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Increasing access to hobbies for children and young people

Before embarking on her new role as CEO of Parenting across Scotland, Children in Scotland’s former Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Amy Woodhouse, visited Finland and Iceland with the Churchill Fellowship to explore how these countries are working to increase children and young people’s access to hobbies.

At our next Voices Forum,  jointly organised with Parenting across Scotland and open to all Children in Scotland members, Amy will share the findings from her research. Ahead of the Forum, held on Wednesday, 20 March, Amy highlights why it is such a critical time to address children’s access to hobbies in Scotland, and why we should learn from others’ experiences. 

Hobbies are brilliant things for many reasons. Hobbies give us the chance to learn new skills, build confidence and self esteem and make friends. If we’re lucky, we may find interests and passions that stay with us our whole lives.

There are many opportunities for children and young people to take part in hobbies across Scotland. Think of the clubs, organisations and societies you know of – Brownies, Guides, Cubs, Scouts, the dance organisations teaching five year olds ballet, tennis, football, chess clubs, drama societies, swimming, gymnastics, coding. I could go on. Many of these will be run by private organisations, or by volunteers. Most will have some cost attached.

Last year, Children in Scotland commissioned IPSOS to undertake research (click here for more) with 1,533 secondary school aged children across Scotland. Participants were asked whether they currently took part in a club or activity after school or at the weekend. The research found that only 45% of secondary school aged children living in the areas of highest deprivation took part in a hobby, compared with 65% in the most affluent areas. Those living with a physical or mental health condition were also less likely to take part in clubs or activities out of school.

Research from Aspire Money in 2017 (click here for more) indicated that the average parent in Scotland spends £32 a month on their child’s main hobby. It’s a significant commitment that not all families can afford. Just recently CAB Scotland (click here for more) found that over 235,000 parents / carers were forced to cut back on hobbies for their children in the past 12 months as a result of the cost of living crisis.

What this means in a nutshell is fairly obvious but important. Not all children and young people living in Scotland are regularly taking part in a hobby, and poverty is likely to be a contributing factor to this.

We’ve just seen the amended UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill receive royal assent, meaning that all children and young people in Scotland now have their rights enshrined in law. This includes Article 31, the right to leisure and play. Given that poverty prevents some children from participating in leisure activities, maybe we should start talking about children’s right to a hobby?

In September and October 2023, I was fortunate to be able to visit Finland and Iceland on a Churchill Fellowship to explore how these countries have worked to increase children and young people’s access to hobbies.  I travelled for six weeks in total, spending three weeks in each country – meeting people, asking questions, exploring different approaches.

On 20 March, Children in Scotland and Parenting across Scotland will come together for a very special Voices Forum where I will share findings from my Churchill Fellowship. Together, we’ll discuss whether and how the experiences of Finland and Iceland can help Scotland increase access to hobbies for all children and young people. It should be an informative and inspiring event – hope to see you there!

The Voices Forum on children's access to hobbies will take place online on Wednesday 20 March, 10am-12pm. Click here to register for the event. 

If you have any questions about the Forum, please email Chris Ross on


About the Author

Amy Woodhouse is CEO of Parenting across Scotland

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