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Key Elements of Classes for Young Children

“You haven’t enrolled them in any classes yet? What are you waiting for?”

The importance placed on extracurricular activities begins as soon as children are born. Caregivers race to enrol young children in swimming, soccer, math club, gymnastics, STEM programs and more.

There are many obvious benefits to joining classes like these: they learn to swim, they learn to play soccer and on a team, they learn to do math, they learn to control and stretch their bodies, they learn skills for the future.

But are these sorts of classes always appropriate for the young child?

Are they facilitated in ways that support how young children learn?

We would hazard a guess and say no, they aren’t always developmentally appropriate (or beneficial) for young children.

Think about the types of programs/classes you are taking (or considering taking) your child to. In the class is your child…

  • being told exactly what to do?

  • being told exactly what to think?

  • forced to follow a “leader” at the front of the room?

Traditional, adult-led programs often follow an inflexible curriculum and an outdated view of the child, but this is the type of programming that remains widespread and heavily promoted.

Here are 3 super-duper important factors to consider when enrolling your young child in classes or programs outside of the home.

Is the program play-based?

We talk about it a lot and that’s because Play-Based programs are seriously all they’re cracked up to be. Programs that prioritize play allow children to explore materials, spaces, and ideas at their own pace. In these programs, children are encouraged to use and listen to their own voices and wonderings, and are supported in their explorations by play-partners, or co-researchers.

Is the program child-led?

Another buzz word that makes us happy is Child-led. What good is a program that follows the ideas or interests of an adult? Following a child’s lead is an incredibly powerful way of saying “your ideas matter”. Child-led programs follow the interests, wonderings, and discoveries of the children, developing each week to best represent the children in the program, considering their needs, play schemas, and wonderings.

Is the program developmentally appropriate for young children?

How many times have you seen a program facilitator stressing about children remaining seated during circle time, not making noise, and focusing their entire attention on the task at hand? Too many to count! Developmentally appropriate programs for young children emphasize the importance of play and following the child’s lead. They are able to move, touch, make noise, interact, and discover at their own pace. They are being exposed to new ideas, materials, spaces, and people and can interact with these things in ways that are meaningful to them, not to the adult in charge.

Think about the sort of program experience you want for your young child…

  • Is your child given time and space to explore, wonder, and discover?

  • Are they able to express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them?

  • Is your child’s voice heard, valued, and supported?

A developmentally appropriate, play-based, child-led program fosters learning in young children. Young children’s brains develop through positive relationships with warm, caring, and attentive adults, engaged in a serve and return relationship. Read more about this in our blog post: Relationships Foster Learning.

If you’re looking for a program for your young child that supports their growth through play-based, open-ended, and creative avenues, please join us for a class!

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