January is National Hobby Month and a reminder to us all to spend time doing something we genuinely enjoy.
Teaching can be so all consuming that it’s important for us to find time to do something we genuinely enjoy. More than that, hobbies can be a great way to destress, make friends, challenge our brains, release our inner creativity, and maybe even make a little extra money. People talk so much about “work/life balance” nowadays, and finding a hobby is a good step toward achieving such balance.
Speaking of work/life balance, in an effort to create some balance in our lives, at night after the kids are in bed my husband and I have been working our way through five seasons of Parks & Recreation (thank you, Netflix). Though this isn’t a hobby that boosts our creativity or helps us meet new people, watching life play out in the imaginary town of Pawnee, IN has brought a lot of laughs and much-needed stress relief. Interestingly, one character on the show also espouses the virtues of having a hobby.
As Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation famously said, “People who buy things are suckers.” In a case of art imitating life, the actor who played Swanson, Nick Offerman, is a skilled woodworker who often uses his celebrity to discuss the value in making things from scratch. In fact, he is so passionate about DIY and crafting that he is hosting a new NBC reality show called Making It with fellow Parks & Rec alum, Amy Poehler, in which skilled crafters from all over country compete in creative challenges. In this interview with Off Camera with Sam Jones, he explains with chagrin that shopping and buying things has basically become a hobby.
He also shares, “The thing I think is important is that woodworking -. a lot of what I do – I didn’t know as a kid that I would love it later on in life. So I love taking kids… and trying things out with them.” He stresses it could be anything from bike riding to knitting, but ultimately, “there is a lot of caring in that.” I couldn’t agree more. When we enjoy our hobbies as adults, we can teach a younger generation, be they our students or our own children, the joy of having a hobby too.
As with adults, hobbies can provide children with much needed stress relief, an outlet for creativity, and a way to build self-esteem. They can also help children learn to set goals and then persevere to achieve them. But in order for these benefits to occur, adults, be they parents or teachers, need to be there to provide guidance and encouragement. Kids will also need a designated space for their hobby and, depending on the hobby, materials or supplies to get started. Is this starting to sound a little time consuming, not to mention expensive? Here are 4 hobbies that kids can participate in without breaking their parents’ or teacher’s bank or becoming too overwhelmed.
Hobby #1 – Woodworking
You don’t need a whole woodworking shop to teach the fundamentals to handy kiddos. The awesome blog Picklebums offers great ideas for creating a simple woodworking set for kids that won’t cost a lot. As for projects to complete, a simple bird house is a great place to start. Kids can learn about nature while learning a craft! Lowes offers many easy project plans, including a birdhouse that is made from one board of wood. Also consider making a simple bat box like this one from the National Wildlife Federation. And I know what some of you are thinking…BATS ARE CREEPY! My rebuttal: they are also amazing mosquito eaters.
Hobby #2 – Sewing
If you have a fancy sewing machine, good for you (and I’m jealous!), but you don’t need one to teach kids to sew. Hand sewing can help improve hand-eye coordination and teach kids patience. An easy way to begin is with colorful embroidery thread and styrofoam plates as the blog Make It & Love It shows. After understanding the basics of stitching, kids can graduate to more advanced cross stitch patterns or simple projects like these from Dabbles & Babbles.
Hobby #3 – Gardening
Gardening can teach kids not only how living systems work but also how to be responsible for another living thing. It can encourage healthy eating and spark an interest in cooking and baking (see hobby #4 below). Be sure to choose age appropriate plants and activities like these recommended by Parenting magazine. If you have space and time for a garden, Gardener’s Path offers a great guide to creating a garden with kids, whether at school or at home. And if you don’t, consider creating a small container garden like the one here from Outdoor Families Magazine.
Hobby #4 – Baking
This is one of my absolute favorite hobbies because it was something I was taught to do as a girl by my mom and grandma. The memories I have of baking holiday cookies or birthday cakes with them will last forever. I also like to start with baking before graduating to cooking because it involves fewer dangerous kitchen tools and baking recipes are often simpler, with fewer ingredients. Baking is also a great way to build basic math and sequencing skills, since ingredients need to be measured carefully in a specific order. At the technical school I teach in, the Culinary classes had students bake a holiday treat that was important in their families, and students learned a lot about each other’s cultures and backgrounds in the process. The Food Network offers several easy recipes kids of all ages can bake.
Parents, as the winter months drag on and cold temperatures trap us inside, how about making an effort to keep ourselves and our kids involved in meaningful hobbies rather than parked in front of the TV or tablet? Teachers, how could we work more hands-on, creative activities into our students daily routines? How could we share the hobbies we love with our students? We would all benefit in the long run if we did.
As for me, this month you will hopefully find me in the kitchen with my girls, with some fun music playing, and a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread in the works.
Know another good hobby for kids and teachers? Let us know in the comments.
-Written by the Staff of Pampered Teacher