Hobbies for Your Kids That Your Family Will Love

Mother hiking with child

It’s always a good time to start a new hobby or return to a long-neglected one. There are a lot of great nerdy hobbies out there, but not every nerd hobby fits every kid. For example, it transpires that my 11-year-old does not enjoy meticulously re-touching the paint on Warhammer 40K miniatures. (I know, I was surprised too.) Here is a list of hobbies that your whole family can get into, sorted by age. As always, you know your kids better than I do. If there’s an activity in the middle school section that you think would be great for your early elementary-aged kid, there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy it together!

Preschool and Early Elementary School (Ages 4-7)

Perler Beads

What is it?

Perler Beads, or Fuse Beads, are tiny plastic beads that kids can arrange on pegboards to form an image. Once all the beads are arranged on the pegboard, you iron the beads to fuse them together, making toys or decorations that look like sprites from 8-bit video games. You can follow a pattern, or freestyle it and make your own pattern. As long as there’s an adult wielding the iron, little kids can totally handle this craft. My daughter started with Perler Bead projects in preschool and has been doing them independently for years now.

What Do You Need to Start?

  1. Some Perler Beads.
La Ban Fuse Bead Starter Kit

La Ban Fuse Bead Starter Kit

This LaBan Fuse Bead starter kit includes all the bits that you’ll need: pegboards, beads, parchment paper for ironing, and a pattern book.

2. An iron.

Maytag M400 Steam Iron

Maytag M400 Steam Iron

If you don’t already have one, the Maytag M400 Steam Iron got the top rating from the New York Times Wirecutter website. Make sure not to use steam on Perler Bead projects as that will cause total protonic reversal and ruin your project. 

As you get further into Perler Beads, you may want to get larger, interlocking pegboards and additional pattern books. There are lots of different pattern books available: we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the Nature Patterns and Harry Potter pattern books.  Not a Harry Potter fan? No problem, check out this Avengers pattern book. There is also a near-infinite variety of Perler Bead patterns available for free on Pinterest.

How Can Parents Participate?

Avenger Perler Bead book

At first, with preschool-age kids, you’ll want to help them put the beads on the pegboard. You can use special Perler Bead tweezers if you want, but they’re not essential. Putting Perler Beads on a pegboard is very meditative. It can lead to conversations with your kids that roam beyond whatever animal or Harry Potter character you’re making. 

Resources

Beginners Guide to Perler Beads is a good jumping-in point. Kandipatterns.com has thousands of Perler Bead patterns available for free download, as well as a pattern maker. All our favorite franchises are well represented: Star Wars, Pokemon, Marvel, and so on.

Board Games

My First Castle Panic board game

What is it?

At the risk of stating the obvious, board games are pre-packaged games that include a board, dice, cards, and other game pieces. Players follow a set of rules to pursue an objective like being the first player to move their piece across a finish line. There are lots of board games that are fun for early elementary-aged kids, especially cooperative where players work together as a team. 

What Do You Need to Start?

Well, you’ll need a board game, and there are a lot to choose from. You can go with a classic like Scrabble Jr., or go with something a little nerdier like Catan Jr. My Nerdy With Children colleagues have written about fantasy-themed and superhero-themed board games that are great for kids. 

How Can You Participate?

You can participate by playing board games with your kids. Playing a simple board game with little kids is not always fun for you, but A) It’s fun for them and B) You’re making a long-term investment in your relationship. Board games are also a great outlet for creativity. It won’t take many games before your kids will want to make a game of their own. A few Amazon boxes and some magic markers can ignite a lifelong interest in making things. 

Resources

BoardGameGeek describes and reviews a huge library of board games. It’s a good idea to do a little research before you buy a board game, because man, they are not cheap. If you’re patient and flexible, Craig’s List and garage sales can help you get started playing board games with your kids without having to sell a kidney.

Elementary School (Ages 8-11)

Drawing

Father and daughter drawing

What is it?

Again at the risk of stating the obvious, drawing is capturing an image on paper or on a screen using tools like pencils, ink, magic markers, or a computer. 

What Do You Need to Start?

All you really need are something to draw on, like a sketchbook, and something to draw with, like colored pencils, markers or regular pencils. It also might help to have a book about how to draw. There’s a vast selection available- there are books about how to draw dinosaurs, chibi characters, superheroes and anything else your kids might conceivably be interested in. Drawing is one of the most budget-friendly hobbies. Armed with a book about how to draw from the library, you should be able to get started with materials you already have. 

How Can You Participate?

By getting some lines down on paper! The best way to participate in your kids’ drawing hobby is to draw with them. Like Perler Beads, drawing can be very meditative. Don’t worry about the fact that your drawings don’t look like Jim Lee’s. Picasso said that every artist has 10,000 bad drawings in them, and that the sooner you grind through the bad drawings, the sooner you can get to the good ones. 


Resources:

There is a wealth of resources available for people who are learning to draw. There are classes for all ages and ability levels available through community colleges, art supply stores and other services like the Art for Kids hub on YouTube.

Middle School (Ages 12+)

Hiking 

Family hiking up a mountain trail

What is it?

Hiking is walking around in a wild environment until you find a good place to have a snack. There’s really no need to overthink it beyond that. 

What Do You Need to Start?

Hiking is easy to understand, but you can also get yourself into serious trouble with it if you don’t know what you are doing. I learned how to conduct myself outdoors from my father and from Boy Scouts, but if those resources aren’t a good fit for you, you can learn what you need to get started from Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker. Although the specific brands he recommends are out of date, he knows what you need to live outside. For a day hike with elementary age children you’ll need:

  1. A day pack to carry your stuff in. Kelty makes good ones, including a nice one for kids
  2. At least two quarts of water for every person. Nalgene makes excellent water bottles that will last a lifetime. Camelbak makes flexible water containers that you can put in your pack and drink from with a tube. 
  3. Comfortable, sturdy shoes. 
  4. Clothes that fit the weather. 
  5. A map of wherever you are hiking. 
  6. Snacks. 
  7. Sunscreen.

How Can You Participate?

By putting one foot in front of the other. By learning about the history and nature of the area you’re hiking in. By cultivating outdoor skills with books like Be Expert With Map and Compass. By modeling a stoic attitude to minor physical discomfort and preparedness for challenges like changes in the weather. Elementary school aged kids will see the effort that you’re making and chances are they’ll want to put in the work too. 

Resources:

Recreation.gov is a great portal for finding places to hike, like state parks. REI offers classes in basic outdoor skills. The American Hiking Society also has a great Hiking With Kids page.

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