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Preschool activities: How much is too much?

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09th-Oct-2016       
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Traci Geiser :
Parents today are surrounded with a wide variety of options for preschool activities and classes. From sports teams to performing arts, you can find a class for almost any interest your preschooler may have. While many parents enroll their children in multiple activities, how much is too much enrichment for a preschooler? Is it possible to overdo it when it comes to giving your child an assortment of experiences at an early age?
While a taste of a few activities is great for allowing young children the opportunity to try some new things, it can be tempting for parents to want to try it all or to keep up with other parents and give their child every advantage. Unfortunately, activities and classes can become overwhelming and even stressful for young children if they are not used in moderation. Try a few of the tips below to help keep activities fun and exciting for your preschooler.
Save time for play
While it may seem important to have your child experience many different activities, there is plenty of research to support the importance of good old-fashioned play on children's development. "Children develop physical, intellectual, creative, and social skills through play. They make plans, see them through, and share them with others as they create spaceships and shopping centers. They develop vocabulary and math skills when they set a table and pack for a safari. They take risks and build relationships when they invite others to share in the world they created," says Kim Cernek, Author and Executive Director of Sky Blue Scholars Early Learning Community.
Be sure there is time in most days for unstructured play. Children who are enrolled in too many activities and classes will not learn to play and be imaginative, but will instead learn to rely on others to entertain them.
Simple toys found in most households are the perfect props for imaginative play (dolls, trains, blocks, play food and dishes). You do not need expensive educational toys or games. Children will learn through simple play with the toys and objects around them.
Invite a friend over for a playdate and both children will learn vocabulary and other skills from one another.
Investigate interests
Choose activities and classes based on your child's interests rather than just signing her up for random classes or choosing based on your own interests.
Drop in on community activities and events which might spark interest. Attending an art show might lead to signing up for an art class or a cheering on a friend at his soccer game could lead to a curiosity about sports. On the other hand, you may also find your child has no interest in participating in certain activities.
If she asks about certain activities or hobbies, visit the library and ask the librarian for recommended reading on the topic.
Be sure to pick out a few books from the children's non-fiction section for photos and information about a wide variety of activities.
Set limits
Limit the number of activities you enroll your child in. Just one or two at a time is plenty to give your child a wide variety of experiences through the preschool years.
Remember, your child has many years ahead of her and she doesn't have to try everything now. There will be lots of time throughout your child's school years to experience a wide variety of activities.
Don't be tempted to feel guilty if your child is not signed up for all the activities the other children in her  playgroup or neighborhood are participating in.
Children can be stressed by too much activity, and they need time to play and relax with family and friends, just as adults do.
While it may seem like enrolling your child in classes is the best way to teach her new skills, remember that you are her first and most important teacher.
Enjoy a wide variety of activities with your little one and enroll her in a few classes if she shows an interest. However, remember that the memories you create while spending time together are more valuable than anything she can learn in a class.

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