As a self-professed geek, my three sons may as well been born with dice in one hand and a controller in the other. From a very early age, they were playing all sorts of board games and video games. They are very comfortable with the gaming culture and all three still embrace it. It is a wonderful hobby that can stimulate imagination, build intellect, and develop social skills, However, I also wanted to make sure they were exposed to many other things besides gaming in order to help them be a more well-rounded individual. As parents, we thought it was important to give them opportunities to participate other activities that they might find enjoyable. The first was sports.
I'm a sports nut who loves to play and watch sports. I played lots of sports as a youth and for the past 25 years I've play organized softball. As a result, I know first hand how participating on a sports team teaches individuals how to work within a team, it teaches the importance of respect for authority (ie. the coach), shows individuals how to handle winning and losing, and stresses the importance of practicing to become better at whatever a person wants to do. With all three boys, I gave them the choice of whatever they wanted to participate in from baseball, to football, to basketball, to karate. For me, it didn't matter I just wanted them to participate in some sort of organized sports activity. If they didn't like a certain sport, they tried another. They are now ages 15, 11 and 9 and all three still participate in some form of sports. In addition, we love to go to ball games and watch them as family. They are great memories that will stay with them forever.
Obviously, another huge benefit of playing sports is physical activity. Geeks have a negative stereotype of being overweight individuals who just sit in front of a PC or gaming table all day. Sports helps instill the importance of physical fitness they they'll need to maintain through their entire lives.
A second form of activity I have supported with my sons is learning how to play a musical instrument. I took piano at an early age and it is an activity I've used my entire life. I currently play in a band at my church and in a local rock band. The discipline it takes to learn how to play an instrument is invaluable to an individual. Even if a person never becomes proficient at playing, the work ethic established can last a life time. So when my oldest son came to me when he was 10 and said he wanted to learn how to play guitar, we supported him. We got him a cheap starter guitar and he started taking lessons. Five years later he's now a pretty good guitar player, plays in a jazz ensemble in high school and spends more hours in his room practicing than he does in front of the TV.
My second oldest recently decided he wanted to learn how to play the bass. So this past Christmas he got him a starter bass and he started learning how to play. In addition, he is playing trumpet in the Middle School Band which is developing his music reading skills. Now, he may decide he really isn't into being a musician and that is fine with us. We just wanted to make sure he had the opportunity to try it out.
Another activity we thought was important was community service. It's so easy nowadays to get caught up with 'self'. In a time where the entitlement culture can be a strong influence on a child, we believed that helping and putting others first could show the boys how good they got it. Serving others showed them how they could make a difference in peoples lives and, in return, receive that joyful feeling when helping those in need. Whether it is doing service through local charities, the church or the school, we've seen a lot of growth in maturity in all three boys.
Now these are just three examples of non-gaming activities that we thought might be good for our family. But it could be anything like writing, painting, dance, art, theater, geo-caching, the list is limitless. Don't get me wrong, gaming is a fantastic hobby that we spend many hours doing and enjoying. But taking time to put down the dice and controller has helped cultivate an appreciation for many different things that our boys will enjoy for a lifetime.