Not Just Kids Play: The Benefit of Hobbies in Child Development

From the moment a child is born, their parents dream about their future. From dressing their kids in Buffalo Bills onesies to listening to NASA’s Storytime in Space as a family, every parent hopes their child will follow in their footsteps at least a little bit.

This drive can help your kids turn into curious adults and life-long learners. Simply sharing your hobbies with them can spark creativity and interest that lasts for years.

Hobbies Help Your Family Build Close Relationships

Passing on your hobby can help you form memories that last for years. Working on a hobby, even for a few minutes each day, can build significant emotional bonds between parents and children.

Studies show that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with your kids, or whether you fabricate “family time” through outings or dinners, Quartz reporter Lila MacLellan writes. Rather, it’s the little moments you spend sharing as a family that allow parents and kids to connect.

Teaching your child how a car works while you change the oil and letting them poke around the engine for a few minutes can have just as much of an impact as a planned day out.

Hobbies and other interests also provide opportunities to build trust and communicate, Alison Ratner Mayer, therapist and owner of Child Therapy Boston explains. When you talk through a science experiment together, you learn to discuss problems and form solutions. As a parent, you can show your child that you understand them and can think on their level. This trust goes a long way.

“If they can trust that you have their back in an imaginary pirate ship attack, they will trust that you can help them with a problem they are having with a mean pirate at school,” she writes.

Family Hobbies in Action

Hobbies vary by family, interest, and location. In the same way that each family has unique traditions, they also have specific hobbies.

As a great example, journalist Leslie Mann at The Chicago Tribune profiled a mother-and-daughters trio who create Shakespearean stop-motion videos together. What started as a project with the girls’ outgrown Barbie dolls turned into a hobby involving period dress and architecture research, studying Shakespearean plays, crafting, sewing, and using film and editing equipment. The family formed a connection while learning real skills.

“The best hobbies are those that the family can enjoy for many years, and that the kids can take with them and teach to their own children in the future,” Jasmine Howard writes at Somewhat Simple.

For example, your family might enjoy fishing in a small pond in your area and then travel somewhere to fish in a more exotic location. As your kids grow, their knowledge and skills about marine life, lures, and casting grow with them.

Start by talking to your child about what they’re interested in, the team at Tutor Doctor says.

Your kids don’t have to like all of your hobbies; you really just need to connect on one or two levels to reap the emotional familial connections. You may even discover a hobby that you weren’t interested in before that you care about because your child does.


The Benefits of Encouraging Your Child to Pursue Their Interests

In addition to helping form family bonds, hobbies and interests allow your kids grow into curious, intellectual people.

Blogger Nina Garcia at Sleeping Should be Easy says that kids who are encouraged to pursue their interests also tend to do well academically in general even when the topic isn’t what they are passionate about. Following their hobbies gives kids a chance to practice learning, exploring, and questioning, all skills that make them better learners in the future.

Furthermore, passion can help you develop true talent for things, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst  Dr. Gail Saltz explains. Many parents take the practice makes perfect approach to hobbies or activities. If a child practices enough, they will get good at something.

In reality, passion makes perfect because you want to keep testing new ideas and ways of doing things, and keep at it until you’re happy with the results. Letting your child choose their hobbies can make them passionate about what they do.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg to learn what hobbies can help kids do. The team at Barracudas Activity Day Camps listed a host of benefits that come with developing hobbies:

  • Increased confidence.
  • Improved organizational skills.
  • Better problem solving.
  • Greater attention to detail.
  • Clearer goal setting.

You can work with your child to complete their goals and develop a plan for success, whether they are trying to master a sport or build a craft for the local robotics competition.

Hobbies Help Even the Most Studious Kids

Some parents try to push hobbies on kids to make them well-rounded or to help their future prospects. However, research shows that hobbies are most effective when kids do them for fun and as a way to pause the stress of life.

“Taking the time to focus on something extracurricular that you enjoy, gives your brain a break and allows you to refocus,” psychologist Dr. Kurt Smith of Guy Stuff Counseling, writes. “Problems that once seemed unsolvable can be more easily managed after taking a step away and coming back with a renewed outlook.”

This applies to you as a parent and your child. It’s just as healthy for you to take a break from your problems and relax with a favorite hobby (with the help of your kids) as it is for your kids to take a break from school, peer stress, and other problems.


Hobbies Help Adults, Too

Hobbies also allow adults to become social, meet new people, and form connections with the community. Even if a hobby is a solo activity (like reading or gardening) there are groups that share those interests, Lori Jackson at Choosing Wisdom writes.

What starts as a family activity for you and your child can help them make friends at camps, after-school clubs, and in local organizations.

Health and wellness educator Lisa Barlage at Ohio State University Extension agrees. She has found the benefits of hobbies include a sense of accomplishment while helping build a social support system. People with hobbies can turn to the people in the organizations they volunteer with for help and for fun.

With some activities, your child might make friends while you gain support from other parents interested in the hobby, activity, or task. Plus, a child with hobbies becomes an adult with hobbies. Your child will have the skills to pursue activities and meet people with similar interests.

Kids Will Change Their Hobbies Over Time

Just because your child is fascinated with one hobby now and wants nothing to do with another hobby that you enjoy, doesn’t mean they won’t come around to it.

“There are thousands of hobbies, and chances are that your child is interested in more than one,” Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, creator of The Health Voyager, writes. “Besides, children’s interests change over time, and many hobbies are determined by the child’s age.”

You shouldn’t feel rebuffed if your child isn’t interested in your geeky hobbies right now. They might grow into them later, or never. You can only guide your little human, you can’t force them to follow specific interests.

Know When to Let Your Kids Quit Their Hobbies

Unfortunately, these changing interests can frustrate parents if they feel like their child is moving from activity to activity. This leaves some parents wondering if they should let their kids quit their hobbies if they don’t enjoy them.

Psychotherapist Dr. John Sharry, founder of Parents Plus, says that kids sit passively in class during the day and then will passively participate in whatever hobbies their parents choose for them. While they might develop an interest over time, many never do.

When parents push these hobbies, boredom can actually turn into resentment, rather than passion and drive.

So what do you do? Do you let your child quit and move on to whatever interests them next, or do you use this as an opportunity to teach commitment and dedication?

Clinical psychologist Dr. Nihara Krause encourages parents to consider the age of the child and their motives for rejecting the hobby. Younger kids expect instant gratification, and may quit a hobby if they’re not immediately good at it. In this case, it may be better to wait and revisit the hobby in a different environment after a period of time, so they can approach it as a new experience with fresh eyes.  


Computer Games Can Boost Offline Interests

Some parents worry that their kids are too computer focused, and won’t pick up off-screen hobbies. However, there is good news: even if your child doesn’t share your love of the outdoors now, preferring to play on their phones or tablets, they might come around in the future.

Your child’s screen can actually guide them toward hobbies when they put the device down, child psychologist and founder of LearningWorks for Kids, Dr. Randy Kulman explains. He has seen kids develop an interest in cooking from watching MasterChef Junior and noticed an uptick in kids asking about history and geology because of Minecraft.

As long as there are adults in the picture ready to help kids pursue these hobbies, their screens can help, rather than hinder their drive to try new things.  

Some people develop dozens of hobbies over the course of their lives, while others stick to one or two for decades. You have a chance as a parent to share your hobbies with your kids. They might connect instantly and love them, or they might move on to something else. But it’s your emotional support and family connections that count.

Images: TatianaKostareva/©123RF Stock Photo, vejaa/©123RF Stock Photo, laterjay, MabelAmber

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