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Toddler Classes, Classes...and more Classes!

By April 3, 2008 - 3:08pm
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There is much debate about "overscheduling" your children, whether it be for playdates, classes, etc... but what is your opinion on the appropriate number of class(es) for your child to participate in? (Given that it depends on your child's temperament, your time and financial situation, your child's interests, etc.).

There are so many classes to choose from, and being well-intentioned and wanting good balance for my toddler (he gets plenty of alone time/free play, as well as structured play), I was thinking about joining a swimming class. His grandparents have a pool, so there is the added benefit of him learning pool safety as well.

His aunt and uncle are heavily into music, so I feel that he gets that exposure when he's at their home and does his "toddler dance" when they play drums and guitar. Then again, when he was given a maraca to play, he just banged it against his head...so lessons may be helpful (ha ha).

I've taken him to a gymnastics class once, and he loved it! However, it's really expensive. I have no gymnastics talent (read: I'm clumsy, which made for great entertainment on the softball field!), and I would like him to develop his physical skills. I figure him playing on a playground is good enough for now (sports will come soon enough, as we're already playing a version of "catch" in the backyard).

Then, of course, there are other areas of development, including language and millions of others...are there classes for every developmental milestone?

What other classes do you think are important to develop your child's skills or interests? How many classes are too many? Are there other ways for children to learn skills without a specific class?

I look forward to your feedback!

Add a Comment6 Comments

I want to make school the primary foundation around which other things are built. Parents know their own kids and what they are ready for more than anyone else. They know what their kids are ready for and what they enjoy.
Andrew William


September 17, 2008 - 1:45pm
EmpowHER Guest

I think it depends on how many children you have and the children themselves. If it is only one child then I think a couple of 45 minute classes a week coupled with free play cannot hurt your child. They can only benefit him/her. As Susan stated you get to meet other parents who have children the same age, and your child gets a chance to socialize and learn new things.If your child is in school all day or 5 mornings etc. then 2 or 3 classes may be a little too much. You as a mother need to use your "motherly instinct", and determine what's best for you child.

by S.

July 12, 2008 - 4:39am

I have known a lot of parents who don't know when enough is enough, as they're spending too much of their energy living vicariously through their children. Children seem to provide the perfect opportunity to get right what you might have gotten wrong in your own childhood, as some parents seem to think (if only subconsciously).

I once asked my now 13 year old nephew what he does for fun. His answer: guitar lessons, keyboard lessons, violin lessons, the list went on...so many indoor lessons! What about sports, or Scouts, or just getting dirty and being a boy?

Yep, there's plenty of time...

April 15, 2008 - 5:11pm

I tend to agree with susanc. Parents have been told repeatedly by the media that if their children are to be adequately prepared for University, they must start scheduling them in as many activities as the day will hold from the time they are able to hold their heads up. But we've seen the result of this, and there are a LOT of overscheduled, overstressed kids who barely have time to think. They are unhappy and some of them simply burn out and quit at some point.

There IS a happy medium. When I had my first child before his siblings cam along we would attend playgroups and a music/activity class at the bookstore. When his brother arrived, I would take each of them to swim/water play classes once a week. When their sister came along, we just skipped activities for a while!

Now that my youngest is 4, she attends swim lessons twice a week and dance lessons once a week while her brothers are at school. She loves those classes, and she is so interactive and ready for school that I am considering adding one more class for her! Her brothers, on the other hand, are tired after school. They really, genuinely need dependable, familiar downtime in their own home. So I take them to swim lessons only once a week after school so as not to fry them too much. As they get older they will surely be interested in more and want to attend more classes or group sports, but for now dh and I want to make school the primary foundation around which other things are built.

Parents know their own kids and what they are ready for more than anyone else. They know what their kids are ready for and what they enjoy. Sports (not team sports quite yet) classes like swimming or soccer skills classes are important for my kids, as both boys have slight gross motor delays. The coordination they learn in those classes (that I obviously haven't been able to teach them at home!) is important right now so they fit in with other kids. But if a young child ever expresses disappointment in having to go to a class, it is time to cut back.

We have years to make sure their extracurriculars are enough for a college resume. Early childhood is not the time to feel that pressure!

April 15, 2008 - 7:40am
HERWriter Guide

I meant to say before that I submitted a rant (not really, it's actually an essay) for publication a while ago. It might take a couple of months to figure out if I have even a remote shot of being published but I think there are finally a few parents who are over the whole over-scheduling thing. At least we can hope!

April 7, 2008 - 12:45pm
HERWriter Guide

I tend to think that parents think a part of good parenting means that your kid is enrolled in something. Anything. Lots of anything!

I've said before that my husband and I don't believe in too many classes. There is no much emphasis on schedules and 'classes' as there is. I think too much structure can be as bad as too little.

I think if you have one child, then one or two classes are great. It fills in some time, the kid gets to interact with other kids and the parent gets to meet other parents with kids of similar ages. Alison, it seems you have a great system down.

When you have multiple children, I think one class per kid is ok. If you do anymore, you will literally have a minimum of 6 classes per week to get to. And you end up being more of a chauffeur than an interactive part of the class.

My son is 4 and goes to preschool 3 afternoons a week. And he has playdates (at his home or at friends) at least once a week.

We also go to Chuck E Cheese (God help us) at least once a month. Apart from that he hangs out, plays, does his Lego, reading, art work and plays with his siblings, and we love the outdoors. We also seem to attend a birthday party at least once or twice a month.

Same with my daughters except they do not attend preschool. My 3 year old and I take an art class every Saturday morning and she loves it. And she is a Lego freak!

Our 20 month old is not 'enrolled' in any classes. She has playdates, plays with her siblings and heads outdoors. We are lucky that our children are with a parent or have immediate access to us 24/7. I know a lot of parents are not that fortunate. We both knew we wanted that before we had kids.

Each child does an activity with a parent every week that does not include siblings. (a trip to Target (that's huge in our house!) or to Whole Foods or a walk or a drive in the country)

I think you know when classes are overkill when you have to rush from one to the other. Or when you have to cancel somethings in order to attend others. Life shouldn't be that hectic for young kids! Downtime is important.

Classes should really be play-based (as opposed to instructional) for the under 5 set. No sitting in a class room. No 'homework'. Children learn best through play.

Even in recent history, kids didn't have all these classes. I think it's a bit of a rip off and kind of a fad - especially in college towns! My kids can learn ten times more about animals by visiting a local farm than by taking an 'animal class'. Ok, I don't even know if a class like that exists but I bet someone does!

I think I'm a bit of a hippie when it comes to this kind of thing. We speak two languages at home, have dance parties, and we are avid readers and love bike rides with our kids as well as hosting fun pizza parties and playdates. Sometimes we hang out and just play and chit-chat. I have friends who just can't hang with their kids - there has to be some kind of activity or group or structure. Madness, in my mind!

April 4, 2008 - 1:15pm
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