Few things have the ability to put someone in a good mood as quickly as music. Ice cream is pretty close, but it can cause cavities and brain freeze - two things Mozart has never been guilty of. It’s also appropriate for every age, from those still in utero to those in the retirement home. Start the really young ones with drums and shakers. It’s all about rhythm at this age. Then drop them on the piano bench around age five if you’re looking to instill some theory and/or toss them a ukulele just to keep it fun.
Swimming is a great lo-impact workout for kids and adults both. It builds core strength and exercises nearly every muscle in the body. It’s also an essential skill considering that over seventy percent of the planet is covered with water. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend formal swimming lessons for kids younger than age four, but that doesn’t mean that little ones should wait that long to be introduced to the pool. Just remember to stay close. Few things require the level of supervision that swimming does.
One word: cupcakes! Kids will do anything for one. So will most adults. Why not explore your inner Julia Child together and sign up for a cooking class. You’ll enjoy watching your kids make a mess in somebody else’s kitchen and the kids will enjoy playing mad scientist with eggs and flour. Great for children starting around age three and especially good for fussy eaters, who are much more likely to try something new if they’ve made it themselves. Make it a regular activity and before you know it they’ll be the ones preparing the Boeuf Bourguignon while you relax with a cup of tea.
Art is great for kids of all ages, but can be especially beneficial to those younger than age five. Language and communication are still developing during these years and art gives them an alternate means of expressing themselves and exploring their sense of identity and relationship to the outside world. It’s pretty fun for parents too, for whom it offers a brief respite from the stresses of the adult world and a not so tidy reminder of the joys of childhood. Just make sure to select classes that are age appropriate. Think bigger for younger kids and smaller for older - big brushes and big chunks of clay followed by smaller brushes, colored pencils and beads.
Join your kids in this class and become more than just a parent – become a superparent, able to fend off the boogeyman with a perfectly executed front kick or reverse punch. Kids learn discipline and focus as well as physical dexterity.
Not to mention gaining some confidence, courage, and that stick-with-it-even-when-its-tough attitude that will help them all the way through college and well into those sleepless nights they’ll endure when they have kids of their own. You might even gain a little of that yourself. Plus, it’s a pretty good workout. While kids as young as three might have fun getting dressed up in the uniform, it’s usually more productive for those age five and older.
Who wouldn’t like to bring a little inner calm to their toddler? Just don’t plan on having a relaxing session with kids younger than age four or five. They’ll have a blast trying the various poses, but probably won’t have the attention span required to maintain them until they’re older. Regardless, introducing yoga to kids at a young age has been shown to increase physical awareness, concentration, and to relieve stress – something even the young aren’t immune to. The main rule of thumb here is to just relax and have fun. Embrace the chaos and you might discover that those squiggly kids are the ones doing the real teaching. They’re all certified in the joy of being.
Crank up the stereo in a room full of kids and it will take approximately one second for them to start dancing like a bunch of disco freaks. How is it that the vast majority of adults are able to resist this urge? Age? Wisdom? Insecurity? Whatever the reason, it’s time to get over it. Sign your kids up for a dance class and pack a leotard for yourself. Dance not only teaches creative movement, but also basic life skills such as listening to directions and taking turns. Kids younger than age five probably won’t be exposed to many of the formal aspects of the art, but they’ll sure have leaps of fun. You will too!
You either love horses or you don’t. If you love them, chances are pretty good that you started riding as a kid. If you don’t, then chances are good that you either didn’t grow up around them or one mistook your finger for a carrot at the local petting zoo. Either way, love – just like its opposite – is a learned response. If your child exhibits a certain fascination with the equine, why not saddle up beside them and take a few laps around the arena together? Your love for each other might deepen as well. Just remember that you have to trot before you gallop. Many stables will start kids around age five or six, but it really depends on the physical and mental maturity of the individual.
What kid doesn’t like playing in the dirt, or eating it? Why not show them how to grow something that actually tastes good? Then again, kids aren’t always so crazy about those garden-variety veggies, are they? But wouldn’t it be nice if they were? Maybe they’d be more excited about eating them if they actually had a hand in growing them. Or not. At least they’d finally understand where those colorful things that parents are always sneaking onto their plate actually come from.
Kids love acting. At times it seems they do little else. Babies imitate sounds, toddlers imitate gestures, and older kids imitate just about everything from the family pet to their favorite action hero. Throw in some costumes and a few props and there’s little to hold them back. Why not add a touch of structure while you’re at it? Early involvement with acting classes and the theatre fosters imagination and helps build self-confidence. Kids should be able to memorize a few lines from age six or seven. Prior to this, classes should focus on improvisation and exercises that get them working together as a group. And by group, let’s not forget that few things make them happier than an adult wearing stage makeup.