A day in the life of parenting seems endlessly full of choices surrounding our kids. What to dress them in, what to feed them, and – among countless others, what activities to sign them up for. And beyond what to sign them up for, there’s the debate of which activities are age appropriate.
On the one hand, you’ve got the toddler and preschooler, seemingly full of endless energy and constantly growing in their coordination and ability. On the other, there’s the older child or (gulp) teenager. So how do you decide what activities are appropriate and whether your child is ready or outgrowing them?
On the young end of the spectrum, there are so many reasons parents sign up their tots. Some have coordination or gross motor skills that require some honing, others simply need to learn to thrive in more organized environments. Truth be told, there really isn’t a bad reason to sign kids up young. The main things to consider:
- Can they appropriately interact with their peers?
- Can they reliably follow directions and actively listen?
- Will their attention span allow them to actively participate without distracting others?
- Will they allow you to be on the sidelines (or do they still require your hands-on participation)?
Your answers to the above will likely dictate what types of activities they’re ready for, alongside whether they’re ready. For example, tumbling and swimming classes tend to allow for earlier starts, as many venues offer parent-child classes. Alternately, active team sports, such as soccer and t-ball, often don’t start until ages 3-5 because of the skills and focus required. Some like martial arts may have age starts even later. Consider the skills required for the activity at hand, then consider where your child’s tendencies fall within the requisites to decide when – and what – they are ready for.
On the other end of the spectrum are older children who you may be concerned are too old for certain activities. Parents, in particular, seem to worry that their child is too old or too late to start something because they haven’t had the years of exposure other children who started early have had. Truth be told, yes, it can be difficult to catch up for some – but, there are plenty of children who have such natural gifts that after a season or two, you’d never know they had started later. We again urge you to consider your child’s natural gifts and interests and, of course, to sign them up for the age-appropriate class.
Some activities, such as swimming or martial arts, typically register by ability or rank, rather than age. Because of this, we do recommend asking facilities where they would place your child and if there are options for them to participate along with their peers for safety and socialization purposes. In many cases, you’ll find that there are plenty of peers in the same place as your child who are also just starting out.
Rarely will you find that your child is too old or too young to start. The better questions are “what’s their best fit,” “from what will they most benefit,” and “what will they most enjoy.”