Weighing Activity Options for Preschoolers
Back in “Participating in Enrichment Activities,” we discussed ways to select
the structured activities in which each member of your family will
Table 1. Should You Involve Your Preschooler in an Enrichment Activity?
|Answer the question on behalf of your child.||Enter the number of your answer|
|a. Do you want to find out if your preschooler will like the activity?
Already know your child will like it
|b. Does something about it interest your child?
|c. Does it sound like fun?
Will participating in the activity make your child a more well-rounded
person (for example, add physical activity to an inactive lifestyle,
expand the child's knowledge)?
|e. Will the activity help your child attain a goal (for example, physical fitness,improved coordination)?
|f. Do you and your child like the people involved with the activity?
|5–7||Don't spend your time on it.|| |
|8–10||Try it if it fits easily into your family's and preschooler's schedules.|| |
|11–13||Try to work it into your schedules.|| |
|14–16||Give it priority over other choices.|| |
You'll want to keep in mind a few considerations that are particularly relevant to a preschooler's schedule:
child may express an opinion as to whether he would like to sign up for a
certain class, discovering what sorts of things really hold your
preschooler's interest is largely a matter of trial and error.
preschool activities require adult time, too. First, there is the time
to get your child ready for the activity. Then there is the time to
transport her there and back. In addition, many programs require a
parent to stay in the room.
classes are designed for parents to actively participate along with
their children. If you think you or your child would like for the two of
you to spend a little more time together, then one of these classes may
be the answer.
the other hand, if you feel you could use a little more time in your
day without your preschooler at your side, then you may want to steer
toward an activity or two that let you go accomplish something else—or
just sit quietly and read—while your child expends some energy.
Try to remember that no
matter how appealing an activity sounds, if it doesn't fit smoothly into
your family's schedule, then it's not the right choice. On the other
hand, if the family's schedule doesn't allow time for the preschoolers
to have activities of their own, then the schedule needs some
adjustment. Allocating time to benefit all family members is always
somewhat of a balancing act.
Because the average
preschooler requires a minimum of 11 hours of sleep a day, whereas the
average adult needs only 8 hours, parents should have at least 3 hours a
day to spend at home preschooler-free.
Use the guidelines in Table 2 to adjust your preschooler's activities to create a balanced schedule
Table 2. A Preschooler's Day
|Activity and Target Time||Place||Schedule A (Hours)||Schedule B (Hours)||Schedule C (Hours)|
Target = 11||Home||11.00||11.00||11.00|
Target = 1||Home||1.00||1.00||1.00|
|Target = 2||Preschool|| ||0.25||0.25|
|Day care|| || ||0.25|
|Enrichment activities||Home||2.00|| || |
|Target = 2||Preschool|| ||2.00||2.00|
|Day care|| || ||0.50|
|Quiet time or nap time||Home||2.00||1.75||1.25|
|Target = 2||Preschool|| ||0.25||0.25|
|Day care|| || ||0.50|
|Structured time||Home||2.00||1.00|| |
|Target = 2||Preschool|| ||1.00||1.00|
|Day care|| || ||1.50|
|Target = 2||Preschool|| ||0.50||0.50|
|Day care|| || ||1.00|
|Target = 2||Day care|| || ||0.25|
Striking the Right Balance
Striking the right
balance for your family means making sure that the needs and interests
of everyone are taken into account and accommodated on an evenhanded
basis. In one sense, that's what this whole book is about: organizing
the family's schedule so that it works for everyone. Striking the right
balance for your preschoolers means making sure that they are not just
relegated to tagging along with the rest of the family.
But we don't mean that you have to cram every free moment with a
structured preschool activity. For a young person, everything in the
world is a new experience. Every task, no matter how repetitious to an
adult, is a learning opportunity to a four year old. So, although
preschoolers don't always need a structured activity, they do always
need time to process what they've experienced throughout the day. In
part, this is why young children need more sleep than adults. Some quiet
time during the day also helps their learning.
How many times
have you, or another parent or older sibling you know, said something
like, “She helped me bake the cookies, and it took me three times longer
than if I'd done it by myself”?
simple adjustment to this way of thinking will help you feel as though
your schedule is much more on track. Let's say baking the cookies by
yourself would normally take you 30 minutes, but with your child's
“help,” it takes you an hour and a half. And let's say that you would
like to spend an hour of “quality” time with your child every day, but
you find that making the time is difficult. Now, instead of saying that
baking the cookies took you an hour and a half, why not think of this
situation as having spent an hour and a half of quality time with your
child and having managed to get freshly baked cookies as a bonus. You've
exceeded your goal of time with your child and still managed to bake
next time you're ready to tell your young child you can play with him
after you've dusted the house, remember that preschoolers love to
emulate and help you, and then hand him a feather duster. Why is it that
he sees vacuuming the carpet, scrubbing the sink, and doing the laundry
as fun, and you don't?
After you take into account
the amount of time a preschooler needs for sleeping (11–13 hours),
eating, and personal care, you'll see that her day can fill up pretty
quickly. How you need to structure her time at home will depend on
whether she is at home all day, or in preschool, or in preschool and day
care, for part of the day. Table 2
illustrates how a preschooler's time might be allocated. You should
take a close look at your preschooler's schedule to make sure that her
use of time is properly distributed.