I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I realized that my family room has become an accidental gymnastics studio.
All summer long my 3 and 5 year olds have taken to getting a running start in the kitchen, picking up speed, then flipping themselves onto a pile of couch cushions they’ve laid out on the family room floor. My love seat has become a balance beam. The armchair is now a vault and the coffee table is a pommel horse.
Somehow I feel that Gabby Douglas and the rest of the Fab Five are to blame.
Because of their sudden love for gymnastics, last week I signed my kiddos up for lessons starting in September. With so many options for sports, music lessons, and activities like ballet and gymnastics, you too may be considering getting your toddler involved.
How do you know they’re ready, though?
Each child is different, and particularly in the toddler years the range of what’s considered “typical development” is very wide. Going simply by a child’s age is not very helpful, since what one 3 year old can do has no bearing on what another one is capable of. Still, there are some basic guidelines that can be used to determine if your child may be ready for activities or lessons.
1. Your child can follow basic instructions
Does your toddler respond well to 2-step instructions (Please go to the bathroom and get a tissue, for example)? In any type of activity your child will be expected to follow basic instructions while learning and having fun.
2. Your child is able to separate from you for short periods of time without anxiety
Many children experience separation anxiety through the toddler years and beyond. This is totally normal! If your child is one who becomes stressed or anxious when you separate, you may want to delay activities or try a “Mommy and Me” format instead. There is no rush (in fact, children who start lessons at an early age may experience burn-out)!
3. Your child has expressed interest
Let your child take the lead when it comes to pursuing his or her interests. In the case of my daughter, I waited several months to see if her interest in gymnastics was simply another phase she was going through. When she was still interested, we explored the idea by taking her to an “open gym” event, which she loved. If you are forcing our child to be involved in an activity, I promise the outcome will not be a good one for you or your child!
Early childhood is a great time to explore many activities, so if you do get started with something that doesn’t seem to be a good fit, remember that there are so many other options.
Is your child involved in lessons or activities? Tell us in the comments!
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
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