When I was growing up in Singapore, I attended quite a number of extra-curricular classes. I loved ballet -- not because of the pink tutus (it was the 1980s and all we got were tights and standard blue leotards) – but the grace and beauty of movement drew me in. I didn’t particularly like my electric organ lessons, but my mum convinced me to stick with the electric organ because she thought music would be a complementary art to go with dance; and also, she hoped one day I would be an organist for the church. Eventually though, my heart really wasn’t in it, and she let me drop it. I also did swimming (my tan lines were a constant source of angst with my ballet teacher) and I completed a number of certificates before I was allowed to drop it. Over the years, my mum let me dabble in other hobbies: art, speech and drama, creative writing, baking. Over the years, the two things that drew me the most were writing and ballet.
An article by Good Housekeeping suggested that two is the magic number when it comes to extra-curricular hobbies because for children, school counts as one. Having too many activities can lead to taking on too many responsibilities and it could lead to frustration. Afterall kids need to be kids and have some down time, play time, or just time to be bored. Apparently the US Marine Corps and other military services also use the Rule of Three as their guideline, as it was found that people can only track three things at once, and that effectiveness/efficiency is compromised if more activities are added.
Nurturing your children’s interests is important because it not only exposes her to new and interesting ideas and skills, but also could potentially be a life-long hobby or even turn into a profession. I did ballet for many, many years but in the end, writing won. And as you can see, I’m a writer these days. In this sense, hobbies can form a big part of your child’s development and identity. As many hobbies also involve working and developing a set of skills, nurturing your kids’ hobbies can also boost their confidence and self esteem. Whether or not she’s driven to compete or take an exam to progress to the next level, hobbies are meant to be fun, and can be a source of stress relief or an outlet for creative expression.
Perhaps you yourself have a particular hobby that you are keen to pass on. In certain household, team sports can be more than just a hobby, it can turn out to be entire family bonding experiences. When parents are passionate about a certain sport/team, and your children grow up in that environment, it’s likely that she will have an interest in it.
Some children have certain obvious natural talents and are more than willing to continue exploring the talent and developing skills in the area. From a young age, even some toddlers love drawing and progress impressively by the time they are school-aged. This also goes to show that hobbies do not necessarily have to be expensive. And parents do not need to go all out to get the best brand or professional grade equipment.
Every child is gifted with his or her own unique set of personality traits and characteristics. If she is not particularly interested in any activity, it’s ok to let her “shop around” a bit. She might even just want to tag along with her best friend, and that’s ok too, she might find that she enjoys it. If she doesn’t though, remind her that she is her own person and that it’s perfectly normal to be friends but have different likes and dislikes. The role of the parent here could simply be to provide opportunities to expose her to different activities. Perhaps by observing what your child is interested in at home, and helping her find an extension. Is she always nosing around the kitchen? Maybe she would like to learn how to bake. Is he always pretend fighting? Perhaps a martial arts class would be the way to go.
Whatever it is your child likes doing, being supportive and encouraging is the best thing you can do as her parent. Having an active interest and participation in her hobby has been shown to contribute to a child’s success in it; and it doesn’t matter whether or not you are personally interested in it. Chances are, even if you weren’t interested to begin with, if it really has taken her fancy and she develops a real interest in it over time, you too will be drawn in, not just by her enthusiasm but also from the joy it brings her.
Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.