In this past year, the value of engaging in a personal hobby has been clearer than ever. And a pastime that can be enjoyed easily from home has proved to be a particular blessing.

For me, and for countless thousands of people like me, this hobby happens to be partwork model building. Whatever else is going on, it’s a chance to escape to another world. One where you can lose yourself in the detail recreating a beloved vehicle or reminisce on moments from a favourite childhood movie. And to take pleasure in the reassuringly steady and methodical process of constructing something special and enduring.

The anticipation of receiving the next instalment of a build and meticulously adding each new component is not only fun but therapeutic. It’s the perfect exercise to focus the mind and forget everything else for a while. And that can make modelling a precious opportunity for much needed ‘me’ time. But it can be valuable ‘we’ time too – there’s so much about partwork building that makes it a brilliant family activity.

Family fun

Introducing other household members to your model building projects is a great way to share your own enthusiasm and to make it a collective experience. Most of us lead busy and often distracted lives, so the chance to spend a little more quality time with loved ones can only be a good thing.

For children in particular, there’s so much to enjoy and to learn. Working hands-on with tools and small pieces can really help cultivate the inner engineer in youngsters. The areas that model-making helps develop are numerous – hand-eye-coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving, following instructions, critical thinking and creativity, to name but a few. Not to mention, it’s a whole lot of fun.

A picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated

Image © copyright

Of course, activities need to be chosen carefully depending on the age and practical abilities of your children. As a proud dad of two myself, I’ve loved getting my sons involved but they are at quite different stages of their partwork adventures. My youngest is too small yet to get heavily involved in projects but he enjoys starting off screws for me to tighten, and searching for the right parts for the next step of the build. These might be basic tasks but they are an ideal chance to get involved – and a taster that can help spark an early interest in models.

And if you’re worried about setting inexperienced hands free on your prized model, there are plenty of jobs younger children can do without the risk of inflicting damage. Initially, you could put them in charge of turning the pages of the instructions or experimenting with a box of spare parts you no longer need (while being mindful of safety with small pieces, of course). All the while, they’re getting more familiar with how things work and learning from watching you work.

My older son is now a modelling enthusiast in his own right, which is a pleasure to see. He is excited to now be building his partwork models independently, but he still loves helping with some of the more visible and exciting stages of my own builds. Having this shared interest, watching each other’s progress and sharing our successes together has become valuable father-and-son time.

A break from the screen

One of the biggest benefits of getting involved with model building as a family is to pull ourselves away from electronic devices and engage in something a little more productive and creative. Our children are spending more and more time slumped passively in front of screens (something which many of us adults are guilty of too) and we often hear about the need to switch off and to have a digital detox – a break from mobile phones, TV and computers.

Model building is the perfect antidote to excessive and unhealthy screen time – and a brilliant way to get youngsters engaging purposefully and working towards a goal. With attention spans growing ever shorter in the internet age, partwork projects demand good old-fashioned concentration and perseverance.

A picture containing text

Description automatically generated

Image © copyright

Gratification is so often instantly available now, with endless digital stimulation and next-day deliveries meeting our whims for entertainment and shiny new things at the touch of a button. But with model making, you need to take your time. It’s fiddly and requires focus and effort. Plus, while the latest toy might be attainable right now, partwork building progresses gradually over months, meaning we learn patience, and with it the joy of anticipation and the eventual pleasure when the next part arrives and we can continue our build. It’s satisfaction that needs to be earned.

All of this contributes to a real feeling of involvement and investment in a model project. As you labour over each stage of a build, whether it’s a solo enterprise or a family effort, you really get to know your model intricately. For children especially, this can nurture a genuine appreciation of the piece. And when the project is finally complete, unlike anything that can bought off the shelf, the finished model can inspire a lasting sense of achievement and pride.