Here's a post I wrote over at HelloBee. Another post to come (hopefully) soon with pictures from our trip to Florida!
This summer I thought it would be fun to enroll our Little Piñata in a fun toddler class or two. I looked into all kinds of classes, and since most classes (like dance and gymnastics) are open to kids 2 years old and older, my two choices ended up being music and swimming. After asking around for advice and being unable to decide, we bought an 8 week session of music class and just a one month session of "Parent and Tot" swimming lessons. I went in not knowing what to expect, although most people thought that Little Piñata would enjoy swimming classes best.
I was actually really surprised that we found the opposite to be true! After the first month, Little Piñata has gotten SO much out of music class, but we have found the swimming lessons to be a waste of both time and money. Now, I don't think this will be the case with all swim lessons and music classes everywhere, but it's true with the particular ones we found near us.
Getting Ready for his last swimming lesson!
The swim lessons were at the local rec Center, and I think the biggest problem was that even though the Parent & Tot lessons were advertised for kids 6 months and up, they were really geared toward children over 2 years old. They assumed that all the kids could kick and blow bubbles on command. Since Little Piñata is just 13 months, these were skills he was definitely not ready for. He may be ready to learn how to kick, but he's certainly not ready to be able to blow bubbles in the water or kick on command without much teaching. It also seemed quite developmentally inappropriate in that there was practically no repetition from class to class. In the first lesson they "taught" the kids to kick their legs while floating on their back. But, by the second lesson they assumed the children had mastered it and moved on to more complicated skills! So, by the third lesson I just had to continue doing "first lesson material" with Little Piñata" while the teacher was telling me to "be sure that he makes his hands like ice cream scoops when he's paddling." I actually just wanted to laugh at this. Little Piñata has NO idea what an ice cream scoop is! I think there are much better swim programs out there for toddlers. We just didn't find it.
All done and ready to go home!
On the other hand, the music classes have been awesome! There are children from all ages in there, from 9 months up to 4 years and they all have so much fun. They sing songs, move around to the music and play with fun instruments, like drums, maracas, little bells, etc. We have a CD of all the songs they use in the 8 week session and Little Piñata even loves listening to it in the car and tries to sing along with his favorite songs. There's an activity both on the CD and that's done in the class where the students try to match the pitch of the teacher, and after just 4 weeks of class, Little Piñata is already attempting it and doing a pretty good job! If you're interested, he's been taking from "The Music Class" which is a national program, so you can visit their website and there might even be a location near you.
(image via The Music Class)
If I were to choose classes for him in the future, I think I will do more research and ask more questions before signing him up for anything. Here are some suggestions before committing to a month or two of toddler/child classes:
1. Ask friends in the community about the specific class you're interested in. So many people recommended swimming classes to us, but we never had any personal recommendations for the Rec Center where we ended up taking him. I think this was the main problem.
2. If you can't find people that have gone to the place you're looking, ask them for references or if you can try out a class for free before you pay for a whole session.
3. Call and ask the location about the particular skills that they will be teaching and at what age they are developmentally appropriate for. (If they don't know the answer, they're likely not familiar with early childhood development, which isn't a good sign.)
4. Ask about their rescheduling and cancellation policy. When Little Piñata had a cold one week, we were able to reschedule the music class, but just lost out on the swim lesson.
5. Try a free class if you can! This will help immensely to know if it's the right situation for your child. (The Rec Center didn't offer a free lesson and maybe I should have taken this as an indication to not sign up there.)
What kind of classes have your little ones been involved in? Did they enjoy them?