Swim lessons, drum circle, dance, soccer, painting club — a preschooler’s schedule can sure fill up quickly! Giving young minds the chance to learn and develop in an exciting environment, enrichment classes are more than just fun and games. Considering enrolling your preschooler in a new athletic program, art lessons or music class? Learn the key benefits of enrichment programs for the preschool set, and why they are worth your time and money.
Here are 4 Reasons Preschoolers Need Enrichment Classes:
Reason #1: Expose preschoolers to new experiences
Enrolling preschoolers in enrichment classes is essential in their early development because it exposes children to new experiences. Young children can grow in many ways during recreational group lessons, like dance or sports. Cassandra MacDonald runs the Learn to Skate program at Miami University’s Goggin Ice Center, which teaches kids as young as 3 years old how to sit and stand on the ice, march forward and wiggle backwards.
“Of all the classes we provide, our Tot class receives the most ‘classroom’ experience,” MacDonald says. “We teach kiddos how to follow a teacher, learn from their peers, begin imaginative play while in a new environment, and get comfortable on the ice. Many snow angels are made and tons of Beanie Babies are picked up and put away.” This play model allows kids to learn while away from their parents in a “monkey see, monkey do” fashion.
Art and music classes also present young children with the chance to grow exponentially by engaging their curiosity. “Preschoolers exude pure joy when experiencing new things,” explains Nancy Kopp, owner of The Art Workshop in Cincinnati. “Everything is new to them and an adventure. The more experiences that they are exposed to, the more curious they are about the world around them.”
Reason #2: Develop social skills
Because enrichment classes often involve elements of play, this helps children to interact with others their age. They are learning life skills in a group setting, such as problem solving, taking turns, working together, sharing and even negotiating, as they sort out what’s fair and right. This can also happen as they interact with other adults that aren’t their parent, like a coach or teacher.
Group instruction also allows preschoolers to learn by following the examples of their peers. “When one skater cries, another will follow,” MacDonald says. “When we have one skater marching faster towards a cone, others will follow. When one skater gets special recognition during a game, others want it, too.“
Reason #3: Experience challenges
Let’s face it. Going into a new environment can feel scary, but this presents an appropriate challenge for preschoolers. Emotionally, this teaches kids to be okay with taking instruction from a new adult while mom or dad watches from the stands.
“The act of falling down is something we praise, because we want skaters to understand that we all fall down, and that we are all strong enough to get back up on our own,” MacDonald says. “Sure, a teacher will help the first few times, and sometimes a fellow skater will offer their own shaky hand for assistance. My own 3 year old would rather Mommy carry him in and out of every door, game, school day, etc. But once he learned how to overcome the scary ice, it was a game changer for how often he called out to me. Now I hear, ‘Mommy watch how big I am!’ Any time we can provide our kids with the opportunity to overcome something new, hard, scary, challenging, and praise them for both their efforts and successes, is a wonderful learning opportunity.”
Reason #4: Stimulating their minds
While it may seem like fun and games, taking part in enrichment classes is actually helping children to build cognitive skills, large and fine motor control, language skills, creativity, social skills and more.
For instance, studies show that musical experiences in childhood can accelerate brain development, particularly language acquisition and reading skills. “I don’t see or believe that music is ‘enrichment,’ but I see it as core to all,” says Rachel Kramer, president of Baldwin Music Education Center in Cincinnati.
Whether they are learning the rules to a new game or following instructions to create an art project, engaging young minds has many benefits.
“Preschool art education helps children gain confidence, and improve hand-eye coordination and small motor skills,” Kopp says. “Studies have shown that early involvement in art exploration improves writing skills and cognitive ability once a child enters school.“