Activity Classes: Find the Right Fit


Colleen, a mother of two from Wilmington, DE, knew she had found the right activity for her 5-year old son Shane, when he asked continuously about his next guitar lesson. “He would repeat over and over, ‘I can’t wait to go to guitar,’” she reports. Although people advised her that her son was too young to learn guitar, lessons at We Kids Rock kept him engaged and enthusiastic.

It isn’t easy to find the right class for your child. There are many choices, and families must contend with issues such as over-scheduling, cost and transportation. But classes also can provide high rewards, from helping high-energy kids to develop physical dexterity to building social skills for shy preschoolers. Here are suggestions by age to find a class that fits your child.

A Parent’s Tip

For Marianne Moore, mother of three sons from Wilmington, DE, the grapevine is the best source of information to find the right activity for your child. “Even go ask someone at the playground, ‘What do you do?’” she advises. “We got lots of great advice that way.”

Toddlers & Preschoolers

“You pretty much can’t go wrong with a toddler, as long as it’s age appropriate,” says Therese Walden-Murphy, director of the West Chester Studio for Performing Arts. The goal is just to get toddlers moving and interacting with other children. Because young kids learn from nearly everything, any sort of mental stimulation is good.

Little kids are sometimes fickle, says Bill Currier, owner of We Kids Rock in Wilmington. “Never assume that they’re not having fun,” says Currier. He also notes that “9 times out of 10 if the parent enjoys the class, the kids will enjoy it too.”

Elementary-Age Kids

“Some kids have a tendency to be interested in anything and everything,” says Walden-Murphy. They can also be mercurial. “They can hate something one minute and love it the next,” notes Gary Klosner, director of Dynamic Language Services in Haddonfield, NJ. Parents must help their child narrow the choices. Your child’s body type may help you to evaluate whether she has an athletic build, dancer’s legs, or nimble fingers for playing an instrument.

Tweens and Teens

Older kids will usually give you the straight story about what activities they like, says Katie Opher, program manager for the Center on Central in Paoli, PA. Before signing up for a class, Opher recommends gauging your tween’s or teens’ energy and schedule to see if a new activity makes sense. Take into consideration homework and other extracurricular activities.

The Right Fit for You Too

Andrew Hoff, owner of Tri-State CheerNastics in New Castle, DE, advises parents to consider time and financial commitments that will be required. How often will kids be expected to practice and how often will they compete / perform? Will there be expenses for equipment, shoes, costumes, uniforms, competitions or travel? Learn “exactly what you’re getting into,” says Hoff.

How Long Should Kids Stick with It?

For older kids, many parents try to get their kids to stick with an activity for the full session or season. For younger kids, parents and instructors advise to try the class at least four times. “Give it a try. Really give it a try,” urges Walden-Murphy. However, most of the time, parents have a good read on what their children will like, says Klosner. “99% of the time, it works out,” he says.

For kids who really don’t like an activity class, “There’s a fine line between encouraging them not to quit, and causing anxiety,” says Opher. Antonia Keg, mother of two girls who are students at the West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts, has encouraged her daughters to see activities through to the end. “You don’t want to let people down, from a teamwork perspective,” says Keg.

While you want to encourage children to try new things, don’t force the issue. Hoff notes that if kids don’t like the activity, their attention span isn’t great during the class, causing a distraction for other kids. If they don’t want to be there, there’s really no benefit beyond the exercise.

Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a contributing writer to MetroKids.


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