1 June 2009 04:14 PM

Hobbies for Kids

by Dr. Rick

I may be showing my age, but one of my favorite on-line columnists/bloggers is Dick Cavett at the New York Times.  In March he wrote about his childhood hobby, magic (and included a cool 1977 video of The Great Syldini that you should watch with your kids).  He wondered whether kids today are still interested in baffling friends and family with amazing tricks.


It got me to thinking.  Even if “hobby” is a hopelessly old-fashioned word and concept, is it still worthwhile for parents to encourage kids to have pastimes that encourage activity and creativity, pastimes pursued purely for pleasure and knowledge?  The answer is a no-brainer.  Of course it is.


Anyone who’s been around kids knows that they like to do different, new, and exciting things.  They’re naturally inquisitive and love to learn new skills, to discover new things about themselves and the world they live in.  They’re pleased when they learn they have a special talent or interest.


What are some kid-friendly hobbies?  After talking with teachers and kids, I’ve accumulated a small list.  (You can see tons more at www.listofhobbies.net.) 

  • Music
  • Reading
  • Magic 
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Crafts
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sports
  • Board games
  • Coin collecting
  • Stamp collecting
  • Rock collecting
  • History
  • Building things
  • Yes, video games, too, but they hardly need more encouragement.

We adults have a special role in helping our kids find their natural talents and interests.  Guide them.  Show them our interests beyond our professions and jobs, interests that make life more interesting, interests that teach us about ourselves and others, interests that keep us active, interests that keep us from wasting our lives passively in front of a screen.


When I was a kid, my father started a family interest in stamp collecting.  He sent envelopes, which he had me address to myself in my elementary school handwriting, off to distant post offices for first-day-issue stamps.  The envelopes would come back to me with a new stamp attached, cancelled with “First Day of Issue” inked on it.  I felt special when my self-addressed envelope came back to me.  As I grew older, he gave the honors to my younger brothers and sister as they entered sixth grade.  He’s ninety now, and the honors have gone from my brothers and sister and me to our children.  There are hundreds of first-day-issue envelopes, dating from 1959, all bearing the names of our family over the years.  Dad’s kept them organized in neat, chronological albums.  We love to look at them, marvel at a seven cent air mail stamp, note the increases in the prices, learn about the men and women pictured on them, and see the collection grow with our family members’ names on the envelopes.  The collection’s become a keepsake, and we’re grateful to Dad for maintaining it.


Other benefits of hobbies?  How about these?  Besides providing limitless hours of entertainment and fascination, hobbies can:

  • Help build and improve organization skills.  (Organizing their various collections will give a new and personal meaning to organizing.)
  • Help develop time management skills.  (“Yes, you can work on your collection – as soon as you’ve done your homework.”)
  • Help develop fine motor skills.  (Kids love to make things, so have plenty of construction paper, glue, sparklies, markers, crayons, water colors around the house.)
  • Encourage creativity.  (“Hey, look what I made!”)
  • Encourage socializing.  (Kids with like interests can support and motivate each other and create unique friendships.)
  • Build confidence.  (What a sense of accomplishment when your kid finally beats the neighborhood chess champ – or at least gives him a nervous run for his money.)
  • Encourage reading.  (He’ll feel proud when he discovers an interesting fact he was motivated to read on his own.)
  • Get kids outdoors for sports and physical activity.  (Kids need more, not less, physical activity.)
  • Provide opportunities for family sharing and fun.  (See my comments above about stamp collecting.)
  • Lead to lifelong passions.   (Most old hobbyists have been indulging their interests since childhood.)
  • Lead to fame and fortune.  (You never know.  Bill Gates’ hobby was electronics.  Stephen King’s was writing scary stories.  Walt Disney’s was doodling.)

So, consider your kids’ talents and interests.  Steer them, guide them, but don’t pressure them. Let them experiment, try a lot of things first before you spend lots of money.  (Hobbies, by the way, don’t need to be expensive.)  Guitar.  Crafts. Horseback riding.  Whatever.  Just get them up and moving and thinking and creating and learning.


And having fun.


What are your kids’ hobbies?  We’d love to hear stories about them.  Just click on “comment” below and share your family’s experiences.





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