When I was a child growing up in the late 1960s and 70s, my hobbies included basketball, reading, vampires (yes, that can actually be a hobby), collecting stamps, and frogs (statues and stuffed, not real!). Today, however, there’s an incredible variety of hobbies to engage your child.
Hobbies can enrich a child’s life. According to Jennifer Formoso, a Trumbull-based licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), “It’s beneficial for children of all ages to develop and maintain hobbies that they can share with peers. Having a shared hobby and interest promotes the development of good social skills, positive interpersonal relationships, and stable mental health and well-being.”
Children learn to connect with others in positive, meaningful ways, Formoso believes, and shared hobbies can provide that pathway for social and emotional learning. Having a hobby also teaches children perseverance, turn taking, and sharing, as well as being a great outlet for stress management. Childhood hobbies form a foundation that can be carried into adulthood.
At The Giggling Pig, with locations in Shelton and Bethel, young Picassos can explore their artistic side. The Giggling Pig offers an array of programs, from painting and drawing to sculpting with clay and collaging. Weekly classes offer children an opportunity to explore different materials and techniques. Open studio time allows children to choose a ceramic, wooden craft or just paint independently on canvas.
Hannah Perry, owner, said, “It’s important for children to be unplugged and find time to be creative. It helps developmentally and with problem-solving, self-esteem and is proven to help them do well in other academic areas. I have been watching children attend the studio for seven years and have seen them grow with confidence, but one of my favorite things to see is how it changes the way they look at the world. They notice colors, shadows, textures and learn to look at things creatively.”
If your child’s canvas is the kitchen, your young chef can explore the culinary arts with Cucina Casalinga, a Wilton-based regional Italian cooking school run by owner/instructor Sally Maraventano in her state-of-the-art home kitchen.
“All of our Kids Cook Italian classes are hands-on,” Maraventano explains. “Classes are based on traditional Italian recipes I learned as a child from my mom and grandparents. Some of our most popular classes are All About Meatballs, Homemade Pizza, and traditional holiday recipes like arancine (deep-fried stuffed rice balls), cassata (a layered ricotta and chocolate cake) and gnocchi (light and fluffy potato dumplings).”
Maraventano emphasizes healthy vegetable dishes, including soups, sautéed greens and eggplant, that are at the core of Sicilian cooking. After each class, the group enjoys lunch or dinner based on the fruits of their labors.
“Cooking for the family is empowering to children! It brings a sense of accomplishment and independence. I have found that kids have no inhibitions in the kitchen. They delight in producing dishes for both their parents and themselves!” Maraventano says.
“With the distractions of technology, smartphones and tight school schedules, children need time to decompress and be kids, learning, relaxing, and having fun without pressure in a fun, engaging manner,” explains Meghna Chavan, founder. “With our small-group learning environments that emphasize participation and engagement in a fun learning environment, children can really grasp the underlying principles and get a solid foundation in STEM that will help shape them for their entire life.”
If your child is an animal lover, horseback riding has been shown to have a multitude of health benefits. According to Health Fitness Revolution founder and author Samir Becic, health benefits include “body awareness, quick thinking, coordination, core strength and flexibility.”
The Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club in Darien is designed to give riders an opportunity to enjoy, learn and excel in riding and horsemanship skills. As a new rider, your child will learn to mount and dismount the horse properly and safely. Children also learn movement of the horse, gaits, and leg placement and improve balance.
“Having a hobby is a gift; developing a passion for something that fulfills a child is so important for their personal growth,” says Alison Potter, director of operations at Ox Ridge Riding & Racquet Club. “Horseback riding, in particular, teaches children empathy, kindness, discipline, delight, and responsibility. Learning to care for horses and learning to ride a horse begins the process of self-confidence and awareness. Children learn through their love of horses not only discipline in a very athletic sport but also respect and understanding of a shared endeavor.”
If your child has been singing and dancing since starting to talk and walk, theater arts might be his or her passion. The Darien Arts Center (DAC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing visual and performing arts programs and events for the community. DAC offers educational programs in dance, visual arts (painting, drawing, collage, sculpture), martial arts, music, and theater.
Not sure where to begin? Visit your local hobby store for inspiration. HobbyTown Fairfield offers a huge selection of plastic and wood models, radio-controlled cars, trucks, planes, drones and helicopters, model trains, gaming miniatures, card and board games, rockets/kites, robotics, woodworking kits, slot and pine cars, puzzles, craft supplies, and STEM kits.
“Hobbies develop children’s learning abilities by promoting a measured and well-considered approach to problem-solving,” says Marc Rosenblum, HobbyTown owner. “Model trains, for example, require carpentry, electrical, modeling, artistic, and prototyping skills. Hobbies can also be enjoyed together across generations within a family.”
The Toy Chest (Wilton, New Canaan, and Ridgefield) offers educational toys and games, puzzles, science kits, and arts and crafts to entertain and enrich young minds. Heritage Hobbies (Wilton) and HQ Hobbies (Milford) both offer aisles of projects and models to explore!