View Full Version : Deciding on Paid Classes for Toddlers/Preschoolers

06-11-2013, 02:22 PM
I have a 3 year old and 1 year old, both of whom I intend to homeschool. The older child is at the age where I can enroll her in enrichment classes. I have her trying ballet and gymnastics. Both are learning German through immersion. She seems to have a fear of heights, and I think I may stop gymnastics as she is more excited about dance. There are a plethora of things I could enroll her in from violin to tennis...I just wondered if anyone had advice on what to have children participate in? I want to tailor it to what my child is interested in; however, at this age, she doesn't really know yet. Some classes, like musical instruments, seem to require a level of dedication that I'm not sure my daughter or I want. I remember hating piano lessons as a kid, and while I see the benefit, I don't want to force my kids to do something...though I do want them to find something they enjoy and work towards mastering it.

Anyway - any advice on this topic?

06-11-2013, 02:57 PM
a lot of people just set a limit - no more than 2 or 3 classes. i usually did 1 or 2 at a time. their interests change so much, and really, its a lot of money for a little bit of fun. its not really educational most of the time, unless its something they become really really passionate about

06-11-2013, 03:43 PM
Activities vary so much. A dance class may be once a week and soccer may be 2 practices and a game a week. I usually end up shooting for # of days at home vs. # of activities. If it is something they can do together (or at the same time different levels) - art classes, swimming, homeschool science classes, then I'm more flexible.

06-11-2013, 03:52 PM
It really does depend on your kid and your own needs. When my DS was that age, he did lots of formal classes and activities--because he wanted to. Often he had a couple things every day of the week; it kept him active and engaged and happy. He knew what he liked and didn't like so it wasn't a guessing game, and he's never been one to start activities only to quit them. But some kids aren't like that; you know your daughter and how much you feel like shuffling her about. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who wouldn't dream of paying for preschooler classes and that's fine too. Whatever works for you. :)

06-11-2013, 03:52 PM
I would hold off on violin for at least another year. We started DS at 4.5 but only because he had been begging to play for a year, but I still wonder if it wouldn't have been better to wait until he was a bit older. If you want to expose your older one to some music instruction, Dalcroze Eurhythmics might be a nice introduction.

06-11-2013, 04:23 PM
I started my dd in piano at 7 and it was a HUGE struggle to get her to practice (and she begged to take lessons). After 9 months she quit and restarted about 18 months later. She is now 9 and loves it! My ds started violin at 7 and really enjoys it. Personally, I think 4 is too young, unless you know you have a prodigy.

You dd is three - I wouldn't try to do too much. My kids needed free play time and I know I get way too cranky if I feel rushed to get to lessons every day of the week.

06-11-2013, 04:47 PM
I enrolled my 2 and 4yo in an accredited learning center that offers most of those things. Spanish, gymnastics/tumbling, music lessons and the like. They go Monday through Friday from 8-12. It's less expensive than enrolling them in multiple activities, plus they are so young that we can sample different things before making a commitment to any one interest. I also get a nice break in the morning and time to run errands. :)

Stella M
06-11-2013, 05:13 PM
I delay formal classes because I think they are a waste of money. My advice would be to let a preschooler get plenty of play and spend the money on good books instead :)

Around 7 all my children started one paid activity. For the girls it was dance. Ds took home school gym.

For a long time their other activities were either low cost - Guides - or free - book club, co-op.

06-11-2013, 06:47 PM
Yeah, I don't think the stuff we did back when my kids were little was a waste of money exactly... But I do think now that they're a little older, I have a different perspective. We needed to by busy all the time otherwise we all would have gone nuts. Classes helped. The kids enjoyed them. But now, down the road, I don't feel like they got much out of them.

The exceptions... I'm glad I started BalletBoy on ballet at age 4 since he has turned out to be pretty dedicated (on the other hand, if he hadn't, then it would be in the same category as gymnastics, music, art, etc. etc.). And we used to do Chinese classes and I really wish we had put aside other things and kept those up because I do think language classes would have had an impact. Everything else. Eh. It was fun and filled time.

So I would say don't overthink it. Do what's easy, fun, and cheaper. Don't worry about long term learning or any kind of picking a path.

06-12-2013, 06:44 AM
When DD was about 2 we started Kindermusik, and that was a nice intro to music. Since then we've tried gymnastics and dance, and both lasted 6 months or less. This fall we'll try soccer. The only interest that has stuck is horse riding lessons, which she's been doing for about a year now. We were (and are still) cautious about not overscheduling, but other than that, I think it is nice to give exposure to different things to get a sense of what your child likes to do, etc. I don't view them as a waste of money, as it gave us a chance to mingle with other kids/parents and have a fun outing on those days. But I can certainly see that one could do things differently if organized and motivated - for example, I could have made a regular hiking/nature walk outing part of our routine, or visiting the river for a swim in warm months. We did and still do make a library outing once a week. So I could go either way! :)

06-12-2013, 11:36 AM
I'm like Farrar, the classes and activities were more for MY sanity than for the kids. I needed a routine, and a schedule of activities really helped. Many days, we would get up, have breakfast, head out somewhere, get home around lunchtime, eat lunch and then naptime! I also learned A LOT about kids through some of these activities: what's normal, what's fun, how to organize them, how to organize the toys, how to establish routines, etc... Some of it came from the other mom's that I got to meet, and some of it was the way the teachers ran the classes.

If you're a confident mom and you can't really afford the activities, then don't sweat it. You're not missing a thing. On the other hand, there is more to be gained than just a bit of music enrichment or a toddler dance class.

As for piano, my son did Music for Young Children and it was EXCELLENT. He learned so much that he still retains.

06-12-2013, 12:54 PM
I do think if we could have started piano at age 4 that would have been good, but I had trouble finding a teacher who wasn't Suzuki for that age. Then we got busy. Oh well. We're doing it now.

06-12-2013, 02:30 PM
i also think some of it depends on your budget. If its easy to afford, its probably not as hard a choice. i always had to struggle to excuse the expense - classes are SO expensive here. Dh nixed music lessons last year . . . due to cost.

06-12-2013, 03:00 PM
As others have said, go with what your budget and what you want. At that age, I agree that it's more for you - a little bit of a break, a little bit of a feeling that you're doing something to fit with social norms, a little bit of an edge in whatever - than them. I tend to look for the easier, cheaper alternatives unless they really indicate some sort of passion for it. Most of the time one session of a few weeks is all it takes for my kids to realize these things aren't really where they want to be. There's nothing wrong with floating around and testing the water in all sorts of areas if it doesn't break the bank, but don't push it. Follow their lead when it comes to being done with something and definitely put a limit on how many things you want to involve yourself in at one time. My daughter would be in EVERYTHING if I let her - Girl Scouts, dance, gymnastics, swim, violin, book clubs, etc. - but I have a two-activity-per-child limit. I can't do more and be an effective parent/teacher/volunteer. Know your limits and theirs, and have fun. :)

06-13-2013, 05:10 PM
We never did preschool but at that age we did do some classes that the city's parks and rec dept had that involved cooperative games and parachute time and a nature class (the latter of which she still goes to)--these were very affordable and did not require registration ahead of time. And really they were as much for me because I wanted to get out the house and be social. We tried mommy and me dance but it didn't work out so well since I don't like to dance. She did soccer when she was four and it is still a favorite that she asks to do each year. We added some things when she turned 5; tried out different things some that we've stuck with and others that didn't work out. I think as long as you don't get burnt out getting out to these things and the kids are interested they can be beneficial.

06-13-2013, 05:20 PM
We've done short-term stuff (up to 6 weeks at a time) with the idea of trying things out, mostly through the local Parks & Rec, and found a lot of it worthwhile. We tried Suzuki guitar when DS turned 4 because he LOVES music, but he was not interested in something so structured. We've had better luck with baby signing, try-a-new-sport-every-week, soccer, and space classes. I also sent him to a preschool down the street 2 mornings a week when he was 2.5 to 4.5, and that turned out not to be particularly worthwhile.

I tried not to have him in more than two things at once, as our schedule was then dominated too much by his activities. If you choose short classes, there's a lot of time to experiment and see if anything sticks.

06-13-2013, 05:44 PM
I started my dd in piano at 7 and it was a HUGE struggle to get her to practice (and she begged to take lessons). After 9 months she quit and restarted about 18 months later. She is now 9 and loves it! My ds started violin at 7 and really enjoys it. Personally, I think 4 is too young, unless you know you have a prodigy.

I have to disagree with you here. Every child is different, but I know lots of kids who started at 4 and music lessons were a great thing for them and only one was a prodigy (who currently is on tour at age 8). DS loved his violin lessons and took an enormous amount of pride in playing the violin and knowing how to read music at that age. The only reason I wonder sometimes if we should have held off a bit on lessons is because they cost a boatload of money(!) and if he had started later he would have moved through much more quickly. Overall, though, I think his music lessons at age four were enormously beneficial to him (just not to my bank account).

Stella M
06-13-2013, 06:57 PM
But see, this is my objection to the toddler/preschool class industry. They are creating a 'need' that doesn't actually exist. And it does have ramifications for a family's budget.

Small children don't need classes. They need outdoor space to explore, they need books, they need an adult interacting with them - singing to them, talking to them - they need all sorts of things that come free.

When I was a littlie, children went to playgroup, the library, the park. And it was fine. My mum could get out, we had a routine, I developed my own interests and talents just fine...

Now we are just being mined for our money. Money the family of a toddler could do all sorts of things with. Donate. Put in an account for mom. Put away for college. Buy household help. Allow working parent to work a few less hours.

Sorry, I know I'm on my soapbox here. I don't think sending small children to classes is harmful, necessarily. I just hate they way we, as a society, are buying into an industry that doesn't have our children's best interests at heart. It's all about the money.

It's an indictment on our society that moms (and dads) of little ones have to PAY to get the support they need to do their job.

06-13-2013, 08:29 PM
Yup, I agree with you, Stella. We didn't do any other classes when DS was a little, just lots of nature and painting and library visits and stuff and stuff. And of course it is all about money and grooming good consumers. I just wanted to point out that IME there can be benefits to early musical education (particularly if the child is the one asking for it). :)

Stella M
06-14-2013, 12:51 AM
I agree that music education is good for little ones. And if you can afford tuition and your child wants it, that's great!

But otherwise you can sing and play clapping games and dance around the lounge room and it's still all good :) Anyway, I'll stop now!

06-14-2013, 01:15 AM
We did the two activity rule as well (who started that). Dd tried ballet, tap, art classes, gymnastics, music, and swimming. All between the ages of two and five. It was not really worth the money in regards to long-term development or finding her passion. It was cheaper than therapy for me, though. We liked to get out and meet other mums and kids this way, since we moved so often. It is a double-edged sword, however. You get the support of most mums, and the comparisons of the few mums who live by the measuring stick. Stella is right on. If you already have a community that is supportive, and/or are on a tight budget - there is no disadvantage to waiting and being selective.

06-14-2013, 05:46 PM
this probably won't sit well with a bunch of homeschoolers, but my kids went to a 1/2 day preschool, 3x a week, and it was a great benefit to them. they found friends their own age that they are still friends with, and it exposes the kids to lots of different things so that they can find what interests them. most quality preschools also have additional "classes" that they can try out without too much of a financial commitment. (language, dance, art, etc..).

06-24-2013, 03:35 PM
Why did you want a piano teacher who wasn't Suzuki for your 4 year old?

Cynthia Williford
08-01-2013, 07:43 PM
When my ds was little, we lived in an area where the homeschool groups were very active and he had tons of opportunities to meet and socialize with other kids. Everything was cheap or free. The upside of this is that he was out of the house a lot and had fun. The downside is that I wasn't necessarily all that selective. Still, we were unschooling at the time and all of his activities helped us school and helped him to love learning. With my dd, on the other hand, there is little to no homeschool group activity where we live and I've enrolled her in a lot of classes. She loves having classes that are just for her so that she can be like her older brother, and she loves seeing the same kids over and over. She has ballet, gymnastics, art and library each once a week. It's cold where we live so we go to the park when the weather permits and she takes swimming lessons when it doesn't. I love watching her little body grow and get stronger. I love watching her social skills bloom. I love how hungry she is for her classes and how proud of herself she is. I think the long term impact of something like art class is not that she will grow up to be an artist, but that she will grow up having had an opportunity to be creative and feel happy about her accomplishments.

08-01-2013, 08:04 PM
I think our most beneficial class at that age was Music Together. The greatest thing was that my kids, 17 mos apart between 1 and 2 and 11 mos apart between 2 and 3, could be in the same class together.

08-01-2013, 08:38 PM
I'm a little biased here, because I teach kindermusik classes, but the benefits of classes for my preschooler (and my eldest when she was that age) were multi part. First, it gave us some time apart (which we both needed) it gave her some pride in learning new things, and (I've seen this in the classes I teach, too) it let me see her as a person other than my toddler. I've always been proud of my girls, but the classes let me see who they were becoming apart from me. Plus, if they take dance class they are so stinking cute in their costumes. :). The parents in my classes are also able to form some nice connections which is also important for stay at home moms because it can be so lonely. My advice is to find something that fits into your budget and schedule and do it as long as it is fun.