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why teens should have hobbies: an occupational therapist's perspective.

Updated: Jun 10

An Occupational Therapist (OT) helps one do the things they need to do, things they want to do, and things they are expected to do. "Occupations" also refer to daily activities. Areas of daily activities include (1) self-care, (2) productivity (home, school, work, and community), (3) leisure pursuits/exploration, (4) sleep/rest, and (5) health management. Hobbies fall under leisure pursuits/exploration or interests. Daily activities require many skills. Such skills include self-regulation, social, cognitive, physical, and executive function skills. This article highlights the importance of teens having and taking part in hobbies. Taking part in hobbies can help teens to develop, regain, and strengthen skills, enable carryover of skills if therapy was previously provided, and promote relaxation and rejuvenation for mental wellness.


By definition, a hobby is a pastime that we do for fun in our free time. We hear the word 'hobby' used frequently and it's paramount that we understand the significance of hobbies, especially to teens. Here are some reasons why hobbies are important and have many benefits for teens. Even though specific hobbies and executive function/cognitive skills are listed in each paragraph, overlap occurs across the benefits explained below.

Wholesome hobbies are also a good way to channel energy and time and can deter behaviors that might lead to dire consequences, such as experimenting with alcohol, drugs, and sex, and engaging in crime.


Wholesome hobbies can be used to:

Encourage creativity and improve executive function skills

Finding and engaging in a hobby helps spark teens' creativity. A hobby will get teens to come

up with original ideas and to use their imagination. Creativity promotes cognitive processes and makes it possible to use skills such as flexibility, task initiation, planning, organization, and attention. https://www.brainwingsmo.com/executive-function

Allow and encourage your teen to choose a hobby that interests them so that they can initiate it independently and consistently. Creative hobbies include sewing, drawing, woodworking, web design, and calligraphy.


Connect one with others and work on social skills

Some hobbies require interacting with other people. Working together to make a product, working as a team, working out together, sharing ideas, and helping others to name a few.

Social interaction promotes belonging and connectedness. Teens engaging in such tasks develop attention, mental flexibility, time management, self-control, social, coping, and self-regulation skills. Examples of such hobbies include taking a cooking class, playing sports, taking a yoga class, participating in a book club, and volunteering.


Learn new skills to improve self-efficacy and cognitive function

Most of the time you do something new, you learn something. When teens engage in a productive novel or new task, they gain new abilities. New skills improve brain connections,

which impact how teens process information. New skills open up opportunities and increase confidence. When engaging clients or patients in therapy, occupational therapists strive to support generalized self-efficacy or the belief that one has the skills to perform an activity/task or to handle a situation efficiently and successfully. When learning new skills, teens apply the three main executive function skills which are mental flexibility, working memory, and inhibitory control in addition to attention and self-regulatory skills. Such hobbies include learning a new language, learning to play an instrument, film making, making candles, designing, writing, blogging, and photography.


strengthen physical skills

Instead of being sedentary and staying indoors, there are hobbies that will get teens moving and breaking a sweat. Physical skills such as flexibility, coordination, motor planning, balance, and body awareness can be improved. Additionally, physical activity

or movement can help combat anxiety and depression. When teens learn to live an active lifestyle

earlier on, it increases their chances of continuing to be active throughout their lives, which results in a decreased probability of lifestyle diseases. Some hobbies that promote physical activity include jogging, dancing, gardening, hiking, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, and roller skating.


Identify strengths for daily activities

One of the ways that can help identify strengths is when teens engage in many different activities or hobbies. Hobbies can shed light on areas that your teen excels. When your

teen knows his/her strengths, he/she is better able to pick careers or vocations that line up with them. For those teens who are not able to make those decisions, caregivers are able to provide feedback for placement in various programs or sheltered workshops. Strengths can also be used to help achieve specific goals. Knowing strengths increases self-awareness or self-monitoring and overall participation and success with activities. Let's name a few hobbies that can identify strengths: writing, pottery, making jewelry, archery, inventing, baking, and collecting items of interest. https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Practice/Children/SchoolMHToolkit/Promoting%20Strengths%20REVISED.pdf


Relieve stress and promote mental wellness

I'm sure we all want to de-stress after a long hard day or week. It is certainly wonderful to find a hobby that will help us decompress from all the pressures and demands of life. Being able to relax helps teens reset both physically and mentally. Just like physical activity, relaxation

positively impacts physiological functions. Some benefits include decreased heart rate, improved digestion, lowered blood pressure, and improved sleep. Mentally, relaxation helps calm the mind, improve mood, and promote self-awareness, attention, and overall emotional balance. Stress-relieving hobbies can always be discovered and added to the list, but here are a few: listening to music, coloring, flying a kite, assembling puzzles, painting, reading, birdwatching, nature walks, and fishing.


An occupational therapist can encourage engagement in hobbies and facilitate participation in them. Interests can be used to address therapy goals and work on executive function, social, physical, and self-regulation skills. Teens also need a way to cope with life demands and engaging in hobbies can help relieve stress and promote mental wellness. All in all, OTs can use occupation-based activities, even hobbies, to develop, help regain, and strengthen skills with the goal of promoting health and wellness.

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