As children emerge from the infant years and become toddlers and preschoolers, finding extracurricular activities for them becomes an opportunity to find out more about what interests them and what skills they may want to build. Our tips will help you to select activities that will engage your children, but you may also want to speak to their daycare teachers and ask for their recommendations for activities based on what they’ve observed about your child’s interests throughout the day.
First, consider your child’s interests and natural abilities, instead of thinking of your own. Many parents had childhood dreams of becoming professional hockey players or concert pianists, but your child may have something different in mind. Try not to push your child to engage in activities that interest you, but hold no appeal for her. A great way to gauge your child’s interests is to have her do a few “trials”. Many music teachers, coaches, and dance or gymnastics instructors offer trial classes or sessions, so that children can see whether they are interested in a given activity, or whether they are ready for that activity developmentally.
That said, if your child avoids certain activities or needs to grow in some areas, you may want to coax him to engage in an activity that stretches him outside his comfort zone just a bit. We know a child who loves numbers and letters so much that he often spends his time quietly absorbed by his numbered blocks, alphabet magnets, and counting beads, and tends to stay away from gross motor activities, especially ones which require him to work as a team with other children. Enrolling him in soccer got him out of doors and running at top speed, and helped him to develop an approach to teamwork that led to greater comfort working in groups with same age peers.
Don’t become too invested in your young child’s successes or skill-building. Early childhood is a great time for kids to try out different activities and learn a bit about what they like and dislike, and what they do or do not have an aptitude for. Encouraging them to do their best is good for them, but insisting that they win every game or play every note perfectly is more likely to put pressure on them and make them feel as if they are doing an activity for you, rather than for themselves. Let them see where their natural abilities take them, and remember that they can always focus in on one or two activities that they have an aptitude for as they get older.
How do you decide which activities to sign your child up for? Have you had any discoveries about your child’s abilities and interests as your child becomes more interested in extracurricular activities? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section.