I know we all hear that we should "set a good example for our kids." But there is one part of this example setting we tend to overlook- how you spend your "downtime". If you have hobbies that you clearly enjoy, that entertain you, the chances are that your kids will look for hobbies that they enjoy also and will fill their "downtime" creatively also.
I was talking to my older son the other day and he was saying how his friends often just don't do anything. He continued by saying, "When I have time off, I have my drawings to do, my models to paint, my video games, my gym workouts – these people just do NOTHING." The more we talked about it, the more we realized that his friends just didn't have any hobbies – at all. Sounds bizarre to those of us who have grown up with hobbies doesn't it?
When the boys were younger, we took art sets with us when we traveled and I encouraged them to draw about what they were seeing. Part of the reason for this was so that they would remember where they had traveled, but part of it also was to entertain them in situations where children normally get bored. Now I realize that I was really laying the groundwork for them to always be able to entertain themselves in an enjoyable way – isn't that what a hobby is?
They also learned to express themselves in creative ways. The same kid when he was in the Air Force Academy would bring home his sketch book on each break (I scan the sketches into the computer too). Yeah, a lot of them were still drawings of warriors with elaborate armor and weapons from the video games, but mixed into these were some drawings of life at the Academy where he expressed the pressures of Academy life. They are amazing, stunning images.
The Air Force translated his video game screen to a radar screen and he is a Air Battle Manager now, like a mobile air traffic controller. Instead of controlling his avatar on a video game, he controls jet fighter planes. This is also the kid that is now the master model painter that showed his old mom a few tricks for doing background painting and aging that has definately helped me step my game up with clay and multi-media. Funny how that happens..
The other kid? Well, he's a chef now. His dearest hobby is now his career. He creates a beautiful composition with every plate and a revalation of enjoyment with every perfectly balanced bite of food. He is the one I go to with a design and say "What's missing?" and he will suggest something like, "use the blue one here to balance this blue over here."
Morale of this long story, teach your kids to enjoy hobbies by encouraging them to help you in your hobbies and by supporting their hobbies. Yes, this means learning the names of the video games and what platforms they use, reading the skateboarding magazines or learning the stats of the stars of their favorite sports. I remember trying to learn the names of their favorite Pokemons and both kids knew all 150 of them. My oldest told me, "Mom, it's easy and it's just a warm up for learning the Periodic Table of Elements in Chemistry later." Once I got over that my kid even KNEW what the Periodic Table of Elements was I realized that they were already finding practical applications for the skills they were learning in their hobbies.
Yes, it may have started as entertainment, but it's a lifestyle for them now and it's a good one!