We teach our children many of the skills and experiences to prepare them for adulthood. Home education and some form of formal or academic education, together with a wide range of social experiences help our children grow in many ways.
But what can we do to equip children with the unique skills and experiences that will enrich their lives in other ways?
Learning a hobby is my number one choice for the enrichment of a child, and here are 18 reasons why:
- Has great entertainment value – Hobbies are a wonderful opportunity for the extra-curricular development of your child, providing additional learning perspectives while the child is being entertained.
- Makes good use of spare time – Instead of lounging around or watching excessive television or loitering in parks and streets, hobbies can be a great way to keep your child occupied in relevant activities which they enjoy.
- Stops your child from getting bored – From time to time, all children complain of being bored. Having a hobby to engage their interest in, is invaluable in relieving that problem.
- Encourages using external sources of information – Having a hobby can help your child to learn independently of an adult e.g. a child can learn to fold paper and make origami objects from a book; she can learn and make a delicious recipe from the internet; she can learn and try out hair-styling from an instructional CD.
- Teaches different skills – E.g. crafting and cooking are hands on activities, sports exercise the whole body, puzzles challenge the mind, performing arts and debating develops verbal skills.
- Improves motor skills – Crafting teaches fine finger-movements; cooking and sports such as badminton and tennis, teach hand-eye co-ordination; ball-games e.g. football, basketball etc. improve accuracy while skate-boarding improves balancing skills.
- Increases listening skills – In addition to developing musical abilities, learning a musical instrument can result in your child learning all of the above (as listed in reason 6). It doesn’t have to be music but listening to others’ opinions, or the instructions of a martial arts’ master can also increase your child’s ability to listen carefully.
- Develops fitness, strength and endurance – All sports including cycling, swimming and martial arts will help your child’s physical capabilities and general state of health.
- Improves social skills – Playing board games and team-sports encourages trust in others and trustworthiness. Participating in a choir or a gardening club requires a child to be less self-centred and more considerate, teaching her to act as a part of a whole.
- Increases self-confidence – As a child improves in a particular skill, so does it increase the child’s sense of self-esteem.
- Develops strategic thinking – Your child’s mind will be stretched beyond their daily thinking capacities when pursuing pastimes such as the classics: chess and draughts, board games like Ludo, some video games, Mancala, Chinese Checkers, Rubik’s Cube, code-breaking games etc.
- Improves deduction skills – Some activities will help your child to sharpen her ability to ‘think outside the box’ i.e. use the information available and use it in an unusual way. For example, some scouting activities may demand the development of deductive skills and innovative thinking under limited conditions.
- Develops word-power and number-power – Any hobby which involves extensive use of the written word or numeracy skills will ultimately increase your child’s competency in these crucial areas of communication. This may be as simple as reading and following an instructions manual for assembling a model.
- Improves management skills – In order to make time for her chosen hobby or hobbies, your child will soon learn to manage her homework and chores. She will also improve in her management of time for other social arrangements such as spending time with family and friends.
- Losing and winning – Competitive sports and activities teach children to be good sports, whether they win or lose. They can help your child to deal with anything less than success with grace, learning that winning is not always as important as participating.
- Quickens reflex responses – Some electronic games can be useful for sharpening a child’s wits, and processing and responding to multiple stimuli. There are many educational and fun electronic gaming systems which a child can engage in and benefit from. However, it is recommended that parents check and screen video games to determine suitability for the age of their child. In addition, it is best to talk over and agree with the child about the length of playtime per day.
- Develops a child’s sense of achievement – When a child successfully reaches a milestone in her chosen hobby or follows a project to completion, she is rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment and pride in her work.
- Can lead to tangible rewards – A finished jigsaw puzzle or art project, a successful sporting event resulting in a medal, a completed Rubik’s cube in her hands, or a well-attended choir recital – these all offer real, tangible recognition of your child’s sustained efforts and serve as encouragement for continued progress in her chosen hobby.
If your child doesn’t already have a hobby which she enjoys in her spare time, offer her the opportunity to try out a few of the pastimes referred to in this article (or any other hobby you consider suitable for your child). If your child has a favourite hobby, encourage her to pursue it to the next level and support her activities by providing resources, time and opportunities which will help her to develop in up to 18 different ways.