How to help your children pursue their hobbies in holiday season; Expert answers

Dec 16, 2022 02:03 AM IST

Hobbies and extracurricular activities encourage your child's growth, development, and enhancement of lifelong skills. Here is how you can help your children pursue their hobbies in holiday season.

Extended breaks from school are excellent opportunities for your child to spend focused and intensive engagement on their hobbies. Why invest time in hobbies? To begin with, hobbies are an opportunity - the only one for most kids - to have some control over their learning journey throughout childhood. School days are structured into very precise timetables and kids are literally told what to do minute by minute. The annual syllabus for these subjects is highly structured too, with prescribed learning goals and content broken up into quarters, months, weeks, and days of the year. There is very little room, in any at all, for a child to direct what they will learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it.

Hobbies and extracurricular activities assist your child to discover their interests and select what they want to do with their lives after they grow up. (Unsplash)
Hobbies and extracurricular activities assist your child to discover their interests and select what they want to do with their lives after they grow up. (Unsplash)

Hobbies and extracurricular activities assist your child to discover their interests and select what they want to do with their lives after they grow up. They also encourage their growth, development, and enhancement of lifelong skills. (Also read: Ways of teaching children about culture through art )

Talking to HT Lifestyle, Dr. Siamack Zahedi, Co-CEO and Director of Education and Research, The Acres Foundation, shared useful insights for parents to help their children use the holiday season to pursue hobbies.

Why you should engage your children in hobbies:

Children that achieve even a reasonable amount of proficiency in a hobby have done so by making appropriate learning goals, effective planning for practice throughout the week while juggling school and homework and other classes, knowing which goals to prioritize, using efficient and effective strategies for practice, having an idea about which online resources are the best to help them achieve their goals, reflecting on progress to adjust their learning plan as needed, and of course, resisting the temptation to just use their free time watching TV or playing video games. There is some serious cognitive exercise taking place here! Such learning journeys reflect the professional work environment very authentically.

Another very important reason to engage your children in hobbies is that I believe it is an excellent way to help them experience and understand very abstract and difficult-to-grasp socio-emotional traits. Consider the quality of resilience. Or patience. Or the ability to regulate one’s emotions. Sure, you can provide a one-sentence definition of these traits to your children or tell them stories, but it won’t really hit home. Instead, multiple repeated opportunities to exercise these traits in authentic situations and then reflect on them will take ideas from concrete to abstract - just like we start teaching math with physical blocks and manipulatives before we move on to having them solve division and multiplication problems on paper.

Benefits of pursuing a hobby:

For example, my 7-year-old son has been working on a rather complex LEGO build for many weeks now. He sometimes experiences frustration, breaks into tears, and gives up. This is our cue as parents to engage in dialogue like, “I can see that you are frustrated. That’s absolutely normal because it is a challenging project. I feel frustrated on challenging projects at work sometimes too. But remember, anything that is valuable or worth doing is usually challenging. And you can overcome challenges with resilience. Resilience means …” He has heard this script many times, and the vocabulary of “resilience” is now quite firmly established in his mind allowing us to use it across contexts outside of his LEGO projects too. It’s the same with patience or keeping one’s control (emotional regulation), or any other trait related to personal leadership and agency. They can all be learned through such reflective conversations that take place in your child’s journey to building proficiency in a hobby.

How you can engage your child:

While a few innovative schools are proactively engaged in helping students build personal leadership and agency, most aren’t. So, what can you do about this as a parent? For one, you can help them connect with a hobby. Expose your child to a host of arts, sports, and/or science-related engagements till you notice them naturally hooking onto something and asking for more of it themselves. Then facilitate their journey of personal learning and growth through it.

Help them set high expectations and reasonably challenging goals because these are key ingredients in creating learning experiences that promote personal leadership and agency-related traits to develop. If it's too easy or too hard, interest is lost. Finally, provide some scaffolding or support with planning, reflection, etc. through the learning journey initially, but gradually release your responsibility from the equation because remember the whole idea is that this learning journey must eventually be driven independently by the child.

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