Parents enroll their
child in community recreation classes so he can pick up new skills
and enjoy himself. Sometimes these classes are well-run and
satisfying, but other times they’re poorly taught and disappointing.
In order to choose classes wisely, parents should try to observe
programs before registering, and consider which activities are most
appropriate. Then, once class sessions begin, they should monitor
the program and help their child adjust.
Before you sign up for a class, watch a session taught by the
instructor your child will have. Although it may be difficult for
you to arrange an observation, it’s worth the effort. Many
recreation programs sound exciting when described in catalogs and
brochures, but turn out to be boring or inadequate. If possible,
take your child along so he can let you know if he’s interested.
As you watch a class session, ask yourself these questions: how
structured is the program? Does it look like fun? Do the children
seem to be enjoying themselves? How does the instructor respond to a
child who’s hesitant about joining the group? Is there unnecessary
pressure on children to conform and achieve? Does the teacher seem
to nurture creativity? Does she say, “I like the way you did that,”
rather than, “You can do better than that?” Does she accept a
child’s limitations? How large is the class? Do children get a
chance to show the teacher what they can do? Do they have to spend
much time waiting for turns?
If you decide to enroll your child in a class, briefly prepare him
for the first session. Talk to him about the instructors, the
equipment, the clothes he’ll wear, and any friends who’ll be in the
class. Let him know about transportation arrangements and where
you’ll be while the class meets. And since most children wonder
about the availability of bath rooms, tell him that the recreation
program has bathrooms.
On the first day of class, you’ll notice that some children quickly
join in the activities while others have difficulty adjusting. If
your child is reluctant to get involved, you might feel discouraged
and embarrassed, especially if the other class members are having an
easy time. You might also feel alone, questioning your parenting
abilities and wondering what you’ve done to make your child shy and
unwilling to participate. You might feel angry at your child,
particularly if it was his idea to take the class.
In such a situation, a supportive teacher can help by smiling,
waving, coming over to talk, and generally letting your child know
he’s accepted even if he doesn’t choose to participate right away.
You’ll also feel more comfortable if the other parents in the group
are supportive rather than judgmental. While you’re encouraging your
child to participate, try not to pressure him but rather accept his
hesitancy and, if necessary, sit with him until he’s ready to join
In later class sessions, he may continue to resist joining in or may
become disenchanted with the program. Perhaps the instructor over
whelms him, the other children seem too big, he’s not ready to
separate from you, the teachers’ (or your) expectations create too
much pressure, he’s unwilling to join in because you’re watching, or
the class is not what he thought it would be. He may have had his
own fantasies about the program, imagining he’d be free to jump on
the trampoline, do somersaults, or improvise his own craft projects.
But most programs allow little freedom—children are told what to do
and how to do it, and they spend a lot of time waiting for their
It’s not unusual for a child’s interest in a recreation program to
dwindle as the weeks go by. You may hear, “I’ll go another day,” or,
“I don’t want to go.” Often because of a rigid structure or intense
competition, the classes stop being fun. Think back to your own
experience with recreation programs. The classes that you enjoyed
and continued to attend were ones that provided fun, acceptance, and
positive feedback. The ones you disliked made you feel unaccepted
If your child wants to drop out of a recreation class, discuss the
situation with him and then with the instructors. They can help you
decide whether you should spend some sessions helping your child
adjust, or whether he should stop attending. Don’t force him to
continue in a class he’s not enjoying, since such pressure is likely
to increase his resistance to all classes. And don’t worry that
quitting will make him a habitual “quitter.” He’s too young to have
understood what he was getting into, or to need a lesson in
perseverance. Just continue to expose him to a variety of
experiences and activities so he can figure out what interests him
and develop new skills.