How to Encourage a Teenager to Take Up a Hobby

Having a hobby can greatly enrich a teenager's life. It increases physical activity and social interaction, stress relief, skills, as well as providing a source of fun! However, many teens are unwilling to try a hobby, for a variety of reasons. Or, you as the adult may be overlooking some things that are great hobbies already, and you just need to recognize and nurture that interest. In either event, use some insight and gentle guidance to help your teen to explore his or her interests.


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    Hobbies are not something one is required to do. A hobby is a lifelong interest that a person engages with for pleasure, pursued for its own sake. It may or may not have any practical application. Sometimes a hobby starts through something that a parent, teacher, or other authority figure initiates, (such as reading or golf) but ultimately the person does is independently because it brings pleasure. No one can "assign" a person a hobby, as it is a deeply personal and individual thing. You can encourage a hobby, but ultimately it is up to the teen.
    • Extra-curricular activities can turn into hobbies, but this usually will only be certain in time. For instance, one teen that joins the glee club might end up participating in singing groups throughout his life. Another may not.
    • Sometimes hobbies do turn into fields of study and careers. Yes, it does happen. However, pushing your teen to take up the piano in the hopes she will become a concert virtuoso is losing sight of what a hobby is, and why to encourage it.
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    Teenagers have special challenges in exploring hobbies. Teenagers are often not interested in pleasing you and may want to keep things private. Life becomes more complex with the increasing demands on time and energy.
    • Getting teens to pursue new interests can be difficult. One reason is they are asserting independence. Unlike younger children, teens won't do things just to please adults. Your teenager will reject attempts to force him or her to do things. While this resistance often annoys parents, it is a critical piece in developing an adult identity.
    • Honor the fact that teenagers often have very busy lives already. There are many things that occupy their time even beyond school, sports, homework, work, volunteering, test prep, driver's education, and religious training. On top of that, teenagers are developing their own social life, which requires meeting up with friends, having romantic relationships, going to social events, keeping in touch on text and social networks. Your child may not have as much time to engage in hobbies as it may seem at first glance.
    • Teenagers are not adults, even if they look that way. While teenagers look like adults, brain scans reveal that the brain is still developing. And, naturally, they do not have the experience adults have. This means teens do not act quite like adults do because they are simply not wired the way parents are.
    • Adolescents is that they do not typically deal with stress as well as adults. They are also not as good as time management. A teenager with a highly-structured life with little downtime also may not have a lot of time to engage in self-directed activities. Also, if a teen is very stressed out, he or she may be too exhausted (or even depressed) to consider even non-stressful activities.
    • Teenagers need more sleep than adults. This takes quite a chunk of time out of every day that adults essentially have free.
    • It is perfectly okay to require extra-curricular activities. For some families, requiring teens to participate in something helps structure their time so that the after-school or summer hours are used constructively in a supervised environment.
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    Explore why you want your teen to have more interests. Be honest with your concerns, because some reasons are better than others to act on, and why you go about encouraging hobbies are as important as how. Some good reasons:
    • Your teenager needs more exercise. Perhaps he or she dislikes school teams and organized sports, but needs to find a way to get more physically active.
    • The teen years are a often time of relative freedom and opportunity to explore the world before having the responsibilities of full adulthood.
    • Your child needs a wider social circle, and having a hobby might get him to meet more like-minded people.
    • Your teenager is bored, and needs something to focus her energy, creativity, mind, and spirit.
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    Participate in a hobby of your own. You are most likely to get a positive response if you engage in hobbies. If you do not, it is a case of, "Do as I say, not as I do." Also, an aunt urging her niece to take up art classes might actually be a case of the adult wanting time to take pottery class. Be a good role model and show how hobbies make for a balanced life.
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    Ask your teen what he or she wants to do. Maybe he or she has been wanting to try something for a long time but unsure if you would agree. However, you might just get a shrug. That is normal too--asking "what do you want to do?" is a pretty vague and broad question.
    • If you are a parent, you likely have an idea of your teen's interests, strengths, and so on.
    • A good time to suggest looking at interests are vacations and summer camps. These allow for exploration without a lot of pressure by trained staff. For instance, an outdoor adventure camp can explore interests like rock climbing, kayaking, botany, and orienteering.
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    Help your teen look at interests. Consider what your teen might find intriguing.
    • Is there a school subject he or she excels in?
    • A topic he or she talks about?
    • What does he or she researches on the internet?
    • If all else fails, think of a hobby you think fits your teen's personality type. A quiet, serious, intelligent teen may be perfect for a chess. A more thrill-seeking teen might prefer mountain biking.
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    Look for opportunities you think he or she might like. A good time for this is in a transition to a new school year, or the summer holidays. These are all times that various organizations, clubs, and teams are starting up. At schools and camps there is usually a system where teens are exposed to and encouraged to try out various interests.
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    Brainstorm ideas. With your teen, it may help to come up with some areas of interest. It may be difficult to start, but put down ideas, even if they sound stupid or impossible at first. Sometimes a flippant remark ends up being a brilliant idea! Such a list could look something like this:
    • Fencing
    • Manga
    • Create a video game
    • Make a zombie movie
    • Cooking
    • Cup Stacking
    • Playing guitar
    • Quiz bowl
    • Playing games
    • Crafting
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    Is your teen engaging in hobbies already? Teenagers spend more of life away from the eyes of parents. And teenagers are notorious for not giving out a lot of detailed information about what is done at other people's houses. As a result, sometimes adults are not entirely aware that adolescents are developing hobbies. But often, a lot of great learning and exploring is happening away from home.
    • Is your child developing hobbies with friends? For instance, is your teenager learning skateboarding in the park with his friends? Is his sister doing manicures with her friends? Is your stepson out dancing on Friday nights? These are hobbies, but they may not be happening at home--but every bit as much a hobby.
    • Is your child developing hobbies at school? For instance, if your stepson is taking photography class, that may well be a lifelong interest. Or your child might enjoy literature, poetry, learning to fix cars, or math puzzles. Again, these may not be visible so much at home.
    • Is your teen developing hobbies somewhere else? Maybe your youth fellowship group volunteers on a regular basis. Perhaps at his father's house he surfs. The point is, hobbies may already be developing without any additional push.
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    Bring up ideas for interests...gently. Parents the first people to spot opportunities for fun activities. You likely have known your child since she was a baby, and know if she would like to take up gardening, fixing motorcycles, or refinishing old furniture. But, it is easy to go from insightful and helpful to nagging and suffocating. Teenagers dislike being pushed into things by parents, and it may take finesse to coax adolescents into action. Here are some guidelines:
    • Mention possible enjoyable activities, but three times is generally sufficient.
    • Encourage participation, but do not demand it.
    • Provide opportunities, but do not put a lot of pressure on it. If you think your teen would enjoy sailing, a summer camp that offers sailing lessons is a great way of exploring. However, if he does not ultimately like sailing, that should be fine too.
    • Suggest an activity with friends. Maybe your teen acts like she would care less about jewelry-making, but all of the sudden becomes interested if you put on a jewelry-making party with her gal-pals.
    • If your child does not want to do a hobby, respect it. A teen may have been really excited about knitting last year, but not this year. Teens are somewhat fickle and grow fast.
    • Insisting your child finish a class, camp, or semester is sometimes a tough call sometimes. Some teens have a tendency to give up too easily and need a parent to help prevent them from quitting too quickly. Generally, insisting on finishing a certain amount of time will help prevent that--like a week-long tennis camp. However, if it really looks like a teen is not having fun, discontinuing the hobby may well be wise.
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    Help structure life to support hobbies. One of the most important things parents of teens can do is help structure family life so that there is time to enjoy hobbies.This means making sure there is "free time" for the teen, and also making sure this "free time" is not devoured by things like video games, social media, and TV. This includes:
    • Provide resources. As a parent, you are usually the one in charge of funding hobbies to some extent. You may also have knowledge, expertise and social connections that might help out.
    • Placing limits on media use. For example, no video games after dinnertime.
    • Putting time aside to support hobbies: scheduling time once a month during hiking season to go outdoors. Teach sewing to a fashion enthusiast teen. Let the kid off of dish duty so she can meet a friend to go mountain biking once in a while.
    • Avoid over-scheduling. Teens often are scheduled from the moment they wake up to until late at night. And sometimes there is a fine line between a happily occupied and busy kid and one that has no time to just hang around with friends at the comic book store.
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    Do not get overly involved with your kid's hobbies. Sometimes parents get very anxious that their children do not have enough interests, hobbies, or experiences. Or that with a little more of a push, the hobby will could be that more meaningful. Or that he or she will not get into a good college without lots of hobbies. Relax a bit. Having a relaxed, self-directed project is a lesson in enjoying life for its own sake.That will often serve your child better throughout life than anything else.
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    Be supportive of hobbies. It would be terrible to convince him/her to do something and then be too busy to help him or her enjoy it. Always be proud of what your teen accomplishes. If you know a lot about the hobby, feel free to offer a small amount of constructive criticism if asked. Avoid "taking over" a project...if you want to make the model, make your own.
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    Avoid forcing your teen. If you are tempted to force your teen to try something, it is unlikely to end well. It will only lead to resentment. There is probably a reason your teen didn't want to do it in the first place. If you are desperate, have your teen try something for just a week. Then stress that you'd really like him/her to continue, but in the end, this decision is not yours to make. Your teen won't get the full benefits of a hobby if he/she isn't committed and eager. He/she will find a passion eventually. Until then, make sure your teen is getting enough physical activity and other basic needs through one time events.
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    Your teen may or may not share your hobbies--be OK with that. Sure, doing things together is one of the great pleasures of being a parent. But parents and children may not share the same hobbies. The idea behind hobbies is to enjoy it for its own sake, whether or not your child shares the same hobbies.
    • Do not disparage a child's hobbies. It is easy to make fun of a teen's achievements in Minecraft, for example. After all, the structures are not even real. But to do so would certainly put him or her off to opening up to you.
    • Sometimes you may not have the exact same interest, but discover they are not as far off as you think at first. For instance, maybe your teen shows no interest in playing poker. However, the love of getting together a group of friends and game is evident in playing role-playing games.


  • Stress that this is an optional thing that you think your teen would enjoy.
  • If your teen seems happy, active, and not bored, consider letting the issue drop. Assess whether your teen really needs a hobby, or if you just want him/her to be like you were as a teen.
  • Address the issue lovingly. The way an idea is presented can make a huge difference on how open the teen will be to it.


  • Do not frame the hobby as homework, or an order. It should be something your teen wants to do.
  • Make sure your teen is getting enough physical activity, social contact, and mental stimulation.
  • If your teen is reluctant to do anything, make sure there isn't an underlying problem. Read up on the symptoms of depression and social anxiety. These are serious illnesses that you should watch for.
  • Do not agree to any hobby that seems unsafe or destructive. For instance, painting graffiti is not a hobby - it is a crime.

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Categories: Hobbies and Crafts | Raising Teens