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Childhood hobbies may just seem like a way for children and young adults to pass time but by accident or by design, childhood hobbies can set individuals up for success later in life.

Today, I’d like to share some of my childhood hobbies and explain what skills they taught me and how I put these skills to use today.

Reading fiction books

I have been an avid reader since childhood. In primary school, I finished all the books on the reading shelves so quickly that I had to re-read some shelves! Outside of school, I favoured reading over watching TV. I would spend whole summers reading books on a swing in the garden.

Other than providing entertainment, reading so many books gave me a wide vocabulary and gave me a head start with writing and creative writing skills. I put these to use today in a variety of ways - from digital marketing, to social media, to writing blogs like this one!

Being a collector

I loved collecting things a child: marbles, crystals, toys. I loved animals and so my favourite collectable toys were ‘Puppy in my Pocket’. They’ve been re-released as a new series with new designs but I’ll always fondly remember the original series of plastic canine figurines!

So, what do collectables teach? Firstly, they teach organisation. The more I collected, the more I needed to organise my collection - especially when storing and accounting for which figurines I had and which I still wanted to collect. These organisational skills are put to use in my every day life, from organising my work day through to project management.

Secondly, collectables teach budgeting skills if they are items that are purchased. As a child, I would use my pocket money to expand my collection and I had to plan my purchases, including learning to prioritise purchases. For example, did I want to collect 4 common figurines over a 4 week period, or did I want to save my pocket money and purchase a special edition set of figurines?

Computer games

Continuing the animal theme - I was, or rather still am animal mad! My all-time favourite childhood computer game was Petz. Originally Petz 3, and eventually Petz 5. The purpose of the game was to adopt, raise and look after virtual dogs and cats.

The most valuable skills I learnt weren’t from the game itself - although it did teach responsibility and ownership skills. The great thing about Petz was the ability to access individual game files - like individual dogs and cats, ‘breedz’, ‘toyz’ and playscenes. It essentially meant that the game could be expanded in endless number of unique ways and led to the development of a rich online community of fans who ‘hex-edited’ individual dogs and cats to adopt out on their websites, as well as programming new breeds, toys and playscenes.

To begin with, I accessed Petz websites to adopt new dogs and cats for my game. But over time, I got inspired and wanted to learn how to hex-edit Petz files myself and to build a website. I started with a website, following a HTML tutorial a fellow Petz fan had made and over time, I went from being able to make an ugly one-page website into a multi-page website with colourful and sleek designs. I still retain design and HTML knowledge from this hobby and can put it to use in my daily role.

Hex-editing hasn’t had any purpose for me since my childhood hobby but I think it prepared me for stepping into what would be otherwise unfamiliar territory in a software and web development agency! It gave me real insight into ‘behind the scenes’ of computer software; and how software worked was determined by programming.

See the value in every hobby

Since childhood and still today, I see a lot of parents worrying about the amount of time that their children spend playing games, watching TV or on in the internet. What I would say is that the hobbies I’ve listed were balanced by other activities - I rode a bike, I went walking with my family and our dog and of course, I did my homework! But in the end, it’s really the intangible personal skills and the tangible digital skills that I developed through my hobbies that have been the most useful in my adult life.

I think it’s harder for older generations to see the value in the hobbies of younger generations. When I was a child, the internet was a novelty - accessible by dial-up internet and only when nobody in your house was using the home phone line! Today, there are online businesses and great demand for digital skills. Whenever you’re wondering about the value of childhood hobbies, try to imagine the future because the future is where each child will be an adult and put the skills they learned in childhood to use.

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