So how about a hobby this summer?
As the famous Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!” (and if you don’t know who Ferris Bueller is, I insist you hook up your fire stick and play the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as soon as humanly possible. You will thank me. ) …And NO, watching your firestick all summer does not qualify as a hobby!
That crazy kid was wiser than he looked. Fast forward 33 years (HOLY CRAP! I’ve just dated myself) and, well, the same holds true. Probably even more so today. Between work, school, family, sports, dance, you name it, community commitments, church, etc. etc. etc. it seems we barely have time to breathe these days let alone experience the good old fashioned family time of yore. But I think Summer is still different. I hope it is. It’s during the summer and perhaps those glorious couple of weeks around the winter holidays when people still take time to breathe in the little things and appreciate all we have around us. It’s those cool summer nights that are made for family s’mores around a fire and hot summer days that are perfect for a family day at the beach. Summer is often complimented by camp and vacation, random sleepovers and backyard barbecues. But what if you want more? What if you want to break through the “mold” and, dare I say, engage in something that might bring the family together, I mean really together? Have you ever considered a family hobby? Now hear me out. The people that gasp at the sheer hokiness of the thought probably aborted this article at the title so if you’ve come along with me this far, you owe it to yourself and your family to at least read me out.
What if you could bring the family together more often? What if your family could discover and develop a passion, a talent, or at least a fun activity that you all enjoyed and looked forward to? I have to believe it can happen.
My little guy is an infant so I lose some cred there. I know it’s easier at this stage than for those with older kids as I intend to force the fun upon him. Just kidding. Mostly. That being said, every kid is different, every family is even more unique. But hey, whether it works or sticks, I think you might feel so good at life just for trying. I mean what’s the worst that can happen? Ok, maybe you shouldn’t answer that. The point is, I think it’s worth a try to at least think about it. Get the kids involved and MAKE them hear you out before they roll their eyes and glue themselves to their phone. There are SOOOO many cool things to do today! Like stuff that always existed but was not a thing. Like stuff that always existed but you had no idea existed. Like Zip lining, rock climbing, and even coding. Yes coding. But again stay with me.
I assembled this list by thinking about things I enjoyed doing with my family as a child, things I hope to do with my own children, things I’ve heard about from friends, and a couple were just ides that popped into my head. It’s clearly not a pure science. Some of these will not be right for your family. At all. …and that’s fine. Please always be aware of medical restrictions and age appropriateness because safety should always be a consideration. You might completely balk at some of my ideas, you might secretly love others, I just hope that my ideas can help your family to spin some of your own. After all, they don’t want to miss it either. Sometimes they just don’t know it.
SoGAL’s Family Hobby Ideas:
Hiking. This is a super easy but oh so fabulous family hobby on so many levels. Hiking can be done in certain areas throughout the year. It is an awesome source of exercise and exploration. Little ones can be enticed with the idea of mystery: create a scavenger hunt with a list of natural items each family member must find. I admit I LOVE to do this still as an adult! There are some awesome facebook pages, community boards and websites, and other social media posts with plenty of information regarding trails in your area or areas you might plan to visit. Get the kids to do a little research and everyone can take turns picking a trail. There are trails with waterfalls, ruins, ghost towns, natural wonders, and so much more. Be careful of ratings (some trails are much harder or rougher than other) and be sure to only choose trails that are age appropriate. Have really little ones? Start your hiking hobby out at local gardens, arboretums, Parks, or even Universities that have walking trails. Heck, Grandma and/or Grandpa might even want to come along on some of those walks!
Geocaching. I did this for the first time last year and I was a kid again myself! There are a bunch of apps that make it super easy and so fun! This is basically like a scavenger hunt that people have set up before you with locations that house hidden gems or notes. Bring a few little trinkets with you so you can “play along. The rule (as I learned it ) is: you can take an item as long as you replace it with an item of equal or greater value. ) Download an app (there are several) and then check to see what is in your area. I could not believe how many spots there were in this random little area! But be careful! I would not recommend this with really little ones as you are sometimes crossing streets, walking through the woods, and visiting abandoned telephone booths on the side of the road. If a location looks shady, skip it and move on to the next one.
Rock Climbing. I honestly don’t know a ton about this but I have several friends who love do this as a whole family. I’m not talking about heading out and climbing a random mountain. There are all kinds of adventure parks and places popping up all the time. Do some research in your area. Check out Groupon – I know I’ve seen coupons for it in my area. Start off some lessons and guidance to see if this might be your family’s thang. Some of these adventure parks also have multiple activities including Zip lines and obstacle courses.
Wood Working. Looking for something not quite as daring as Rock Climbing? How about Wood Working. I love this as a family hobby because you never know when you might have your own little Craftsman in the family. A fun family afternoon could lead to a lifelong skill for your little one. You can start small if you have littles by checking out your local Home Depot (and sometimes Ace Hardware. ) They hold awesome kids classes regularly with activities like making birdhouses and picture frames. You might also want to check out your local vocational schools and even libraries, High Schools, Community Centers, and Colleges/Universities that offer Continuing Ed courses. Can’t find a class and know someone pretty handy? Start your own!
Bird Watching. Don’t skip over this! Come on. (Ok you can if you totally can’t stand the idea! ) While I admit this may be a throwback, this could be a really great activity for families with littles and families with kids of varying ages. This idea is what actually made me think to write this post. I plan to buy a bird book and begin this summer so I can tell my baby which bird is which. We have tons of birds in my neighborhood and he already loves to look at them and listen. I don’t like that I can’t recognize a bird by it’s call and that is something I hope to learn so I can share it with him. My point is, this is something even the littlest kids can get involved in and you can truly learn together. Who knows your kid might LOVE it, thereby sparking his interests in science and nature!
I suggest starting out by buying yourself a good bird book, a pair of binoculars, and head to the nearest park or arboretum. Bam, you’ve started a hobby! Make it fun and mix it up by selecting new and beautiful places to visit. Bring a picnic. Really getting into it? Join your local Facebook group or do some online searching to learn where rare birds can be found and where other bird watchers go. Plan a day trip or maybe even an overnight. Set a goal of how many new birds each of you would like to find by summer’s end. Keep track. Heck, you could even have fun, family competitions! I love this because this is a hobby that truly brings us back to nature and brings peace when so much else around us is so noisy.
Canoing or Kayaking. While this is an age old activity, it seems to have become a thing in most recent years. Always be mindful of any medical conditions or restrictions and make sure that your gear and locations are age appropriate. This is a great family activity that is both peaceful and active! Bring along a picnic and canoe/kayak to a new place! Many great canoing spots have beautiful little Islands that are fun to visit, especially since you would not be able to get there otherwise! Always use caution and do not get out of your vessel if you have not done some prior research. I speak from experience when I tell you I had to once pull my friend out of what we swore to be the only quicksand on Long Island! I know families that travel around the country to visit new lakes and bodies of water. Sound like your family?
Coding. Yes, coding. This is not my idea of the best way to spend a summer, BUT it really is a useful skill and it might be the perfect way to bond a family that has felt out of sync! Here on Long Island, we have Coding schools, camps, and programs popping up for kids this summer and it made me think: what if the very bane of your existence: your child’s love of video games could actually bond you all this summer?? So I set out to find a place that offered it for both kids and adults and I unfortunately did not find one. I did contact one of the camps and suggested the idea of a family class and she said they would love to do something like this and would be able to set something up for me. I encourage you to do a quick search on facebook and google and see what you come up with. Don’t be afraid to make a call. They might love you for turning them on to the next best thing.
But if you cannot find a class that will allow both parents and kids, then I have a Plan B: I found several classes for adults at local colleges, Universities, libraries, and trade schools. Perhaps separate classes with a common project could be a perfect balance. Children and adults could take their own courses at different locations and them come together for a common project at home. I’m willing to bet, you will be able to learn a lot from each other and completing a final, family project or game will be monumental; who knows maybe you will create your very own family app or game!
Fishing. Talk about a switch in gears, but I figured if you skipped right over coding, then fishing might be more up your alley. Depending where you live you are either thinking Duh or Huh or whatever else you are thinking. If you’re thinking Duh, then I’m betting your kids already know how to scale and filet a fish and you’re only continuing to read this to mock me. I’m kidding. Mostly.
If you had a huh kinda moment, then this idea is for you. You may not realize that there are actually different kinds of fishing (sorry if that now gained a Duh.) There’s Freshwater fishing and within that, the type of gear and equipment can depend on the body of water. How deep, what’s the current? Are we in Mississippi talkin’ cat fishin’ (if we are you fall into the original Duh category no doubt.) We’re not talking starting out with fly fishing are we? (btw: with littles, and beginners, I’d advise against that a first family move.) Then there’s salt water fishing and deep sea fishing. The point here is before you invest your time, money, and family’s trust into this hobby, do a little research. Google it and visit your local sporting goods store. You will need licenses as well so be sure you get the details. If you are tempted to board a commercial fishing boat for experience, this is not a terrible idea, but keep in mind that this as it’s own hobby gets expensive. If you plan to shore fish, it will be a completely different experience. The good news is that if your family loves it, fishing can be a hobby all year long. In colder parts of the country Ice fishing is an awesome family hobby. I have the fondest memories of ice fishing! We ice skated, played games, and even grilled right there on the pond! But I get ahead of myself, let’s get your summer fishing started first!
Get Your Culture On! Maybe your family’s hobby this summer can include visiting various museums, shows, and festivals! Make it a point to visit some of those local landmarks that you’ve always wanted to see but have not made time for. Learning about different cultures and arts can be a magnificent hobby that enables each family member to better explore their individual interests by letting a different family member pick the destination each time. Check out your local free papers and local/town websites to discover wonderful (and often FREE) events and destinations nearby.
Garage “Sale-ing”/Antiquing. This is surely not for every family. I mean if you can’t stand the thought of it then it’s going to be pretty difficult to get the kids excited. BUT if you do have some interest in this sort of thing, you might be surprised to learn that the kids will too. To me, garage sales are like the ultimate treasure hunt! Antiquing is also a fascinating way to learn about history and culture. There are wonderful swap meets, vendor fairs, and antique shows especially during the summer. Again, check out your local papers and websites to discover what kind of events are happening close to you. You might be amazed to learn what a “thing” this is in your area with events that include car shows and activities for the kids! If you are near New York, there’s even The Great Adirondack Garage Sale! We did this last year and it was a lot of fun! We picked up a map and then followed a route to explore over 25 garage sales (we did not hit them all.) We stopped off and had lunch, sat by a lake and skipped stones, and did a little exploring even along the way; I felt like a kid again on a grand adventure and your little ones just might as well. I’m sure these types of events happen in other parts of the country as well.
Painting, Crafting, Making Stained Glass, Photography, Art. Maybe your Littles and Bigs have recently expressed an interest in art; a creative summer hobby might be perfect for your family. Michael’s stores offer some great classes including things like jewelry making and crafting. Perhaps your local Art center holds summer groups. Check our Groupon and local papers for these types of classes as well. Some of your community centers, Colleges/Universities, libraries, and local businesses might have a class or group that would be perfect for your family’s summer hobby, and who knows, you might have a future artist in your midst!
Camping. You’ve always wanted to get into camping or maybe you’ve tried it a few times and loved it. Believe it or not this really can turn into quite a hobby. You might be amazed at all the beautiful campgrounds near you. There’s tons of variety when choosing a campground and the experience is a little different every time. Are you looking for more luxury camping ? no problem. Rent or borrow a camper to see if you like it and choose a campground with all the amenities and lots of activities for the kids. Or maybe you are going to just go for it and rough it: a tent and some matches (ingredients for s’mores of course) and a family evening beneath the stars! Maybe you will be lake side another night and give it a whirl in your backyard the next. Who knows, it’s your hobby, you can shape it as you like! Just be sure to do your research so that you know your are always SAFE and your family’s expectations will be in line. Consider picking up a copy of a book about trees, plants, wildnerness guides, etc. to learn about the nature around you as a family.
Music. Maybe this is the year you start a family band! Stranger things have happened, then again I don’t know your family! You might want to see if you have a School of Rock in your area or other music programs that suit your family.
Maybe your music hobby will be as a spectator and you choose to take in several concerts this summer. Let each family member choose a concert or show and then the deal is, you all attend as a family! Of course this does not work well for families with kids of significant age differential, we surely want to keep things age appropriate. Maybe you even pick a show that is not particularly suited to anyone’s individual taste in an effort to broaden your family’s horizons. Don’t break the bank, check out local concert series and free concerts in the park in addition to the larger shows. As much as the kids might roll their eyes at the thought of seeing “Dad’s band” in the park, you will surely take pleasure in your side glance that sees his foot tapping along.