Which hobbies are important for the 11 plus exams

Children need hobbies. Hobbies keep kids active, teach them responsibility and self-discipline, and help them explore new interests. Allowing your child to explore different hobbies will develop their confidence with what excites them and interests them and build thier curiosity about the world around them. In addition, including a list of passionate hobbies looks impressive in school applications and they are often one of the focal topics in a school interview. But with so many hobbies to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which your child should explore. Here are a number of hobbies your child could explore and how they could help your child prepare for the 11 plus applications.

1. Gardening – Gardening is a great way for children to learn the basics of how to grow plants, flowers, and vegetables, whilst exploring the science behind what makes them grow. It’s also a great way to get them outside and away from screens, gain responsibility, patience and self-confidence. This hobby is a great way to discuss and develop children’s understanding of the environment, recycling and volunteering: all imperative lessons to learn.

2. Cooking – Cooking can teach children about nutrition and food safety, as well as give them an appreciation for cooking. It’s also a great way for them to develop their creative skills, understand tricky maths topics (measurements, ratios, fractions/decimals/percentages), learn how to work under pressure and manage their time appropriately. These soft skills are essential for any exam.

3. Arts and Crafts – Art is a wonderful way for children to express themselves. It can develop children’s ability to focus, improve their creativity and enhance their spatial awareness. Scholarships in art commonly exist for independent schools, so children who do take this up as a hobby and wish to apply for a scholarship should consider building a portfolio demonstrating outstanding artistic ability which is not restricted to the conventional, such as drawings, photographs, computer art, doodles in science folder margins, craft items made at home, or self-motivated art. They may need some professional guidance to improve their drawing technique, develop strong powers of observation and to learn the specialist language and concepts appropriate to the appreciation of art.

4. Sports – With so many different options in sports, there is bound to be one your child will enjoy. There’s a growing body of research that links physical activity to improvements in educational achievement. That’s because sport helps children develop character and to learn important social and brain skills such as problem-solving, resilience, perseverance, confidence and teamwork. Many schools offer sports scholarships. 11+ candidates will be expected to be at club or county level in their main sport. The overriding factor in whether a candidate receives an award will be whether they show exceptional athletic potential in their assessments.

5. Music – Learning an instrument can help children develop their fine motor skills, as well as give children a sense of accomplishment. Studies in neuroscience show that music can enhance brain function in children. Musical activities (such as playing an instrument, singing or just listening to music) stimulate the brain, and this brain workout leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections. Thus, it will be no surprise that instrument learning has also been linked to improved language, mathematics and spatial awareness development. There are some local music schools offering young children the opportunity to participate in taster lessons to experience different instruments, which allows them to discover their preference.

Please note, some instruments are more suitable for older children. Recommendations from music schools for when students may wish to start learning these are:

Violin/Viola – Year 1 or 2
Cello – Year 2 or 3
Double Bass/Mini Bass – Year 4
Flute – Year 4
Clarinet – Year 5
Saxophone – Year 5 or 6
Oboe – Year 6
Bassoon (Fagonello) – Year 4
Bassoon (Full Size) – Year 6
Trumpet – Year 4
Trombone/P Bone – Year 4
Low Brass (Baritone/Euphonium/Tuba) – Year 5
French Horn – Year 4
Percussion – Year 3
Guitar – Year 3
Piano – Year 1
Vocal- Year 4

Music scholarships are also available for many schools. The majority of schools require children to be at grade 5 or above for the 11+ scholarship applications.

6. Reading – This hobby has astonishing benefits for children: comfort and reassurance, confidence and security, relaxation, happiness and fun. It builds self-esteem and vocabulary, feeds the imagination and even improves their sleeping patterns. An avid reader stands a better chance in the 11+ English exams as reading lets you gain enormous knowledge. The more you read, the more information is stored and you’ll discover that over time you’ll acquire a comprehensive general knowledge. You can find our recommended reading list for all students here: https://11pluslondon.co.uk/resources/reading-lists/

7. Drama and Dance – It’s no big secret that getting kids involved in the performing arts can have major benefits. Performing arts builds children’s confidence, creativity, concentration, empathy, teamwork and collaboration. Many schools now offer Drama scholarships. Children who are keen on pursuing any performing arts should be encouraged to join local clubs and also participate in performances.

8. Coding – With a number of coding platforms gamifying the learning of programming, children can begin to explore the key ideas from a young age, developing logical thinking, persistence, resilience and reinforcing mathematical concepts. This hobby is also an excellent introducer to other parts of science and technology.


These are just some of the hobbies children can partake in. There are many more out there such as horse-riding, martial arts, fencing, debating… so don’t be afraid to explore and find the one that’s right for your child, and help them to develop their skills and interests.