Activities and Classes for Preschoolers
Structured activities and classes for preschoolers abound these days. Amid the dazzling array of opportunities, how do we know what choices are beneficial for our kids, and how much is too much?
A good rule of thumb for preschoolers is to use their age as a guideline for the number of group activities a week. A two-year-old probably can't handle more than two classes a week (this includes religious services/Sunday school), and a three-year-old shouldn't have more than three a week. It's also important to know your child's personality here. Are they energized by being around people? Do they do better in smaller classes or just doing activities with one other friend? Follow your child's lead.
Art, music, and sports can all be fabulous for preschoolers. The important thing is that they be physically engaging, age appropriate, and focused on experience rather than outcome. Look for activities that provide tactile learning experiences and opportunities to explore and experiment. Choose sports that don't focus on competition, but rather on learning skills, teamwork, and having fun. Swimming is a lifesaving skill to have, and it can be a great physical activity to start early. Gymnastics teaches kids balance and coordination, resulting in fewer injuries.
Some parents worry that their kids need structured activities for proper socialization. Kids need less than many parents think. The social skills they need are how to handle frustration, what to do if another child wants what they have, and how to communicate in a way that is kind and positive. They can learn these skills from having one friend over at a time. One group activity a week is also plenty for learning these skills.
Remember to strike a balance. Activities can be great fun and good learning experiences, but kids need time for quiet activities, unhurried exploration, pretend play, and learning to entertain themselves. You can feel out the right balance by watching your child's responses. Do they seem well-rested and happy? Are they showing signs of too much activity, like getting grouchy? Do they show signs of stress like being easily tearful, getting tummy aches, or crying when it's time to go somewhere? Do they seem excited about the activities you have chosen? Go by their cues, and you are sure to find a balance that is right for you and your child.
Photo Credit: Tommy Wong cc
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