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.
Reason #1: Exposing a child to new experiences
Enrolling preschoolers in enrichment classes is essential in their early development because it exposes children to new experiences. “This is so important because their brains and identities are so rapidly developing at this age,” says Leilah Smith, founder of Leilah’s Music Studio in Indianapolis. “I recently discovered that learning a musical instrument is one of the few activities that stimulates both sides of the brain at the same time. This is fantastic news for preschoolers because it means that playing a musical instrument helps the two sides of the brain learn how to better communicate with each other.”
Whether they are learning the rules to a new sport or are become immersed in a new environment, these experiences will build upon each other to encourage their personal growth — and eventually, get them ready for kindergarten. It’s valuable for kids to sample new age-appropriate classes, exposing them to things they wouldn’t otherwise get to try until they reach school age.
Reason #2: Helping them develop social skills
Enrichment classes reinforce a child’s ideas of appropriate independence and boundaries, Smith explains. “Children learn through their experiences, repetitions and most importantly through observation,” she says. “In enrichment classes, they can observe other children’s behaviors and see what gets positively reinforced and what doesn’t. Because they are forming their independent identities around this age, these classes provide an extra outlet for exploration through play.”
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 who aren’t their parent, like a coach or teacher.
Reason #3: Allowing them to 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 OK with taking instruction from a new adult while mom or dad watches from the stands.
“What is important is that young children see the balance of having a challenge, but also do this in a supportive environment with peers and/or caregivers and family around,” says Stephanie LaPlante, director of early childhood for Metropolitan School District Lawrence Township.
With the best enrichment classes, the instructors can also introduce positive self-talk that supports their long-term functioning skills. “For example, in a young karate class, the instructor teaches to take breaths between poses. They generally use language such as “try again” or “almost,” LaPlante says. “This can become self-talk that a child could implement on their own if they are doing difficult math problems later.”
There’s saying in music education made popular by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, and it is focusing on developing “character first; ability second.” Through private music education, Smith says she enjoys teaching kids how to regulate their emotions when frustration kicks in. When motivation plateaus, preschoolers can learn how to work through that.
“[You learn] how to take overwhelming things and break them down into smaller, more feasible chunks,” Smith says. “When group classes happen, I get to teach healthy interactions with others through organized play.”
Reason #4: Stimulating their mind
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. It also found that music studies can improve memory, mathematical learning, and potentially even increase SAT scores.
Whether they are learning how to play an instrument, learning the rules to a sport or following instructions to create an art project, engaging young minds in enrichment classes has many benefits.