Dance, Tumbling and Music Lessons, Oh My!
We are fortunate to live in an area where opportunities abound for our children: sports, art activities, classes, camps and more. Although having so many choices and opportunities is nice, sometimes it can feel overwhelming. How exactly do you go about choosing something for your child?
Consider your child’s interests and desires.
BrightHorizons.com suggests to “really ‘see’ your child.” What are his natural gifts? Consider asking your child what he wants to do. Meredith, an Olathe mom, shares, “My child has always had a flair for the dramatic and loves to sing. I don't know how she gets through the day at school, because she can't go an hour at home without singing! We decided to build on that and enroll her in musical theater classes at the Culture House.”
Remember too, that these opportunities are for your child, not for you. BrightHorizons.com explains, “Parental expectations that don't match with a child's true self can cause a lot of grief for both parent and child.” Just because an activity was good for you as a child or is good for your best friend’s child, doesn’t mean it will be for your child.
Look at the big picture.
Think about what you’d like your child to gain from the enrichment activities. Do you want your child to meet and make new friends? Do you want your child to do it because the activity is popular or everyone else is doing it? Would you like for your child to gain cultural awareness? Or do you simply think it might be fun for your child? Ask yourself these questions—but be ready to answer them honestly!
Try out a class.
Usually the elementary years are a great time to try out various classes and activities in a fairly inexpensive way. Caroline, an Overland Park mom, says, “I do think it is good to try different things when they are young because sometimes you'll be surprised what really resonates with your child.” Be prepared to try several activities before finding what your child loves and is willing to stick with. By exploring multiple options together, you can help your child find something he really enjoys!
Summer camps are also an excellent way to check out a class. Many arts camps are only a week long and offer full or half day options. What a great way to test the waters before jumping in long term!
Kimberly, a local music teacher, suggests an instrument “petting zoo,” where your child can see instruments up close and even give them a try. Many local organizations such as the Kansas City Symphony (KCSymphony.org) and the KC Civic Orchestra (KCCivic.org/wordpress/category/kccoed/petting-zoo) offer these opportunities each year. What a fun and unique way to introduce your child to music!
Offer guidance and exposure.
As a parent, you will have the job of exposing your child to the arts, just as you would to sports. “I think it is important to expose children to the arts and see what they enjoy! Take your child to the Nelson, a play, the ballet. Go to a local concert. The arts are all around us in KC, between all of the options offered through both local rec departments and private theater, dance, music and art studios. Take advantage of it!” Caroline suggests.
Throughout this process, you also may find your child repeatedly goes back to the same type of activity. Be willing to offer a bit of guidance and push him slightly to try out something different. If you have a sports enthusiast, try guiding him toward an art or music lesson to help him break out of his comfort zone. “Our daughter has loved music since she was a baby, so we also decided to encourage her desire to dance. She likes to move quickly, so we thought hip hop classes would be a better fit for her than the traditional ballet that many little girls do. Classes usually aren't available until they are 4, so we enrolled her as soon as she was old enough at Jody Phillips Dance Company,” says Meredith.
While trying different activities is great, don’t rush out there and sign up your child for four different classes at once. An overscheduled child probably isn’t going to enjoy much when she feels so tapped out and exhausted. And let’s be honest, neither will you! Just like you plan activities for your child, be cognizant of planning downtime to avoid burnout.
Johnson County offers so many opportunities to pay for a drop-in music class, cooking lesson or art activity, making for great try-it-firsts. Hop on JCPRD.com or BlueValleyRec.org and check out what activities are coming up…and as always, KCParent.com is an excellent resource too! And remember to have fun exploring the arts with your child!
Local arts enrichment ideas to check out:
- Culture House
- Theatre for Young America
- Coterie Theatre
- Theatre of the Imagination
- Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (youth art classes)
- JCCC youth enrichment classes
- The Jewish Community Center
- Paint, Glaze and Fire
- JCPRD.com (loads of fine and performing arts choices)
- Ceramic Café
- Culinary Center of KC
Julie Collett loves arts enrichment activities and tries to expose her three children (ages 6, 4 and 2) whenever time, energy and finances allow!