How to Help your Child Find Quality Hobbies
January 3, 2013
When children find a meaningful hobby that interests them, it can benefit them socially, physically and mentally. Many hobbies involve group activities that help children meet and interact with different teachers and people their age, and in settings different from their home, child care center or typical surroundings. They also give children the chance to try new activities, find new interests and build upon what they naturally love to do.
At a younger age, hobbies such as library story groups or gymnastics classes allow parents to ease their children into simple activities that can stimulate their early reading skills, balance and coordination. As children grow older and gain more confidence and independence, advanced hobbies such as soccer or softball offer physical education, muscle development and hand/eye coordination benefits, while activities like drama classes can provide memorization skills and experience speaking in front of large groups of people.
“Parents play important roles in their children s choices, so helping them pick a valuable hobby can have lasting benefits on their personal growth,” said Richard Peterson, vice president of education for Kiddie Academy. “Even if you were a star athlete, your child might prefer painting or drama to sports. The key is to know that every child has different interests and to help them learn about themselves and how they want to spend their free time.”
Peterson recommends the following tips for helping children discover quality hobbies:
• Have open conversations with your child about what he likes doing for fun or wants to learn more about, and then do some research to see what is available in your area. Local recreation centers typically offer a variety of sports activities, while private companies can offer drama, art or book club classes. Reach out to other parents and find out what their children are enrolled in — it could offer you new ideas or let you know about a local service you otherwise did not know was available.
• Ask your child to pick the top-five activities she would be interested in and then work together to write out a list of pros and cons for each. Make sure to note the days of the week each activity meets and account for potential family scheduling conflicts. This comparison will help your child learn responsibility, gain experience weighing decisions and feel that she is part of the process to choose her hobby.
• Be sure to sign your child up for a manageable activities list. If he is coming home from a long day at school and/or in child care, it might not be reasonable for your child to be playing a sport and taking piano lessons in the same season. Limit activities to allow maximum enjoyment and minimal stress for you and your child.
• If your child starts a class-based or team hobby and wants to quit before it is done, try to base your response on his age. Younger children sometimes take longer to warm up to activities than older children. If your child is young and new to the activity, let him know he doesn t have to do it again but he will need to finish the full session for his next hobby. With an older child, explain the importance of making a commitment and the fact that his class or teammates are depending on him. This will help your child learn accountability and avoid setting a precedence that it is acceptable to start and quit activities on an ongoing basis.
• Be supportive. If you invest time with your child to choose a hobby and they feel excited and committed to the activity, be as enthusiastic and encouraging as possible. Engage her in regular discussion of what she is learning along the way, what her favorite parts are and the improvements you have seen her make. Taking an active interest will keep you both engaged along the way.