As a parent, children’s hobbies can seem like more of an inconvenience than anything. First of all, they’re messy. Who hasn’t watched their kid open birthday presents and, when that familiar package of moldable dough surfaced from an innocuous gift bag, thanked the gifter through clenched teeth? Sure, the kids love it. But what about the carpet?
Hobbies also take up a lot of space. Paints and brushes, markers and crayons, paper and coloring pages, beads and twine, building blocks and puzzle pieces — no matter which hobby your child chooses, there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, clean up, and store.
But kids learn through creative play, and having a hobby is important for children of all ages. In addition to giving them a chance to express themselves, pursue their interests, and build self-esteem, hobbies can teach children about science, art, and life in general. For some, a childhood interest may become a lifelong passion, impacting what courses they take in school, what field of work they choose, and who they become as an individual.
Luckily, there is a way to feed your kids’ imaginations and maintain your sanity. All you need is a hobby room. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money to put together and, no matter how much of either you spend creating the space, the benefits for you and your child will be well worth the investment.
A hobby “room” can be created just about anywhere you have some extra square footage: the spare bedroom, a corner of the basement, an unused dining room, or even a closet. The two main requirements are a kid-friendly workspace and as much storage as you can manage, but there are a few other things you should keep in mind:
- Wipeable materials will make clean-up a lot easier. Choose smooth, non-porous surfaces for desks and/or cover countertops with plastic placemats. Choose professional-quality or high-gloss paints for walls. If your space doesn’t have hard floors, cover it with inexpensive rugs or a disposable floor covering.
- Child-size furnishings are a must. Low workspaces, miniature easels, and adjustable seating are ergonomically designed for how little people work. And, in addition to being easier and safer for your child to use, these items typically take up less space than their full-sized counterparts.
- Display areas allow children to take pride in their work. For artists, a series of clipboards along the wall or a string with clothespins is an easy, cost-effective way for them to show off their masterpieces. For builders, reserve tops of bookcases and higher shelves for completed projects. For sewing enthusiasts, jewelry makers, and musicians, mannequins, jewelry cabinets, or recording equipment are great ways to preserve and showcase their skills.
Additionally, you should be honest about your family’s needs when it comes to designating and furnishing the space for your child. If you can’t handle looking at the occasional mess, it might be best to pick a room with a door you can close. If you want to be able to see your child work, a corner of the main living space might make more sense. While each family’s needs are different, there is a solution for everyone.
The old adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” could not be more applicable. Keeping supplies organized will not only keep the space neat, it will make it easier for your kids to use. The right storage can help keep the things your kids use most within arm’s reach and teach them organizational skills.
- Bookcases with adjustable shelving are some of the most inexpensive, versatile storage options out there. Tall units maximize vertical space, but be sure they are anchored to the wall to prevent tipping. You can also keep step stools nearby to prevent dangerous reaching and climbing.
- Pegboards are another storage wonder. They can be attached to a wall behind a workspace, and hold small items on hooks or in hanging baskets without the added bulk of a shelf.
- Bins and boxes of all shapes and sizes can hold just about any supply. Plastic, see-through versions are inexpensive, durable, and allow kids to see what’s inside. Large, fabric bins are perfect for bigger items or things you want to keep hidden when not in use. Inexpensive cardboard photo boxes are available in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and colors, and many come with built-in labels.
- Labels, while sometimes tedious to make and apply, do double duty by helping kids find things and making it easier for them to be returned to their proper place. As an added bonus, labels can help early readers practice sight words. For children learning a second language, consider labeling things in multiple languages.
- Used furniture, like dressers and chests of drawers, are great non-traditional storage options and can be found at thrift stores or repurposed from other rooms in the home.
- A locked, parent-only cabinet can give you peace of mind and prevent children from using materials without asking first. Items like glue guns, sharp knives, and irons can be locked away in an old filing cabinet and accessed under parental supervision.
Again, each family’s needs will be different. With a little creativity, it’s possible to find storage solutions that fit any space or budget. And don’t be afraid to take your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the best-functioning, most attractive hobby rooms aren’t, either.
How you stock your kids’ hobby space will largely depend on how old they are and the types of activities they enjoy. It’s always a good idea to give children the opportunity to explore different creative outlets. Even if their interests seem singular, exposing your children to new opportunities will give them a chance to find what they are passionate about as they grow.
A standard craft room may include a variety of tools, which can be used for multiple purposes:
- Craft clothes, smocks, and aprons can minimize messes and keep clothes from being damaged or ruined. Hang these on a hook by the door to make it easy for kids to remember to put them on before they start playing. An extra set of craft clothes for each child will allow you to wash them as needed.
- Kid-friendly tools are a must for any hobby room. Everything from scissors to hammers is available for age and skill levels ranging from toddler to young adult. Using tools by themselves (as appropriate) encourages self-sufficiency and builds confidence.
- Art supplies are a no-brainer. A variety of paints, crayons, markers, paper, coloring books, oil pastels, pencils, and pens allows your child to experiment in creating their own priceless works of art.
- Building materials are another good starting point for a hobby room. In addition to store-bought wooden blocks, plastic building bricks, and magnet tiles, consider saving old toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, and cardboard boxes for building projects.
- Hobby-specific items, like Lego building sets, sewing materials, musical instruments, science experiment kits, and jewelry-making supplies, should also be included.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure everything in the room is age-appropriate to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. If the space will be shared by children of different ages and ability levels, be sure supplies for older children are out of reach of younger ones, and vice versa. In addition to keeping them safe, allowing your children their own supplies and space (within reason) lets them take ownership of their work.
Once you’re done building the perfect space, there’s one more thing you need to do: encourage your children to use it. Tell them to experiment, build, and create or, better yet, roll up your sleeves and do it with them. Turning off the television, shutting off screen time, and setting a good example will inspire your child to follow in your footsteps.