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  • Hillary Einboden

Ignite Home Learning with Passion Projects

During these long months of COVID, parents worldwide are spending more time at home with their kids than ever before. For some families, this has been an opportunity to learn an instrument, get exposed to a new language, or play favorite boardgames.

But for so many families, kids’ leisure time at home has simply meant more exposure to screentime than their parents are comfortable with.

In my coaching work with parents, there is one question I hear repeatedly: “My kids would rather spend all day (and night!) watching screens or playing on screens! How do I motivate my child to engage in activities that are more enriching and active at home?”

In honor of Valentines Day, I want to help parents guide their kids toward the discovery of their own unique “passion projects” - the hobbies and activities that inspire our kids at home and cultivate learning, creativity and independence. When our children suddenly become engineers, inventors, collectors, artists, teachers, athletes and musicians at home, this is the moment when they are happily immersed in their personal passion project.

But how do we encourage our children to fall in love with a home-based hobby? Something that they enjoy doing so much that they beg for “5 more minutes” when we want to transition to something else?

Let's start here...

First, consider what lights them up the most. What do they love to chat about? Is there a topic that they ask countless questions about?

If they adore computer gaming, are they interested in developing coding skills to turn their excitement into an opportunity for technical learning and design? Or maybe their interest in technology could be redirected toward circuit construction, robotics or electric building sets?

If your child loves art, consider establishing an art table or “zone” just for them, stocked with all of the supplies they need to create with ease and independence. When our kids have ready access to the materials required to pursue their passions, they are more likely to take the initiative and feel in control of their activity. This is the secret to fostering an ongoing hobby that our kids love to fall into day after day.

Here are a few general tips to encourage passion projects to “take root” in your home:

  • Make sure there are designated times when kids are not watching screens or gaming. Even the most dedicated hobbyist can become so absorbed by digital entertainment that they will automatically choose screens over favorite off-line activities.

  • Designate an inviting, uncluttered space where your child can build, create and play.

  • Ensure that the materials required for their hobby are well-stocked and easy to access independently.

  • Try streaming music or audiobooks as a way to create a sense of connection and purpose in their “work” space.

  • Show an interest in their passion project, but try not to be directive. If kids feel pressured into pursuing a hobby, they often reject the activity.

Some tips that help kids find their own way to meaningful home-based activities:

  • Simply let them know that they are having free time away from screens and then give them space to see if they gravitate toward something that inspires them.

  • When kids have trouble finding direction, it can be effective to remind them of a few activities they love to do without showing a preference for any.

  • If your child lacks focus, try letting them know that they only have a few more minutes before they have to do something else that is more structured. When our kids recognize that their leisure time is preferable to tasks that feel more demanding, they often shift to a more positive attitude toward the “free” activity.

Why should the cultivation of home-based hobbies become a priority during these challenging times? Because self-guided activities can prove absolutely vital to our kids’ feelings of well-being by providing them with a sense of purpose.

And we know that the joy of accomplishment, without grades or rewards of any kind, is at the heart of intrinsic motivation - that elusive and powerful force that drives our kids to continue to grow their talents and skills, day after day...just for the fun of it.

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