Why Your Kids Need a New Hobby
What hobbies do your kids have? I recently read an article at Better Homes & Gardens where the parents of many kids couldn’t name a hobby their children enjoyed (even though they fondly remember their own from childhood). Between little league and after school clubs and commitments, kids are growing up with more programmed activities than actual hobbies – those things they choose for themselves because they really enjoy them.
Why Do Kids Need Hobbies?
Child psychologist Kenneth Condrell, Ph.D. claims that children who do not have hobbies or special interests do not know how to keep themselves occupied, and can even seem boring to potential friends (not to mention inclined to pester their parents regularly). They also tend to have lower self-esteem because they aren’t regularly involved in an activity that gives them a sense of accomplishment or competency. Other research shows that children with development delays and diagnoses of things like ADD can greatly benefit from pursuing hobbies. Their attention and focus on a task is encouraged, and when it is a topic about which they are passionate, they tend to see higher levels of success and rising levels of self-esteem.
When kids don’t have hobbies, however, they can end up being the kids who cry out “I’m, SO bored!” – because they really are. Hobbies give kids the opportunities for growth they might not otherwise experience and teach them much more than about just the particular activity.
- Teach kids about making goals (my boys are constantly figuring out how much money they need to save in order to buy the next yo-yo or LEGO set).
- Help them learn to socialize by connecting them to others with similar interests.
- Provide outlets for extra energy.
- Teach kids decision-making skills.
- Provide opportunities for developing public speaking, presentation, and organizational skills.
- Have the potential to lead to careers and lifelong interests.
How Can I Help My Child Find a Hobby?
Kids aren’t born with a paintbrush in one fist or a field guide to birds in the other. It can take time to uncover and develop hobbies, but when kids are given the opportunities to pursue their passions, they can often find their hobbies emerging.
- Take a class with your kids – but let them choose the activity.
- Give them guidance. If you don’t know anything about their interests, help them find someone who does.
- Provide a space and opportunity for them to pursue their interests. My boys know they must take their off-string yo-yos out of the house for practice. But I also allow yo-yoing in the living room when the tricks are controlled.
- Encourage them – even if you aren’t interested in the activity.
- Help them find ways to acquire the tools (but don’t be afraid to start small). Kids can change their minds like the wind blows, so avoid stocking up on expensive supplies right away.
- Encourage them to take it to the next level. I recently drove a vanload of boys to a state yo-yo competition where the kids took the stage in front of hundreds of people to do their yo-yo routines. They got to meet professionals in the field and be inspired. And all it cost was the gas money to get there.
What Kinds of Hobbies are There for Kids?
The list goes on and on, but all you have to do is search for books at the library, local organizations, or sites online for more information about the following possibilities.
- RC vehicles
- Dog/pet training and showing – my daughter has gone on to compete and do well with her dog, but has also combined this love with therapy dog visits – enhancing the lives of others as well as her own
- Jewelry making – my daughter just made a new “green” paper headband out of junk mail like the one she paid $15 for at the Mall of America
- Photography – digital cameras take away the prohibitive costs of developing dozens of rolls of film each day – just recharge the battery and empty the memory card!
- Stamp collecting
- LEGOs or other engineering toys – 2 of my boys are in LEGO league that takes their building to a whole new level
- Model cars and rockets – the price ranges are huge and the difficulty levels can keep teens occupied
- Magic tricks
- Rock collecting – visit your local nature center for a start
- Bird watching – my daughter’s Biology professor often speaks of his childhood passion for bird watching, and how that led to his career (which he absolutely loves)
On several occasions I have had people say that they can’t believe I would become a dog training leader for youth to support my daughter’s hobby, or indulge the boys by taking them to yo-yo competitions. I usually respond with the same thing: There are so many worse things that a bunch of teenagers could want to do on a Saturday, so I’ll take my gifts where I can get them. Hobbies are gifts that our kids can give themselves, but that the rest of us are rewarded with as well. One of the best things about watching my children pursue their hobbies is the fire I see in their eyes. They experience self-discovery, motivation, and the feeling that comes from reaching their goals and enjoying the trip to get there (even if it includes a stinky van full of teenage boys).