I grew up participating in multiple activities. I was a busy girl, exploring gymnastics, ballet and jazz in the 80s & 90s (yes. there was a lot of hairspray and timely perms utilized), followed by years of grade school, high school, and college sports. I was ‘that kid’ who was in a different sport each season, on top of AAU/Junior Olympic basketball, on top of cheerleading for 8th grade football, on top of the rest of life. Yeah. It exhausts me thinking about it.
As a mom, and as an occupational therapist, I want my girls to take part in activities they love. Yes, they are only 2 and 4, but even at these young ages they express interests that not only address developmentally appropriate gross & fine motor skills, but that help develop age appropriate cognitive, emotional and social skills. So many of these activities can take place for children within the context of home, day care, nursery, school, or play groups, and they seem to ‘just happen’ and are most natural when they are addressed/occur within the context of the various types of childhood play. Play is the occupation of children!
For my family, we have also provided an additional outlet for developing such developmental skills, allowing each of our girls to begin expressing their individuality, and as a way to support our local community. Between balancing, twirling, jumping and swinging, our girls have identified gymnastics and ballet as their ‘things.’
My girls are close. They love each other. They hate each other. They are around each other all day and everyday. We all need a break at times. I have found that giving them each an opportunity to participate in a weekly solo activity has also allowed them to begin to develop a sense of autonomy. Sure, little sis is jealous of big sister’s ballet laden Tuesday mornings at Kettering Rosewood Arts Center with Ms Sammie Sue (for real. THE greatest). But she deals. And big sis sometimes has a hissy-fit over little sister and her 30 minutes of play at Busy Kids Gymnastics, but in the end she gets over it. These two adventures have proven to be well worth the small cost, the time, and the commitment. I personally am not ready for the competitive world of sports and extracurricular activities at these young ages (props to you who are, I am just not there yet), and these two community programs are EXCELLENT for those not ready to compete with a 3yr old Mary Lou Retton wannabe or throw punches at the diva-dance mom (will it really come to that?). No uniforms or professional costumes necessary for either, even during performance days. The instructors show love and connection with the kids, and there is no pressure to out-perform a classmate.
I am amazed at how many French ballet terms my 4 year old clarifies (yes, because I misidentify and mispronounced ‘caud-e-shay’ (phonetically spelled) all the time), and how many nearly perfect forward rolls my 2 year old can complete in a row. They are learning to take turns, listen to an authority figure besides those they know daily, interact appropriately with peers, mirror movements of instructors, and store new information in their little brains. It is learning at its finest, but most importantly at its funnest!
Our next adventure awaits come May, as we will be participating in swimming lessons at Goldfish Swim School. Here is to my little fishies developing even more skills while having fun!
What activities do your littles participate in? Do you have a favorite place, where you enroll your kiddos in extracurriculars, that you would like to give props to? Please share!