Introducing Your Children to a Hobby on a Budget

by Maria Cannon of

Technology, texting, social media, and computer games haven’t driven the idea of hobbies out of the consciousness of America’s youth or their parents. A hobby is still an excellent way to develop a lifelong interest, to improve physical dexterity and mental acuity, bolster self-confidence, instill a sense of pride, and help children become better students. A parent who encourages healthy and educational hobbies can have a tremendously positive influence on children by setting a positive example that can last a lifetime.

If you pursue a hobby, share it with your child and explain why it means so much to you. A hobby doesn’t have to be an expensive venture; you can find plenty of fun activities for children that can be enjoyed using inexpensive, household materials and objects. Introducing a child to interesting places like museums, art galleries, antique stores, concert halls, and planetariums can steer a youngster toward a hobby they will enjoy for life. Whatever hobby your child selects, watch for discounts and online coupons to keep those costs under control.

Play Music

Few hobbies have more mental and cognitive benefits than learning to play a musical instrument. Musicians typically exhibit stronger cognitive skills than non-musicians, and kids who learn music perform better in subjects like mathematics. Since instruments can get pricey, look for daily sales and deals from major retailers like to find one that you can fit in your budget. Many parents will rent a musical instrument their children can use during the school year without having to pay full price for an instrument. Once your child has an instrument, check out the many free YouTube tutorial videos online and sites that offer free, self-guided lessons.

Starter Kits

Buying a starter kit can be an excellent way to introduce your child to a potential hobby without investing a lot of money on something he or she may not like or may leave aside for a different pursuit later. Look for discounts and promo codes with Target, which has a wide choice of starter kits for hobbies like painting, magic, macrame and more.


Kids with an affinity for science may be on the road to a fascinating career in many different fields, from space aeronautics to civil engineering and genetics. Why not whet their appetite with some simple but fun do-it-yourself in-home experiments like the Magic Milk experiment? It’s an inexpensive project that requires only a few run-of-the-mill household items, such as food coloring, liquid dish soap, cotton swabs, a little whole milk, and a couple of small bowls. Simply pour a thin layer of whole milk (watch for weekly sales and online coupons at Walmart) into a dish, add a few drops of food coloring, then dip the cotton swab from dish soap into the mixture and watch the colors explode (not literally, of course) :).


Kids often grow up thinking of reading as a boring chore usually associated with school and homework. However, kids who learn to love reading tend to do better in school, develop better literacy skills, grow up with heightened memory capacity, and benefit from a richer, more creative imaginative life than kids who don’t read. With the proliferation of used bookstores and online dealers like Daedalus, buying books is no threat to your checkbook.

A hobby can play a major role in a child’s development, promoting creativity, social skills, and improving academic performance. Educational, healthy hobbies also help children succeed personally and professionally later in life and teach them valuable lessons about seeing things through to completion.


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Dad thinks daughters wear too much make-up? No way!

(1 minute read)

In general, it is much easier for me to be sarcastic or make small comments instead of expressing what I really think and feel. I apologize for ever making you feel bad about yourself when I make comments about wearing makeup or how you dress.

The truth is that I love you girls more than you can understand and to me, you are all amazingly beautiful people. It saddens me to think that for one second you might reduce your beauty down to how good your makeup looks or how nice your clothes look. Your beauty is so much more that your appearance so when I see you put a lot of time and energy into making yourself up I want to remind you that you don't need to do that.

I know it is a cliché but you are beautiful just the way you are. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward and all that as long as you aren't doing it to impress anybody by covering yourself up with makeup and fashion. Also, I want you to attract young men who are interested in you for you, not just for how you look. Unfortunately, my way of communicating this is to say stuff like, "wow, that's a lot of makeup" or "man, those jeans are tight" which I realize can be taken as insults.

True female beauty is way beyond that surface stuff. And on a personal note, I have always liked the 'barely wearing makeup' look better than the 'lots of makeup' look. To me, it just conveys a lot of confidence & class. 

All that said, shake your tailfeather girl. Do your best to look your best. Just remember to look your authentic best and don't represent something you're not, just to get attention. You will attract what you advertise.

Hey Conservative Grandpa... our youth need you.

(1 minute read)

You've always been someone who I have looked up to for your willingness to risk your own life for the sake of serving others, regardless of the appreciation you received, but simply because people needed help and you could give it. It is that sort of 'other-focused' and service minded mentality that has been lost on many over the last couple generations for many reasons.

As you know I have worked with high school and college-age students for over 20 years and I think you have a lot to offer this group. What I love about that age group is that they are young enough to still be molded but adult enough to make long lasting rational decisions. I would encourage you to cross enemy lines again like you have so many times in your life but in a different way. In other words, go where there may be the greatest resistance to have the greatest impact.

I'll bet if you reached out to some high schools, churches, and colleges around you with your resume and present yourself as a guest speaker who could come in and give a short guest speaker presentation with a Q&A, everyone would benefit. That type of real engagement (again, something you haven't shirked from in your service to all of us) would most likely be very beneficial for everyone involved and would give your already broad perspective even more credibility.

In my experience, young people's opinions, although oftentimes loud and seemingly confident, tend to be quite fragile as well and easily swayed when they learn new info from a new perspective. We need more of our elders to reach out and engage with our young people, especially those who have street cred like you.

Young Mom: "Toddler boy won't stay in bed! And I have a baby... HELP!"

(5 minute read)

I remember that same time period with our two oldest. We were so happy to see any interaction where big sister was not wanting to destroy and replace the baby! Haha.

"In the same way you plant a seed to end up with apples, not a sapling; you have a baby to end up with a quality adult, not a child." -somebody smart once said

A few thoughts before the advice part. Routine is huge at this age of development. What's tough about your situation is that baby takes priority over routine and schedule and he has become aware of that. He's learning from baby sister that if he cries and wails he'll get your attention, which he wants. You want to stop that train asap unless you want to raise him to be a whiner or need constant coddling. Whiners usually become adults that complain. The reality is that he will never constantly be the center of attention again. Ever. That is reserved for babies. The longer you treat him as such by submitting to his will the harder the reality that he is not the center of the universe will be for him when it hits him. Done correctly, this transition can be smooth and healthy. For some, that transition doesn't happen until they first go to school, for others, it's when they move out. For some, it never happens! I've counseled young adults who live in a constant state of disappointment because their expectations of how much attention their desires should garner from others are never met.

You need to speak a language he understands and that is not reason. By his very nature at this stage, he is selfish and unreasonable. That said, I'm sure some will think my advice is unreasonable. But think about it, what is a 'horse whisperer'? Someone who can communicate with horses in their own language somehow, right? Well, communicating with a toddler is like communicating with an unreasonable dictator. If you don't bring a strong hand to the conversation, you will end up their servant! (that was supposed to be funny- but it's true).

Parents often overestimate the cognitive and emotional capacity of their young children and to be real, real love is sometimes tough. By tough, I don't mean tough on the beloved, but tough to administer as the lover.

OK, ADVICE PART- FINALLY You need to establish a routine and consistent rewards/punishments for his nap & bedtime behavior (don't worry he can't tell time so it doesn't matter when you do it. Also, you can skip days and let him stay up instead of nap so he crashes out early giving you and husband more time together.) Usually, this means he is a mess the last couple hours before he passes out but it's usually worth the extra time you get without him in the evening.

1) Do some activity that is 'pre-nap/bedtime'. This can be as short as saying, "nap/bed time in 5-10 minutes" to as elaborate as playing your favorite show tunes for him and getting him in a yoga position and finding your centers or whatever, whatever you want. All that matters is that it's something you're willing to do every time until you get this routine established. I'm a big fan of announcing 'nap/bedtime!' and then getting it done. The '5-10 minutes' part is just training them on starting to understand time and setting an expectation. Bedtime can be easier than nap in that it involves more routine activities like jammies, brush teeth, prayers, kisses good night, etc.

2) Explain clearly that you are putting him in HIS bed (same bed every time) to sleep so he can grow big and strong like Daddy and he is to stay in bed until you come get him, he wakes up, or morning arrives. Tell him he will be disobeying (that's a bad thing) you if he comes out of bed before that. Tell him that when naptime is over he will get a treat. We used a mini marshmallow. Low in calories, high in fun. The reward is only with naptime, not bedtime. Feel free to give him a bottle, book, blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, toy or whatever with which he can cozy up to and/or occupy his mind. Just remember that this is to be repeated so the more complicated you make the routine, the more work you have to do in the future. We limited stuff to a specific pillow, blanket or stuffed animal. And yes, this thing kinda replaces you, so feel free to feel the sadness of letting your baby 'grow up' begin.

3) Singing to him, storying telling, etc. is encouraged. We tend to slowly have singing end earlier and earlier so that long before they are 2 years old, they are wide awake when we walk out of the room and say 'night night'.

4) When he comes out of bed prematurely, no matter what the story is (gotta pee, thirsty, it's dark, read me another story, sing me another song, monster under the bed, etc. etc.) or emotions displayed, crack him on the back of his upper thigh with a small little spatula. THIS IS HARD cause the stuff they come up with is beyond cute because you are being sold a story by a salesman who is a mini version of you and the person you love most, your spouse. Do not listen to his line of baloney. Do not reason. A matter of fact, the less you talk the better. Simply say, 'You disobeyed mommy' and/or 'mommy said to stay in bed' and then crack him. Just hard enough that it stings a little. This, I guarantee you will get his attention. Why? Cause you are speaking his language and it requires no translation. I do think upon laying them back in bed it is good to end on a positive with, 'I love you' or 'Night night', etc. Exception: I do think you need to address the monster under the bed/closet/outside window without a spank- but only once for each location the monster resides. Our creative children exhausted about 10 different spots before they finally giggled, which is a toddler's form of admitting their ruse. Man, do I have some great memories looking for monsters. I bring a flashlight in or flip on the lights and have the child look with me at the respected monster's domain to prove the monster is not there. We know as adults that the monster (fear) is in their mind but that is a lesson for much later in their development.

5) Repeat the punishment until he stops coming out. The first time is by far the hardest. If he's like most children, he will look at you with 'shock and awe' (sorry for the political undertones but that term is better used here than it was ever used by a politician or military leader) as if you must be the most terrible person alive! Over a very short period of time, usually one or two days/nights, he will stay in bed.

TIPS: Do NOT tell him beforehand or ever that he will get cracked if he disobeys. That is a threat and not good at this age. What you want him to teach himself through the experience you provide or allow (That is good parenting in a nutshell) is that disobeying mommy or daddy results in a negative consequence and that obedience results in a positive outcome. I've done this with all of our children up to this point and since we are about to move our 2-year-old out of his crib I'm sure it will be the same story. We have experienced the full spectrum of experiences from questioning our tactics and feeling like we're beating the crap out of our child who resisted for almost two weeks (and who upon the first crack looked up and said, 'that didn't hurt') and thinking someone is surely going to call CPS on us to punishing the one-time offender who figured it out and never came out of bed again! I must end this by sharing that we never had a child, upon being given clear instructions the first time... stay in bed! We are a rebellious sort, aren't we?! Haven't read his book but love this quote I found while googling 'toddler' by author Burton L. White reflecting on the toddler's thought processes:

"If I want it, it's mine. If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine. If I can take it away from you, it's mine. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. If it's mine it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what. If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine. If it looks like mine, it's mine."

Go be a better parent!


19 yrs old, now what?

(sub 1-minute read) 

We understand the frustrations you are having with not knowing exactly (or roughly) what you're going to do to in the future. Just so you know, that happens to almost everybody and it's just a part/stage of life. Relax.

And seriously, in many areas of your life, you're doing great. But if you want to act irresponsibly and then expect to be treated as if we should assume you will be responsible... yeah... that doesn't work. Don't be surprised when you get treated like a child after acting like one. Look in the mirror and take responsibility for your actions.

But hey! Don't let it get you down. I very much respect the fact that you're willing to say you don't know. It takes a lot of confidence and courage to say "I don't know" and it's the beginning to understanding and knowing. Most young people pretend and act like they know what they are going to do but really deep down they have no idea. So I know you feel like you are off track, but feeling a little off track right now is pretty much... on track.

Usually, the harder thing to do is the right thing. So right now, it's probably pretty hard for you to listen. Seek out those who have more life experience and wisdom than you do and ask them what they think about your situation. People who really care about you and your path will surprise you with their answers to your questions and insights to this stage of life. The question is, are you mature enough to ask?

May the FORCE be with you.

(3-minute read)

You will need the same amount of force to make the changes you want in your life that you need to get out of bed in the morning. Don't believe me? Tomorrow, set your alarm for 20-30 minutes earlier than you normally get up and when the alarm goes off I want you to instantly throw the sheets off, climb out of your bed, stand up and start your day.

You will be faced with the actual physical effects of making the decision to start your day a little earlier.

You will not feel like staying on your feet and moving but will most likely feel more like climbing back into that warm, comfy bed.

You will either take a step and start your day or you will get back in bed. In simple choice lies the difference between you being your best or never knowing what your best could be.

You WILL get excited and feel good thinking about looking great, having that fabulous spouse, being that strong, earning that degree, doing that project, having that money, taking that trip, etc. But,

You WILL not feel that way about doing the work necessary to get that result.

You WILL rarely FEEL like taking the actions that will get you the thing or change you want. Nobody gets excited about skipping that desert, putting down that drink, doing those squats, following those directions, staying at the library, doing the busy work of research, saving that money, getting there earlier, leaving that party, staying after, studying longer, etc.

Notice how all of those paragraphs start with the words 'You will'? YOU & Your WILL are the problem. You are the reason you don't have what you want, whatever it is. As long as you continue to believe and decide that it's someone else's fault or that you are not good enough and that it is ok to not have what you want, you will never have it.

Here's the good news, you are the solution. If you can learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings that go along with getting back in bed and still FORCE yourself to get up, you can also force yourself to do the work you don't want to do that will get you the things you want. You have the power within you to force yourself. No one but you and God can get in the gaps between the obstacle, the decision, and the action. And oftentimes, I think God, like a good parent, gives us just enough resistance to see if we're worthy of the result on the other side of the work.

You are beyond unique and only you can do the things you can do. No one else has ever been or will ever be you. The chances of your specific DNA combination occurring is 1 in 4 Trillion. You are, in fact, that special little snowflake your kindergarten teacher said you were. If you can pass the get out of bed test you can also make the change and do the work. 

So stop believing all the lies you have been told or tell yourself that have you operating as if it's ok to be average, ordinary or less than. Realize that the best version of you is amazing and that you have much to offer the rest of us. What will your life be like when you begin to realize the greatness you were created to be? How sad if you never share that version of YOU with the world.

Tomorrow, get your ass out of bed and FORCE yourself to be better than you were today... the rest of us are counting on YOU.

Check out the TEDx talk that inspired this post.