Between the time spent watching television and playing video games, many of today's children have never experienced the rewards of a hobby.

Not long ago, speaking to a Midwestern audience, family psychologist John Rosemond asked, "How many of you, when you were children, had a hobby?" Nearly everyone raised a hand. He then asked them to keep their hands in the air if at least one of their children had a hobby, which he distinguished from organized, adult-directed, after-school activities such as Little League. Most of the hands went down.Thirty-odd years ago, most children had some sort of hobby. Collecting and trading baseball cards was a popular pastime (one that's making a strong comeback today), as were coin and stamp collections, according to Better Homes and Gardens, a Meredith magazine.

Looking back on those days, it's easy to realize that hobbies benefit children in numerous ways. Because they are expressions of personal accomplishment and a means of self-discovery, hobbies help build self-esteem.

Hobbies are educational tools, as well. For example, a child who becomes interested in rocketry learns about propulsion and aerodynamics. By working on hobbies, children learn to set goals, make decisions and solve all sorts of problems. Finally, hobbies often mature into lifelong interests, even careers.

To get children started, set a good example. Scott Harris, a hobby-shop buyer and hobby-workshop leader in Gastonia, N.C., finds that children with hobbies tend to have parents with hobbies.

Be prepared to sacrifice space. A child will need a work space for his or her hobby projects. Designate a particular room, a corner of the basement, part of the garage or similar area. Regardless of where the space is set up, a child should be able to walk away from the hobby and come back to it later. The work space should also allow for plenty of paint spills, scratches and other hobby-related accidents.

Provide some guidance. "Nothing will kill a child's enthusiasm for a hobby quicker than lots of frustration during the learning stage," says Harris. Help the child get off to a good start by demonstrating how to closely follow a set of directions, and how to handle sometimes-delicate hobby materials with proper care.

Limit television watching. Since 1955, when it became a fixture in America's households, television has come to dominate the spare time of the American child. By age 15, the average child has spent more time watching television than sitting in the classroom. Face it, it's impossible to work on a hobby and watch TV (or play video games) at the same time.