As a parent, I often wonder how many activities my daughter can participate in before it gets too much for her (and me!). This will be especially true when she starts school this September. She already goes to The Little Gym, swimming, music classes and now she has taken an interest in ballet (no surprise there for a little girl!). Then, of course, there is kids theatre, specific sports programmes, languages.... the list goes on and it seems that we parents can live our lives shuttling our kids from school to one activity after another.
So how do we choose and prioritise? One idea is to focus on "core" or "life skills" with sufficient exposure to other "interest" activities as a child grows and becomes interested naturally in other things. So for me, I have settled on three main activities for my daughter to give her what I feel are core skills that will set her up for life: swimming, The Little Gym and music lessons. Swimming is self-explanatory, and music I believe is an essential arts skill for the development of cognitive thinking, which also promotes a sense of wellbeing, achievement and gives simple pleasure.
The Little Gym, however, is more of a tricky call, as a gymnastic-based programme may not immediately seem like it fits into the category of a "core" skill. However, the way I have seen The Little Gym contribute to my daughter's development and what other parents have also commented on, means that I do absolutely place it in this category.
It has been proven that undertaking certain physical activities from an early age enhances physical brain development and cognitive skills, and The Little Gym programme is one of the few structured programmes for children as early as 4 months that incorporates these enhancing movements. It also makes kids ready to pay attention at school, as they have to take specific instructions during the classes in order to perform the skills. But most importantly, the programme provides them with core muscle strength, balance and confidence that is essential for them to participate in any sports or other activities that they wish to take up in future. We have seen this, for example, in the speed in which our daughter has learnt to swim and ride her bicycle, as well as how skillfully she kicks a ball compared with her friends and peers who have not been to a programme like The Little Gym. This is especially interesting as we have not noticed that she is has any greater "natural" physical talent than any of her peers.
The final thing though, which I believe is true for any activity, is that a child needs to have fun learning, which is why it is important to spend time choosing an activity provider who understands this and offers the right environment. On our personal journey, we believe that our swimming classes provider and The Little Gym fit this bill... Though we are still seeking the right music class, which is proving harder than expected!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!