As parents, we should be seeking out appropriate activities to help the development of our children’s fine motor, gross motor, and social-emotional skills. If you are a stay at home parent, your children could really benefit from programs that are offered in your community.
My daughters frequently attend our local libraries age-appropriate programs. The librarian uses manipulatives, art supplies, and books to teach the children fine motor and social-emotional skills. This gives my girls the chance to interact with other children to work on their social-emotional skills.
Parents should make sure that the activities that they are signing their children up for are age appropriate. Just because it says the activity is open to three to five year olds, does not always mean it is appropriate. As a former preschool teacher with extensive training in the development of young children, I have seen many people make the mistake of having children do inappropriate activities and expect a good outcome. This can be more harmful than beneficial. This will create frustrated children. If your child cannot share their toys with their siblings, you cannot expect them to be able to share a ball on the court.
Before the age of four, the brain does not fully have the capacity to understand other people’s feelings. That is why understanding emotions are taught in a preschool classroom. Sharing and empathy are developmentally difficult for young children and should be modeled consistently for it to be fully understood. In my preschool classroom, I had to have multiple sets of things due to this factor. Many sports programs expect young children to be able to play a sport that has one ball shared by two teams. This can only lead to a field or court filled with extremely frustrated preschoolers.
There are some sports themed programs that are very beneficial for young children. They use age-appropriate activities to help children learn beneficial skills for a sport. I had the privilege to run such a program a few years ago. The program uses a children’s book with animal characters teaching a new soccer skill. Each session we would do activities to be like one of the characters from the book. By the end of the session, the participants were able to do things like rollovers and drag backs.
What made this program so successful was the idea that each child had their own ball and was taught to use their ball to understand basic soccer skills. They were not put on a soccer field with one ball to fight over. Each skill that they were taught is a crucial skill for being successful in soccer when they are developmentally ready to fully understand how to play the game.
Sports are not the only inappropriate activity for young children. There is much debate on whether or not young children should be playing competitive games at school. Some preschools have even banned them in the classroom. Some competitive games can be inappropriate for children due to the rules being too complex. Games with simple rules, but are competitive can still be very beneficial for your child. If they do not have the opportunity to practice working in a competitive manner, how can we expect them to be successful as adults?
An example of a simple competitive game that is beneficial is musical chairs. It teaches spatial awareness to young children. Many times children do not look around to see who is near them when they are moving around which can cause accidents. Musical chairs teaches children to look around at the other kids and where the furniture is in the room. This is considered a competitive game because there is one winner at the end. Simple competitive games are created to teach a specific skill to your child and can be a benefit.
As a parent and a former preschool teacher, I see the benefits of age-appropriate games and activities. These age-appropriate games can be played at school, home, or even out in the community, like at the local library. All parents should do a little research into the program they want their child to participate in. Just because it says it is appropriate, does not always mean that they are truly appropriate for your child. When we have too high of expectations for our children, we are just setting them up for failure in the long run.
If you are a stay at home parent like me, I would encourage you to look to your community for age-appropriate activities and programs. If your children go to daycare or school, they could still benefit from outside programs throughout the year, just do not overload them. Even age-appropriate programs should not get in the way of children being able to free play. Remember, they are still kids after all.