This Year…Give Them Something That Will Last a Lifetime!

My Grandmother Nell collected porcelain head dolls and spent evenings sewing new dresses; roamed the Kansas countryside with an old Brownie camera looking for interesting images to accompany her history articles for the Kansas State Historical Society journal;  scrapbooked everything in sight; played ragtime piano and Saint-Saens’ and Bach’s concertos on violin; and never missed an episode of Lawrence Welk. My Grandmother Margaret painted landscapes and the occasional portrait; avidly gardened  in the short Montana growing season; actively participated in the local Great Books society and spent most evenings reading; and loved swimming and hiking–she knew the name of nearly every native plant in the front range of the Montana Rockes.  While they had little in common, the one thing they shared was a passion for hobbies they learned as children.

A hobby is a regular activity that is done simply for pleasure. In the traditional sense, hobbies have involved creating something (origami, knitting, sewing, quilting, woodworking, modeling, photography, cooking, writing), pursuing a special interest (genealogy, stamp or coin collecting, reading), or participating in an activity (bridge, games, puzzles, hiking, sports, juggling, cycling, swimming).

According to researchers, hobbies are good for your long term health, your levels of energy and creativity, and your level of concentration. An article in the New York Times explored the issue of whether or not hobbies were “good for you.” The answer? Yes.:

Hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus, said Carol Kauffman, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School. “When you’re really engaged in a hobby you love, you lose your sense of time and enter what’s called a flow state, and that restores your mind and energy,” she said. In a flow state, you are completely submerged in an experience, requiring a high level of concentration. Research shows strong correlations between flow states and peak performance, said Ms. Kauffman.

Being in that heightened state of concentration raises the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain — chemicals like endorphins, norepinephrine and dopamine — that keep you focused and interested in what you’re doing and that energize you, said Dr. Gabriela Corá, a psychiatrist who is managing partner of the Florida Neuroscience Center and president of Executive Health and Wealth Institute, an executive coaching firm in Miami.

“Making time for enjoyable activities stimulates parts of the brain associated with creative and positive thinking. You become emotionally and intellectually more motivated,” she said.

Hobbies also enhance self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling that you are solely defined by your job — even if it is going well — can raise your chances of experiencing anxiety, depression and burnout, because you don’t have a perception of yourself outside of work, said Michelle P. Maidenberg, a psychotherapist and business coach in New York, and clinical director of Westchester Group Works, a center for group therapy.

“When people rely only on their role at work to foster self-esteem, that alone cannot typically fulfill their needs,” she said. If you are unhappy with your work performance, you are more inclined to define yourself as inadequate, but if your identity is varied — businesswoman, mother, wife, painter, cook — you can reflect on your success in those other things, she said. (Elaine Zimmerman, 12/2/07, NYT)

Christmas is the perfect time to encourage children of all ages to try something new or experiment with something they’ve tried before. Here at the Depot, we believe in helping children and parents find activities that encourage active engagement, creativity, critical thinking, and a whole host of other skills that will serve them well in the future.

This Christmas, give the gift of a hobby,:

    • learning to do tricks with a Kentama or Diabolo,
    • exploring an interesting bit of science,
    • creating art or craft objects,
    • curling up with a good book,
    • building a paper model, a plaster castle, a ship, or an interesting sculpture.

Stop by the Cambria Toy Station, and we’ll help you find the perfect hobby and the perfect Christmas present.


Essay on the Importance of Hobbies.  Manish Rajkoomar.
The Importance of Hobbies for Stress Relief.  Elizabeth Scott M.S. (About.Com, Stress Management)
Starting your Children on Hobbies. Andrew Loh. Brainy Child.
Why Kids Need Hobbies. Better Homes & Gardens

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child BondsKenneth R. Ginsburg. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2007.

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