It’s a competitive world out there and parents want their children to be prepared to face any obstacle, come what may. As the adage goes, ‘preparation requires planning’ and that means you start early to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
This drives parents to enrol their kids in different activities in school to develop skills and talents beyond the books. In more recent years though, parents are enrolling children right from the age of two or three in ‘enrichment classes’. A popular concept in Singapore, these classes as the name suggests, are enrichment programs aimed to develop your child’s abilities further in different activities. It is providing a competitive edge, as parents fear their toddler falling behind over other children.
However, at an age when children are absolutely free from worldly pressures, how fair is it to enrol your little one in enrichment classes?
Before you get all worked up, here’s what you need to learn about enrichment classes for toddlers, and what’s the right age to enrol your child into them.
Are There Benefits Of Enrichment Classes?
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It’s easy to give in to the marketing spiel and enrol your child into an enrichment class. However, you need to ask yourself if there will be a tangible benefit in doing so in the long-term.
An enrichment class usually focuses on developing the skill of the child. It can be a physical activity such as swimming or playing soccer or even learning to play the piano.
Enrichment classes help nurture life skills such as building self-confidence, public speaking, exploration and being a team player. These skills can be hard to develop at home if the baby is interacting with only a limited number of people every day.
At the end of it, you need to ask yourself if the toddler is too young to pick up a skill. Sometimes, the difference between an enrichment class and a daycare can be extremely slim.
When Are Enrichment Classes Too Soon: The Right Age Debate
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It’s important to take your child out of his comfort zone, but you also need to understand when is it too soon. Enrichment classes will be the first occasion when they are separated from you and dropped into a completely new environment. As a result, some children may suffer from separation anxiety.
While some kids adapt quickly to the change, others may become clingy, have regressive behaviour and even have nightmares.
As a parent, you can look for classes that require parental participation, at least initially. Alternatively, a secondary caregiver can be arranged by you, who the child finds comfortable to be around.
If you really want to push your child towards turning independent, you will need to make sure the staff at the enrichment classes are patient and will take good care of your child in your absence.
On average, enrichment programs accept toddlers as young as 6-months-old for beginner programmes, while more advanced classes are available from the age of 2 years.
However, you also need to understand that a 2-year-old will be more comfortable with a physical activity that requires less focus like soccer, as opposed to chess which is more of mental math.
Please don’t try and turn your kid into the next child genius, let him have fun.
4 Things To Remember Before Signing Up For Enrichment Classes
Before you enrol your toddler into an enrichment class, here are four things that you need to remember.
1. Take Trial Classes
With so many enrichment classes in Singapore, it can get overwhelming for parents to choose the right one. Often, parents end up enrolling children in more classes than they can handle – both physically and financially.
You want your toddler to excel in everything and this may result in you signing up for everything from piano lessons, playing the guitar, soccer to martial arts. But remember, your child is all of two or three years old, and constant activity can be tiring – mentally and physically.
It’s important then to understand the interests of your toddler and accordingly select one. Children trying to complete too many activities in a single day have shown higher levels of stress and lower self-esteem.
They develop the need to perform well in everything and often build up high expectations for themselves. Instead, take trial classes that allow the child to discover their liking for a particular activity without burning a hole in your pocket.
2. Group Activity vs Individual Learning
Toddlers usually tend to have limited exposure to other children before schooling. Enrichment classes give them the opportunity to mingle and learn to cooperate with other babies of the same age.
While parents have the option of group lessons or private tutoring, it is advisable to go for group lessons at the beginning. You can always switch to private coaching once the child shows interest.
3. Look For Holistic Growth
An enrichment programme needs to work on the holistic growth of your child. This includes physical, cognitive, emotional and social development through the programme’s activities.
Look for classes that offer activities that are age-appropriate and meaningful. You should also ask if the teachers are early childhood trained and are able to handle multiple children with patience. Attending trial classes will help give you a clear picture.
4. Fun Leads To Enrichment
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The idea of an enrichment class is to compliment your child’s growth and not stress them further. Let your child have fun in what they do. Take out the pressure of performing well, and let your child grow at his own pace.
Toddlers who have attended enrichment classes have also shown better qualities of adapting to a school’s environment. This does come in extremely handy when signing up at prestigious schools that will look for such qualities during interviews. This is not to say that kids who haven’t attended enrichment classes won’t get an opportunity. But it certainly shifts the odds in your favour.
As parents, you would want to do what’s best for your children. However, remember that your toddler has ample time to grow and learn. They aren’t missing out on anything and nor should you think that way by bowing down to social pressures.