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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

One of the saddest facts about the American education system has been the routine and continued cutting of arts related programs from the public school curriculum.

According to the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities, low income schools have been hardest hit when it comes to availability of the arts in the classroom. This is because the programs that schools usually cut first in budget strapped systems are the arts. However, research has continually shown that high achievement in the classroom and lower dropout rates are both tied to an integration of the arts into the classroom curriculum. Also, according to Education Week, graduation rates for boys in 2010 were 7% lower than graduation rates for girls.

Clearly, young boys are more at risk and can benefit the most from arts integrated activities like hobbies. As a parent, one of the things that you have the power to do is to be involved with your child’s education and fill in some of those deficiencies of the arts programs in schools. Hobbies are a great way to fill this gap since they combine arts learning with activities that are fun, enjoyable, and teach skills that last a lifetime.

One thing that families used to do together before television became a centerpiece of the living room was to sit around together and play music. Music remains a great hobby for boys because there are so many choices to suit their tastes and temperaments. Boys are often attracted to guitars, but drums and brass instruments are also very appealing to them because they are exciting and physical. Even the simple ukulele can be an exciting choice for the young person because its small size is better suited to their smaller hands, and there is a fun novelty about playing the instrument.

Often, it is that small hook that is needed to generate excitement in a child for something new. Music is not only about rhythm and melody, it also teaches young boys about the power of expression, and the fun of working together with a group of people creating music. Music programs in the schools have long been linked to better academic performance, and introducing a boy to a musical instrument is a great way to foster musical talent.

Parents have a lot of competition when it comes to introducing young boys to new hobbies. Cell phones, television, and video games in particular compete strongly for their attention because of the very rich, and compelling visual language that makers and designers use to engage their viewers and products. The downside to this kind of involvement with young boys is that it is a passive engagement that only teaches them to look forward to the next show or game.

If your child is visually inclined painting is a great hobby to introduce to him. However, the parent might not have the money or the artistic skill to teach painting to a young boy. In this case, the parent should consider introducing models to paint. The child still must engage with color and get an understanding of paint handling, but they can do so through a physical object that feels like its more a part of the real world. Models can be tailored to a child’s interest, from airplanes and cars to fantasy creatures and ceramics. Even without a model and using traditional materials like paint and canvas, painting teaches abstraction and visualization, and is an excellent tool for encouraging lateral thinking.

Whatever hobby a parent encourages, there are some caveats to consider. Since you are trying to foster creativity and not hinder it, there are some no-no’s that will surely kill any budding interest a child might have in a new hobby. Surveillance for instance, when the parent hovers constantly over their work, is a great way to kill interest and is a great way for breeding resentment. Whatever hobby they choose, young boys need space to develop their interest and the space to make mistakes and learn. Competition is also detrimental to fostering creativity, as well as a system of rewards that do not value the hobby itself as its own rewards. It is not difficult to introduce new hobbies to young boys to promote creativity. Phaseframe offers more suggestions for introducing new hobbies to young boys. Even more physical activities like gymnastics and martial arts are great to introduce to young boys as hobbies. The parent just needs to make sure that it coincides with a boy’s strengths and personality, and they ensure that the child commits to their newfound hobby through gentle encouragement and love.

Amie Gottschalk is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @amiegottschalk.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want boys to stay busy.

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