Classes + Activities for the Little Ones

Right now Essley is almost smack dab between a year and a half and two years old. She’s definitely not a baby anymore, but she’s still in the early stages of toddler-dom. She’s not old enough for preschool or, as I’ve come to find out through the age requirements listed on the majority of them, most other classes or formal group activities. Although I don’t feel like it’s necessary to schedule an excessive amount of organized activities or lessons so young, I do think that it’s good for her to have the social experience of a ‘disciplined’ (very, very loose use of that term) group activity with other kids her age.  She took swimming lessons this summer, which was truthfully more of a water play group, and she absolutely loved it. And next month, she starts dance (a ballet-ish parent-involved class called ‘Tip Toes and Me’) that explores creative movement, about which she is already thrilled despite the fact that I don’t really think she understands what it actually means. (Daily conversation is as follows. Adult: “Essley, are you excited about dance class?” Essley: “UH HUH!” followed by 30+ seconds of her killer dance moves.)

I’ve been wondering though if these very sporadic activities are enough. Although toddlers her age are only beginning to play in ways that involve interacting with other little ones (vs. parallel play), I think it’s crucial for them to have regular social activities. We have many friends with young children, but the ones who live close have kids who are older or younger, and those with toddlers her age live in the city (we are in the ‘burbs) and we can usually only organize a play date once a month at best. Even if we could schedule more play dates (which are great on so many levels) however, I genuinely feel that the acts of following instructions and learning cooperation that accompany structured group activities like classes are so important. I just wish there were more group activities available for kids her age. I scoured our park district’s fall catalog (which is massive) and literally the only option for a child her age was the dance class. I know she’ll love the class, and as someone who participated in dance lessons myself from a young age through the college years, I’m excited for it too. But it would be nice to have some other options as well. I saw that our local library has story hours for kids her age, and I think we’ll partake in that. I’d love to sign her up for a group music play type class too, but need to do some more digging. Other than that, I’m left wondering if there are other activities I might just be overlooking and/or that my pregnancy brain is just missing all together.

And that brings me to my question for those of you who are parents. What type of group activities or classes do your toddlers most enjoy (or if you have older kids, that they most enjoyed when they were toddlers)? Do any of you have kids in that in-between baby and toddler age like Essley, and if so, what do you have them signed up for this fall? I’d love to hear any suggestions or ideas you might have in the comments!

Image source: ‘Ballet School for Baby Ballerinas,’ circa 1955.

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