Watching the kids explore different activities over the years, I have seen them start to discover their natural interests, as well as tap into healthy doses of competition. Scoring a goal, performing for an audience, writing a story, or winning an academic contest can be a rush, and I can already see their wheels turning, excited to chase those feeling of accomplishment and creative fulfillment. While I think it is so important for them to grow their interests and skillsets, I also want to foster their development of lifelong hobbies that will serve them in more subtle ways. These are the things they or we as a family can do simply for enjoyment during downtime. Hobbies like these still encourage cognitive and hand-eye development, but they also provide go-to pastimes they can carry with them well into the future.
Mahjong has become a pastime WHERE THE GENERATIONS MEET™ in our family. Ever since Lolli taught the boys this historic Chinese game of tiles, it has become a game they can now enjoy together, using so many areas of the brain. Winning depends on both strategy and luck, which keeps my kids on their toes and helps them appreciate the thrills of gameplay. After watching Lolli maintain her love of Mahjong—she plays every Thursday with friends—I know it can be a way to incorporate socialization with mental acuity.
There are many Mahjong sets for children that are a great introduction to the game that honors a centuries-old Chinese tradition. Here is one of my favorites! I can’t wait for Lolli to teach Liza, and then the whole family can be in on the fun.
There’s no crying in baseball, and unfortunately there are no pickles in pickleball. How this paddle sport got its unique name is contested, but I like to believe the rumor it was named after the founder’s dog, “Pickles.” This game has all the active antics of tennis with a more recreational mindset. This is a great hobby for casual fun with friends and family. While there are championships for dedicated players, the sport is age-inclusive and encourages players from adolescence to retirement to hit the court and have fun. This is the ideal hobby for kids who are always on the move, with energy to burn. I suggest signing them up for their first lesson at Chicken N Pickle, a delish chicken restaurant that hosts Pickleball clinics. Many sports clubs and even some school programs offer this now wildly popular activity.
A set of pickleball equipment is a genius birthday gift for kids (or in our case, we gave a set as a Father’s Day present!), because you are also gifting them a new hobby. Check out some of these sets:
Some of the best hobbies are also practical. That is why I find canning such a rewarding pastime: I can organize my mind while organizing my kitchen. Not to mention it saves money and combats food waste. I have found that canning is an easy hobby to get the kids involved with. They get to learn about essential ingredients and discover that many store-bought items can actually be made at home (peppers from the garden plus a trusty can and VOILA, Y’ALL!™—you’ve got homemade hot sauce at your fingertips). We inevitably end up chatting about recipes we will use our canned goods in, such as using sundried tomatoes for Lolli’s Potluck Pasta or jam for a weekend pancake bar.
There are so many great resources available to start understanding the processes and equipment for canning. Dig and Co has an online class that makes canning approachable and fun. Once you have the basics down, follow Healthy Canning for new recipes and tips from the community.
Jewelry making has been a hobby-turned-business of mine since I was in high school. It has allowed me to express my creativity as well as discover the different materials and techniques of craftwork, all while supporting good causes mostly focused around women’s empowerment. While I have explored the entrepreneurial side of jewelry making, it has not lost its pull as a personal hobby. I still enjoy designing and making pieces for fun, which inevitably leads to a series of new styles for myself and loved ones to enjoy. Liza is already curious about the process, and I look forward to teaching her more of the methods of beading and jewelry design (beyond the preschool craft pasta necklaces!). I hope she gets as much joy out of it as I have.
Our affinity for drawing is clear from a young age. Kids are constantly wanting to draw scenes both real and imagined. This desire to capture images on paper is sometimes lost as we get older, often because we deem ourselves “not good.” I am encouraging my kids to erase this notion from their hobby vocabulary. You do not have to be Leonardo da Vinci to enjoy drawing! I want my kids to think of a sketchbook like a notebook: something personal for them to jot down observations and experiences. It does not matter if this visual diary is technically stunning, just that it is meaningful. If your kids want to start building their own personal portfolios, gift them one of these books or sets:
There is something about a new set of writing utensils that never loses its magic.
Crochet & Knitting
Want to give your kids (or even yourself) something else to do while vegging out other than staring at screens? I know I do. That’s why 2022 is going to be the Year of Yarn for me and my kids. I’m excited for my kids and I to use these winter months the learn a new skill that will keep us entertained—and warm—for years to come. While starting out may test any perfectionist tendencies one has, I think it is a great opportunity to push through and learn that a hobby is not about being perfect: it is about engaging your mind and enjoying yourself. Some say that crocheting is easier, as it is one needle as opposed to the two-needle method of knitting. I will be trying both with my kids to see what everyone is most drawn too. And who am I kidding, I finally want an excuse to buy all the beautiful yarn that is out there. As your skills progress, the basics you’ve learned can translate into the lifelong hobby of needlepoint and/or smocking, too!
As many people learned back in 2020, it’s not so hard to make your own bread! This viral hobby is both fun and delicious, and once you get the hang of it you will be baking bread for years to come. Focaccia is a great bread to make with kids as it allows for them to get creative with ingredients and patterns—they can use herbs, olives, tomatoes and more to create images on the loaf. Sourdough breadmaking encourages a sense of tradition and is versatile for a variety of recipes. If maintained correctly, a sourdough starter can be stored for many years, allowing the bread’s taste and familial significance to strengthen over time. The rush on breadmaking has resulted in many lovely and quaint kits:
Ceramics & Pottery
Wouldn’t it be great if the clay mugs and bowls the kids brought home got better over time? Okay, truthfully I already think they are pretty adorable. But I love the idea of my kids getting to grow an artistic habit where they learn technique, creativity, and have something tangible to show for it. Like knitting, this is a very tactile hobby and allows the mind to unclutter as the hands are at work molding clay. If you aren’t ready for your kitchen table to be a splattered with ceramics materials, no worries. There are tons of great classes kids can attend while they hone their skills. My sister-in-law has an in-home studio that inspired our kids to want to know more about this craft, so it’s off to The Purple Glaze we go! Dallas legend Camille’s Creations has made a longstanding business out of her pottery and painting skills, so this can be a passion turned profession if you really take to it.
Lolli’s Aunt Dot originally exposed our family to a love of birdwatching, and she still loves time at the lake observing which species fly by as we sit on the porch. Birdwatching is an amazing way to get kids out of the house and into nature in a focused way. Birding encourages its participants to truly clue into the environment around them. Through the straightforward mission of collecting bird sightings, kids can look, listen, and learn about species in a detailed way. There are many birdwatching and Audubon societies throughout the US that are great starting points. The Heard Museum has monthly Bird Walks, and Audubon Dallas maintains the Trinity River Audubon Sanctuary and hosts kid-friendly when public health conditions allow.
It is hard to beat the simple joy of catching a fish. I love how fishing is a hobby you can take with you around the world, from a Texas creek to the deep sea and even below the ice. I am so glad my kids are drawn to this hobby already, as exemplified by their father and great-grandfathers. It’s a hobby that also encourages time with your thoughts and meaningful conversations with friends. While most of the boys’ fishing adventures have been bait fishing off a dock, we are excited to eventually show them fly fishing… we’ve loved finding spots as we’ve traveled, such as to Blackberry Farm.
Luckily, Texas has some amazing fishing spots. I suggest finding a nearby creek or in Dallas, White Rock Lake and Meadowmere Park are great lakes for a kid’s first fish. We’ve spotted and caught some big ones on Lake Athens and Cedar Creek Lake in East Texas, too!
Of course I had to include my favorite hobby… blogging! This platform is a way Lolli and I get to share about the neat companies our friends have started as well as recipes, traditions and brands we are enjoying. It has also strengthened my interest in photography and visual storytelling. If your kids (or more likely, teens) are interested in exploring their writing and building an online community, creating their own blog is a great place to start. It can begin as a journal or newsletter to close friends, depending on the desired audience.
Every great hobbyist needs their supplies. Check out some great tools below to get started: