Kids benefit from hobbies new and old

Not just goofing around

Does your kid have a hobby? Do you know anyone's kid who has a hobby?

Adults have hobbies. Kids used to have them, too. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that indicates there's at least a perception that the number of youngsters pursuing hobbies has declined. There seems to be a decrease in leisure time and an increase in TV-watching and videogame playing.

Hobbies come in all shapes and sizes, but the hallmarks of every hobby are: making something of your own, learning new skills, and doing it on your own time, because you want to.

Turns out hobbies provide much-needed centering and relaxation for children. One reason is that a hobby allows the brain to go on autopilot. There's freedom from nervousness, self-consciousness and stress. Basically, a hobby puts you in a comfort zone. Words associated with hobbies even sound soothing. Tinkering. Puttering. Dabbling. Hobbies unlock creativity. They involve kids in constructive pastimes that may lead - who knows where?

A little digging revealed that there are young hobbyists in Madison. From new media to model railroading, kids are latching on to what they love and using new tools like the Internet and state-of-the-art electronics to add excitement and real-world relevance to their pursuits.

Peter Streicher runs the MEDIAWORKS Program at the Goodman Community Center. Three evenings a week, a fired-up group of kids show up for a free videography workshop, where they are handed cameras and allowed to use them creatively to complete a group project.

"It's crazy how much they love it," says Streicher. "They've seen their parents use digital cameras, so they're a little bit familiar with the equipment, but not much. Here they discover how cameras can be used beyond documenting birthday parties."

Kids create stop-motion videos, documentaries and claymation shorts. Streicher's approach is to let them start with shooting the photos or videos and introduce them to software "only when they're ready."

The kids keep coming back. Streicher says he has enough demand to run the program all weekend. Qualities that emerge in kids who embrace videography as a hobby? "Fearlessness. Curiosity. Excitement and drive," says Streicher. Examples of Streicher's students' works can be found via the Goodman Mediaworks YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/goodmanmediaworks).

Collecting "lore" (think cards, creatures or comic books) is still a popular hobby. Grade-school kids trade in a mysterious hybrid language from the world of Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and Bakugan. Many middle-schoolers and teens enjoy manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animated films). Josh Crawley of Westfield Comics, 7475 Mineral Point Rd., says there are plenty of reasons kids are drawn to collecting everything they can about certain characters and their worlds.

"For one thing, it's cool because older siblings and friends are doing it. Then there's the sense of adventure. From Pokemon to Legend of Zelda to Captain America, there are these alternative realities, dominated by giant lizards or what have you, and it's just exciting." Kids also like the art. Crawley says that reading comics is different from watching cartoons. "You get to pore over them and think about the combination of words and pictures," he says.

A hobby stimulates interests and expands knowledge in subtle ways. Baseball card collecting, for example, fixes a player's history, hometown and state, along with stats, in kids' minds. Not only that, it teaches them organizational skills and the value of a fair trade. Jeff Daniels, owner of Baseball Card Shoppe in Westgate Mall, says kids enjoy face-to-face conversations with peers and parents about their cards.

"It's a great way for parents and kids to relate to one another, and a fun thing to do on the playground," says Daniels, whose father started the store. Baseball card collecting is one pastime that hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. "They tried to introduce a cyber-card, where you could custom-design the size and design of your card," says Daniels. "But for some reason, people rejected the idea. There's a standard size baseball card they want to hold in the palm of their hand. And looking at the computer screen just doesn't do it for them."

Technology has made model trains more exciting. George Stahl, part owner (along with Chris Rooslie) of Madison Hobby Stop, 6622 Mineral Point Rd., says the cars are more intricate, and new electronics allow kids to operate multiple trains from one control center. But, he says, the real benefits haven't changed much.

"I think model railroading is good for kids because it teaches them how to put buildings together, do wiring, work with plaster," says Stahl. "A lot of parents bring their kids in here, hoping to get them away from TV and videos. We run the trains for them. We often see the parents back closer to the holidays, picking out a set."

A model railway club for ages 8-18 meets monthly at the Last Square, a hobby shop at 5944 Odana Rd. Coordinator Karen Myers says the mix of different ages doesn't matter.

"They all come together through this common interest. You're either into it or you're not, and these kids are into it. It's great to see how it draws them together to share ideas."

The group works on a portable layout stored at the Last Square, installing wiring, planning buildings, repairing cars. For more information, go to www.nmra-scwe.org and click on "Club Programs."

So how do you spark your kid's interest in a hobby? Try a variety of activities and be open to feedback. Then provide a work space and allow for spills, scratches and other hobby-related accidents. Support your children by attending hobby-related meetings and workshops or just helping them understand directions. Set a good example - kids with hobbies tend to have parents with hobbies. It doesn't hurt to guide your children toward what interests you, but make sure, in the end, that they choose their own hobby.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Does back-to-school really mean a whole new wardrobe?

This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"

Mama Madison: Next generation of bloggers

Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.

Mama Madison: Returning to the workforce

This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.

Triathlons raise money to teach kids healthy habits

"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.

Mama Madison: Kids will find their own passions in their own ways

"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."

Vital work is being done at the Lussier Community Education Center, from community-building to STEM skills

"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.

Mama Madison: Another amazing talent show

My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!