Children of the 20th century enjoyed hobbies such as gardening, crocheting, sewing, knitting, weaving and painting. Today, the scenario is entirely different. These hobbies are being lost to the younger generation. But why?
The lure of digital gadgets, computer screens and smart phones are swallowing up the free time children have. And us adults are just as guilty, turning to our mobiles in the park to read the latest work email, opening up our laptops during playtime to “just check something”. Add to this a few hours of homework and music practice and there is soon limited leisure time to enjoy hobbies – let alone to spend days creating a product.
Why Should We Encourage Hobbies?
The current generation would undoubtedly prefer buying a sweater to knitting one. While this may seem easy and practical, having a hobby is not just about knitting your own sweaters! As children struggle in today’s rat race, hobbies offer a refreshing respite that is both relaxing and fun. They are a form of play, and provide children an opportunity to find satisfaction and build confidence through creativity.
A hobby is also often a skill. One that can only continue to exist by passing it on. Unless we promote it, the skill will die, because one day there will be nobody left to teach it.
Not only this, but research from Cornell University reveals that children with hobbies are confident, have improved academic skills and understand the relationship between money and work better.
All sounds good to me! So what can we do to keep the younger generation engaged in hobbies? Here are some ideas with incredible input from the extraordinary Maggy of Red Ted Art and Life At The Zoo! I can’t think of anyone more suitable to talk about keeping our kids occupied. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, I’d recommend a trip over to Maggy’s sites for some incredible inspiration!
Tips To Get Our Youngsters Into Hobbies
1. Set An Example!
Get off your phones! Children observe and learn from the adults around them. If we are constantly glued to the television or computer during our leisure time, it is natural that they will follow. Force yourself to leave the mobile at home and take the kids for a walk – you’d be amazed how quickly you come up with games in the park. The same goes for home – force yourself to turn the computer off for a few hours every evening and pick up a new hobby. Why not try sewing or woodwork and get the kids involved? (I know where you can get a few lovely fabrics * ahem *)
Some parents may be hesitant not to introduce their kids to a skill that they don’t know themselves, like sewing or knitting. Well don’t be! Maggy from Red Ted Art and Life At The Zoo imparted some of her incredible knowledge on the subject:
“Just because you don’t have a skill, doesn’t mean your child can’t learn. I learned to knit and sew from my grandmother, neither my parents are particularly crafty. I think it goes back to trying things out.. if you have a friend of the family or a family member with a certain passion, let them have a go at teaching… and if your child response, buy kits and books to support it, as well as arrange for lots of time with that family member!”
2. Don’t Push It
The important part of having a hobby is enjoying it! Like many things, hobbies aren’t enjoyable when you don’t think you’re any good at it. Remember the first time you went to the gym? Or the last time you got beaten at a board game? It’s no fun when you’re struggling or losing. So start small and scale projects down to their abilities.
3. Focus On The Skill, Not The Result
When children are involved in a project, it’s not about the end result, so don’t forget to appreciate their efforts and encourage them to stick to it. If you find your kids are dissuaded by their initial results, remind them that their skills will take time to develop, and make sure you point out their improvements next time.
4. Be Patient
When working with children, patience is essential. They may not necessarily be interested when you first introduce a hobby. Coax them into having a go and help them to stay focussed by getting involved – particularly if they get stuck!
“Personally, I think children should discover hobbies for themselves – create their own interests and passions. As parents we can assist this by providing lots of different experiences for them and watching how they respond. I think asking “what do you like” or “did you enjoy that” incessantly can put children off or put you on the wrong trail.. Basically, give them things to try. Then wait and see if they talk about it a lot in the coming weeks or not… then let them have another go. Also, I learnt a lot about my kids interests once they started reading – as they read the books of interest so much easier, better and quicker!”
5. Group Activities and Events
Spend some time doing hobbies in groups. Sometimes an enthusiastic adult, or seeing other youngsters enjoying the hobby will spark their interest even more! For ideas on where to go, browse the adverts in your local museum, coffee shop and library. Why not invite their friends and parents (if appropriate) too? I asked Maggy what her thoughts were:
“It depends on your objective for having hobbies. Some hobbies bring you together as a family and others is about personal development. We don’t all like the same things after all. So I think for me it is about hobbies that the child loves and can do on their own or with their friends – if they happen to overlap with what the parents like, great, if not, not a problem. Though it is also good to find “family hobbies” that you can all do together. But these should be secondary, I think, as you can enforce your interests on others.”
6. Value Everything
Value everything a child does and creates. It’s easy to get wrapped up in “What should I make for dinner” and “I’ve got to get the washing on”, and shrug off the latest artwork or achievement your child tells you about. I’ve fallen into the trap with an “oh yes yes it’s lovely”, and believe me, kids can tell when you’re obviously not listening! Try and take a few seconds just to acknowledge and value the work. As soon as there is no encouragement, there will soon be a lack of interest and a disheartened, demoralised child who doesn’t see any value in showing you anything anymore!
But what should you do if you’re presented with a piece of artwork that you don’t particularly like? Here are Maggy’s top tips on that:
“I think it is important not to know show your dislike too strongly, though lying and saying that you “love it” isn’t right either. You can ask things like “how did you come up with that idea?” or “that’s a bit different, how fun!” or “tell me more about it, did you enjoy making it”. It could be that the child doesn’t like it either after all! We talk a lot in our house about how we all have different tastes and like different things. And that “real” Artists often draw or paint 10 pictures before they create one they love.”
7. Let Them Run Free
Trust your children with their creativity. Provide them the materials, teach them basics and supervise them with their creative venture. Then sit back and watch their talent blossom.
Giving children the opportunity for undirected exploration allows them to discover hobbies that suit their personality. We shouldn’t stifle their creativity by forcing a particular hobby or supervising them all the time. Provide them the necessary materials and let their imagination take wings as they put their hands and thoughts into action.
Peter Gray, a psychologist and research professor at Boston College tells us,
“You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom, and it blossoms in play.”
His report “The Play Deficit” provides valuable insight into the problems faced by today’s generation due to decline in playtime. It teaches us the importance of letting children play without the interference of adults.
8. Teach Them The Value of Handmade
I sell a lot of handmade fabrics, and it astonishes me when people don’t realise the value of them – this whole piece of fabric was woven by hand.. BY HAND! So this is a particularly poignant point for me, I must say. Our children should be taught to appreciate the value of everything that is handmade. Promote their efforts, as well as those of others who create valuable products by hand. Whether it is a handmade cabinet, a knitted sweater or a tended garden, we should treat it with respect and speak of the time and skill that goes into creating it. Motivate them to attempt similar hobbies.
9. Have A Goal
In work it’s good to have an aim, an end goal. Hobbies are no different. If your chosen hobby is knitting or sewing, why not aim to make something for someone’s birthday or Christmas? Having a goal encourages working to a timetable, as well as being a great way to keep motivated.
And for some final advice, Maggy says,
“Remember that hobbies should be about having fun and that they are pleasurable. Anything children do that they don’t enjoy, they will not continue doing so once you are not around to tell them. So focus on what your kids like, give them a bit of choice. Make sure they have time for that hobby and are not too busy with other schedules.”