Is your child is looking for a hobby or activity—maybe one not traditionally offered at school?
We bet there are options in your community that you may not have even thought of—or heard of! We’ve listed a few below that might pique your child’s interest, from animal caregiver to cadet to conservation crewmember.
Having a hobby is important for children’s well-being—kids develop more self-confidence, experience a sense of achievement, and make new friends who also enjoy spending time in meaningful ways.
Pursuing a hobby or passion can also help keep your child alcohol-free. Find out how.
If you associate 4-H with just horses and livestock, think again. The organization offers animal projects that fit into more urban lifestyles as well as teen development programs covering civics, health, and STEM.
- Rabbits and “pocket pets.” Rabbits can be raised indoors and out, so even youth with no yard can participate and learn how to care for an animal. Ditto for “pocket pets” like snakes, turtles, frogs and toads, lizards, birds, and guinea pigs. Participants have opportunities to develop leadership, public speaking, and entrepreneurial skills.
- The annual Know Your Government Conference empowers teens to be well-informed citizens and engage in their communities. They’ll learn about the Idaho state government’s decision-making process, how the state judicial system works and how cases are brought to court, and observe the legislative process in action. They’ll also share ideas with legislators and judges, and meet other civic-minded teens from across the state.
- From Robotics teams to STEM activities, 4-H offers many avenues for your child to engage in the world around them.
VOLUNTEER TO CARE FOR ANIMALS
Most animal shelters love to get a hand from kids. At the West Valley Humane Society in Caldwell, junior volunteers (7-13) can help with cat care, dog brushing and bathing, playing with dogs, and animal enrichment projects. Children under 16 must have a parent/guardian volunteering with them at all times. Teens aged 16-17 must have a parent/guardian sign a permission slip allowing them to volunteer on their own.
Likewise, the Twin Falls Animal Shelter welcomes youth; those under age 16 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Near Lapwai, the Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club offers opportunities for youth to learn about, ride, and care for horses.
If you can’t swing on-site volunteering, you could contact your area shelter to find out how else your child can be of help, whether via toy, food, and supplies drives or helping to raise funds.
TRAIN SERVICE DOGS
Genesis Service Dogs trains dogs to assist people with special needs. The Treasure Valley organization relies on volunteer puppy raisers and “breeder keepers,” those who continue to work with the dogs until they are assigned to a recipient. Regular meetings and trainings are required for all family members helping to raise the puppies. If you’d like to help but can’t raise a puppy full-time, your child can volunteer as a puppy sitter to help provide respite to puppy raisers when they need a break.
Guide Dogs for the Blind offers opportunities for youth around Idaho to serve as puppy raisers. They’ll teach good puppy manners and provide socialization experiences for about the first year of the puppy’s life. Read about one Idaho teen’s rewarding experience working with this group.
The Idaho Interscholastic Cycling League teaches Idaho youth to mountain bike ride and, if they’d like, compete in races. The league offers year-round programing that stresses the value of camaraderie, positive sporting behavior, and emotional health and well-being. Teens can participate in the Teen Trail Corps to take a leadership role in trail and land stewardship advocacy, as well as the Teen Leadership Council, where they can help guide the vision and direction of the league.
KAYAKING/SWIFT WATER RESCUE
Kids can develop river safety and paddling skills through Cascade Raft and Kayak’s overnight camps, or the Community School’s Summer Outdoor Program near Sun Valley.
Near Lewiston, D.A.R.E. to Kayak lessons teach youth to kayak as an exciting alternative to using drugs and alcohol. Youth will learn paddling basics, river safety, and the importance of river conservation.
The Community School also offers two-day swift water rescue camps for individuals aged 16+ that combine classroom instruction, hands-on practice, and exciting rescue scenarios. Instruction takes place just north of Stanley.
The Idaho County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program offers high school seniors in the Grangeville, Cottonwood, Riggins, Kooskia, and Kamiah areas opportunities to learn about various facets of law enforcement. They’ll receive training in firearms and evidence collection and fingerprinting; ride along with deputies; and gain insight into how law enforcement helps within their communities. For more information, contact the Sheriff’s Office at 208-983-1100.
The Clearwater Basin Youth Conservation Corps offers an eight-week summer program that introduces youth (16-18 years old) to Idaho’s natural resources and natural resources careers. Crews work alongside agency partners on a variety of projects involving wildlife and fisheries, recreation, trail development, stream restoration, and more. Current work sites are near Grangeville, Kooskia, Pierce, Orofino, and Potlatch.
Similarly, the Idaho Conservation Corps Youth Corps Camping programs combine education and job skills training with outdoor adventure for ages 16 to 18/19. Under staff supervision, youth crew members work on conservation, reforestation, and recreation projects, and learn valuable lessons of teamwork and responsibility. Crews camp in the field for several weeks, traveling from project to project. Summer and fall sessions available, and participants earn a stipend.
Youth aged 15-19 can participate in conservation programs via the Student Conservation Association. Your child can join an existing “Community Crew” in your area or create their own to improve trails, restore parks, and learn about conservation-related careers.
MAYORAL AND CITY AMBASSADORS
In Meridian, students in grades 9-12 are invited to join the Meridian Youth Advisory Committee to help serve the community and tackle issues faced by area teens. Your child can choose to focus on community service, government affairs, or planning teen activities—and they’ll learn how to effectively participate in local government.
The Pocatello/Chubbuck Mayors’ Youth Advisory Council is similar, offering opportunities for 9-12th graders to participate in matters pertaining to city government and their place within it. The council provides training opportunities and learning experiences regarding governance and leadership.
Twin Falls also has its own youth council, as do many other cities around Idaho.
If none of these options work for you or your child, keep trying! And be sure to check out our Find Their Passion profiles of Idaho teens forging creative paths for themselves.