Ready, Set, Learn!
By Aviva Patz
Ballet, piano, French lessons, soccer practice. You and your child have
dozens of fun-sounding classes to choose from, but how do you know which
activity to choose and when to start? And how do you know if you're pushing
your kid too hard? "What's most important is simply exposing kids to a
variety of activities so that they'll discover what they like and are good
at," says Ellen Booth Church, a Key West, FL-based former teacher and
author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Preschool But Didn't
Know Whom to Ask . Want to find the right class for your kid? Here's
When's my kid ready? Introduce him to dance concepts, sometimes
called "creative movement," at 2 to 3 years old. He can start
instruction in ballet, modern, jazz, or even hip-hop at 4 to 5 years old.
Who knew? The running, skipping, and twirling in dance moves can
boost reading and math ability because they require counting steps, noting
patterns and rhythms, and progressing in a sequence — all skills that are also
involved in both.
Is it for my kid? If your child spins down the street — rather than
preferring to sit quietly in a sandbox — dance may be a good outlet for her
physical energy. It's also valuable for kids with language delays because, as
Church explains, "They may find it easier to express themselves physically
Find a class near you: clickforlessons.com; arthurmurray.com.
When's my kid ready? She can start with creative dramatics or
imagination games at 3 to 4 years old. By age 6, most kids are ready for
full-on theater classes.
Who knew? The act of improvising — inventing characters, plots, and
dialogue — lays the groundwork for creative writing, storytelling, and
independent thinking down the road, Church says. Socially, kids learn to become
part of a group, which means cooperating and using some self-control (because
not everyone can go first). Kids also get a crash course in listening — they
have to pay attention to the lines being said so they can respond
Is it for my kid? Drama is a great outlet for kids who enjoy being
the center of attention. "In a class, there are lots of stars, and a child
learns that stars shine at different times," says Church. But drama can
also be beneficial if your child has trouble expressing emotions — or if the
family is going through a divorce, a new baby, or another transition that can
leave kids unsettled — because acting can bring those emotions to the surface
or help provide a release. Melissa Sanders, 45, of Montclair, NJ, enrolled her
daughter Laurel in a theater program at age 5. "She was the kind of kid who
didn't raise her hand or speak up in class, but in theater she'd get caught up
in the creative process, and her shyness would vanish," Sanders says.
Find a class near you: tadatheater.com; helenogrady.com.