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Myrah Brown Green has taught people how to quilt for more than 30 years. But she’s a realist when it comes to teaching her grandchildren.“Don’t expect your children or grandchildren to love what you do,” says Green, 65, who has a doctorate in art history, teaches at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, and is an expert on African American arts. Still, she has that desire to pass on what some might consider old-fashioned skills or hobbies.
“A lot of these crafts are dying on a certain level,” she says. “So if we can get young people to actually take up the torch, it just gives hope that these arts will continue.”Whether you do needlecraft, make model cars or collect stamps, it’s tempting to want your grandchildren to love it, too. And these kinds of hobbies teach skills like problem-solving, research and breaking a task into small steps. But tread carefully when trying to engage a young audience, Green and other craft and collecting experts say.
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“I want to share my passions with the kids. However, my passions are not their passions,” says James Wright, a woodworker from Rockford, Illinois, who teaches woodworking using hand tools on his YouTube channel. His videos often feature his three young and preteen children. “If I try to push my passions on them, it is a turnoff, and they don’t want to be a part of it. And so my goal is finding the things that intrigue them.”
How can you engage a grandchild with a hobby near and dear to your heart? First, consider that time spent together might be the best lesson of all. And be open to learning something from them. Then try these 10 tips.
1. Keep it age-appropriate. For example, when can kids learn woodworking? When they are old enough to understand “sharp” means dangerous, says Wright, who made his first project when he was about 6. Start with something fun, such as peeling wood curls with a spokeshave, a two-handled plane, he suggests. “You’re just having fun with the wood.”
2. Beware of distractions. Turn off the TV, says Amy Finlay of Amherst, Massachusetts, who owns KnittingHelp.com, an online knitting store and resource. Her family doesn’t even own a TV, but her kids sometimes listen to audiobooks while they work on craft projects, giving them another incentive to return to the project.