During the elementary years, children are developmentally industrious and hard working. They have plenty of energy to keep busy.
They’re happy to play in unstructured ways, building forts, playing house or school, building with Legos, playing games, and playing with friends. They also enjoy the many organized activities and lessons available: sports, arts and crafts, collecting, gymnastics, dance, music, hands-on science, scouting, clubs, and more.
Many children under five or six are enrolled in too many structured programs. Toddlers and preschoolers are often too young to understand rules and lessons taught by coaches and specialists. However, as long as a kindergartner is doing what interests him and isn’t feeling pressured to succeed at everything, both active play and organized programs offer kids these ages a chance to try out different experiences, find out what they like, and be with friends.
Classes, activities, and lessons (some with low or no fees required) are offered through schools, city and county recreation centers, religious organizations, individuals, and for-profit and non-profit groups. As you choose from the wealth of recreational possibilities, you should consider your child’s interests, your ability to pay for classes, and the quality of individual programs.
You should also ask yourself some of these questions: Will your child have friends in the class? Is practice required? Are you signing him up for your own convenience? Will the class be too rigid or too unstructured? Will a sports activity reinforce competition or teach sportsmanship? Will an art class enhance or stifle creativity? How often will the class meet? Will participating in the activity allow your child time to relax and play at home? And finally, ask yourself if you’ve signed him up for too many classes.
Once your kindergartner’s involved in activities, if he complains about going, starts to behave in negative ways, or stops initiating a lot of play, he’s probably over-scheduled. Try cutting back his participation in programs and see if it helps.
Be sure the activities your kindergartner participates in are not just ones you think he should try. Expect his interest in joining activities to increase during the elementary years. During those years, you’ll know when the initiative is his, because he’ll ask again and again if you’ve signed him up for a special program.