Tips for Choosing "After-Preschool" Activities and Classes

Eliza Clark
September 17, 2016

More and more, it seems, there are so many different kinds of activities and classes geared to the little ones. Deciding which ones to try and which to pass on sometimes gets confusing.

There are all the wonderful music classes that encourage you to bring your baby before he can even hold his head up. Then you can move on to toddler gymnastics with the tots bopping about on the mats and trampolines. An art class can seem like a great idea when you want to keep the finger-painting mess out of the house. Learning to swim is a necessity, for safety's sake. Language lessons? Everyone says learning a second language early is the way to go. What about the lovely, free storytimes at local libraries and bookshops? Why wouldn't you? And by the time the kiddos are three, they're ready for drop-off classes. Now that sounds like a godsend, doesn't it? Sign me up! But for which one?

Crazily enough, choosing between all these possibilities can start to feel overwhelming. And it's not just that you first want to find out whether these classes actually any good before spending precious time and money. It's also that the activities children pursue can, later on, become such an important part of their lives and identities. How do we figure out what their interests really are, and what, in the long run, will make them happiest?

Luckily, these activity choices for preschoolers are not actually all that momentous. You may choose one thing for your tot before she can express a preference, but soon enough she'll be letting you know her own ideas on what she wants to do -- and you'll be smart to listen. But more importantly: what really makes the little ones happiest, and what they often learn the most from, is plenty of free time for play. (Can't stress that enough.) If they already spend long hours at preschool or daycare, it's probably best to choose just one extra structured activity, if any. Young children really need their downtime. On the other hand, if they are not in school, or school hours are limited, a few classes a week can be a great thing for kids and parents.

So be sure to look at the big picture (schedule-wise) and the long view (life-wise), and keep in mind a few of our Tuesday tips for thinking through all the choices:

  • Do a trial class before signing on to a whole package. Observe carefully. Make sure the teacher is someone who will be as warm, encouraging and supportive as a good preschool teacher -- someone who gets young kids, not just the subject or skill she's teaching.
  • Follow your child's interests -- but don't be upset or surprised if those interests change. Just because your child asks to do something doesn't mean he has the slightest inkling of what is involved. A friend at preschool may talk incessantly about soccer, but that doesn't mean that your darling will necessarily take to running up and down a field for an hour chasing a ball.
  • Don't invest in costly new outfits/equipment (i.e. ballet leotard, shin guards, or instrument) until a few happy weeks into the activity. Instead, borrow or find something used. Because spending extra will just put undue pressure on you and your kid to continue something that may not be fun.
  • Convenience matters. There's no shame in and indeed much to gain from choosing activities that are close to home or work. No sense in spending a lot of time ferrying the little ones around if you don't have to -- we're all in for plenty of that in later school years.
  • Ask yourself if the experience is fun for your child -- that should be the #1 priority. Because fun and learning go hand in hand at this age.
  • If your child is not having fun, or getting to the class is putting strain on your family routine, don't worry about dropping it. Again, more play time is never wasted time.
  • Talk to other parents and read online reviews and recommendations to narrow down the options. The Savvy Source can help! We have in-depth listings and reviews of classes for preschoolers in seven major cities, and today our 24 amazing city blogs all feature posts on fun classes and activities for the preschool crowd. See the drop-down list on our home page to find your city and check it out!

From the Parents

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    over a year ago

  • Parent # 1

    Please help me or advise me trying to find parttime fun daycare for twin girls ages 2, smart as a button...Im a young teenage mother in college going to school 3days a week..it hard keeping the girls happy and things to do ..... Plus new to the area and finicial advise or any programs thsat could help ...... thank

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Deborah http://maternitymotherhood.net

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Deborah http://maternitymotherhood.net

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 4

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Deborah http://maternitymotherhood.net

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 5

    I'd also add that if the activity is stressful for the parent, you need to look at letting it go. Even though your child may love the activity, if it stresses out the whole family it's not worth it. Running from place to place after school can cause tension and stress that you couldn't forsee before you were in the middle of it.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 6

    Thanks for this article. It came at a perfect time. I try to make sure my children have plenty of free time but sometimes wonder if they are missing out on something when I hear about the classes others are taking.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 7

    My kids love sports and we started early with soccer and t-ball. I think if they truly show an interest go for it and let them be the guide on if they play next season or next year! I've seen too many kids who are out there because their parents want them to be but they truly would rather be at home playing! If your child wants to be involved in an activity let them because as they get older you can literally fill their time with something every day which I do not agee with. Try to find that balance between organized play and free play! Thanks for the great topic!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 8

    Thanks so much for the tips on choosing activities. The trial classes are a great way not only to check out the teachers, but also to determine whether it's something your child really wants to do!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 9

    Thanks so much for the tips on choosing activities. The trial classes are a great way not only to check out the teachers, but also to determine whether it's something your child really wants to do!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 10

    i'll chime in here, too, about the free time. i have friends who proudly homeschool to avoid the rigidity of school, and their kids rarely have time to play because they are ferrying them to structured lessons (where there is no chance for a young child to build social skills) every day when other kids are home from school! performing cute dances for adults of little benefit to a child, in my opinion. and i love dance - took 16 years of lessons - but i didn't take dance lessons before i was 8 years old and my kids won't either. we dance creatively together - and they have so much fun.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 11

    Thank you so much for your emphasis on free, unstructured time for kids. There is so much societal pressure to schedule children from a very early age that I worry about the plugged-in, 24/7 entertainment generation. Let kids be kids!

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 12

    I couldn't agree more about free time for kids. So much time seems to be taken up by 'activities' that kids don't have time to just play anymore! Here, here to childhood and reclaiming it.

    over a year ago

  •  

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