzles is Simon Tatham's puzzle app (there is a version for Google Play as well). It is auto-generating the puzzles, so they aren't always the best logic puzzle available, but there are always more available. Many different types of puzzles and you can set the difficulty level to suit your needs. A word of warning: I had to uninstall the app from all my devices because I can't be trusted with it due to time management issues.
posted by nat at 1:19 PM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

The New Yorker has a thing that generates puzzles out of old New Yorker covers. That's what I use when I'm not knitting.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:27 PM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I took up embroidery (I've gotten kits of Etsy and love the Kiriki samplers) and friendship bracelets during quarantine to help me pay attention in meetings and self-soothe. The bracelets are straightforward, and the usual ones follow a pattern. Michaels has a kit. If you really get into it, Braceletbook has lots of patterns. Then you can mail them to your friends (you'll need an "extra ounce" stamp from the USPS).
posted by JawnBigboote at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2021

Along the same lines of knitting or other handcrafts, I do a lot of stick-spinning using a spurtzleur while watching tv. You have to glance at it occasionally to keep the yarn even but other than that, it requires very little attention to do while keeping your hands nicely occupied and then at the end, you've got yarn!
posted by darchildre at 2:38 PM on January 6, 2021

I like doing online jigsaw puzzles while watching TV. My go-to is Jigsaw Planet. They have also been hugely helpful at calming my anxiety.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:44 PM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

This was recommend above but, consider some basic cardistry. All you need is a pack of playing cards, and the most important part is doing it over and over again to gain muscle memory. Try Basic card cuts, Charlier cut, Scissor cut. There are a great deal of good tutorials on Youtube for these things.
posted by demiurge at 3:27 PM on January 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

As mentioned above, I used to do marathon handspinning sessions while watching TV though I usually use drop spindles or Turkish spindles.

Also, Baoding Balls.
posted by whitelotus at 5:05 PM on January 6, 2021

posted by brujita at 6:53 PM on January 6, 2021

If youre looking for phone or tablet games, there’s an entire genre called “incremental clickers” or “idle games” which basically involve, well, mindlessly clicking and strategically levelling up to automate things and making big numbers go bigger. That description makes them sound boring as hell, but oddly enough they can really be addicting, but dont require much thought at all. Very easy to multi task these types of games with TV or other media. Adventure Capitalist, Bitcoin Billionaire are two of the “big names” I can think of offhand, but there are dozens of good variations.

I also do a lot of Nonogram type puzzles on my phone to achieve the same level of mindless multi tasking.
posted by cgg at 7:01 PM on January 6, 2021

Definitely consider crocheting or knitting. A simple stitch is very easy to do primarily by feel, even for someone new to it.
posted by stormyteal at 7:28 PM on January 6, 2021

For only $200 you could learn to use the one-hand chording keyboard known as the Twiddler3.
posted by mecran01 at 8:11 PM on January 6, 2021

I've been using the Happy Color app while I watch tv, which is essentially digital paint-by-numbers. Takes me about one tv show to finish a picture, give or take. Very mindless and soothing, yet rewarding. Adult coloring books are also a good option if you want something more tangible!
posted by platinum at 8:20 PM on January 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've found lockpicking really good for this — it doesn't require using your eyes at all, is a fun puzzle, and is a neat skill to have. It can be somewhat expensive (mostly buying new locks — picks are relatively inexpensive and you don't need many of them, but new practice locks can be expensive), but you can get started and see if it's something you're interested in without too much expense. Feel free to MeMail me if you want recommendations for how to get started.
posted by wesleyac at 4:53 AM on January 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am pretty much incapable of watching TV without busy hands, so here are a few things I have done:

Idle clickers, such as Eggs, Inc
Paint by sticker books
Diamond painting kits
Hand sewing, such as making small stuffed felt animals
English paper piecing
Embroidery kits
Cross stitch (I find this harder than embroidery because you have to follow the pattern so closely)
Switch games - favorites for this are Animal Crossing, Diablo, Hollow Knight, Stardew Valley, Pokémon, and Dragon Quest Builders
3DS games - favorites are YoKai Watch and Pokémon
posted by itsamermaid at 5:42 AM on January 7, 2021

I'm in itsamermaid's camp. Right now I'm doing diamond painting which might be my favorite idle-time-busy-keeper so far. For a long time it was coloring and regular jigsaw puzzles. Animal Crossing and Katamari on the switch make an appearance too.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:42 AM on January 7, 2021

Zen Koi is my fidget game.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:01 AM on January 7, 2021

Conceptis is my go-to for this. I like the pic-a-pix and fill-a-pix puzzles.
posted by elmay at 9:39 AM on January 7, 2021

Colouring in. Or absent-mindedly massaging the arm or leg of a person who does not mind. These are the only two things that work for me, everything else requires too much thought and distracts me from my show.
posted by guessthis at 4:31 PM on January 8, 2021

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