Should I enroll my toddler in activities outside my home? Activities

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Toddler-age girl taking dance class.
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Organized activities and classes offer toddlers the chance to socialize and learn new skills, but they're not a requirement. See how other moms and childcare experts have handled introducing their toddlers to organized activities.

Socialization Is Important

"Children need to learn how to socialize, work in a group, and get along with others. Outside activities can be something as simple as forming a 'mom and me' group and meeting at a park or at someone's home once a week." -- Sue Stockman, early childhood educator, Caldwell, NJ

Every Child Is Different

"Each child has different needs, and parents know their children best. Some toddlers enjoy activities outside the home, especially in the winter months, when options for play may be limited. If your child is enrolled in a quality preschool, he or she will be engaging in many activities, and should be learning important social skills. Small children need lots of attention, and a routine that includes a gym class, swimming, library visits, etc., can help both children and parents by offering a...

"Each child has different needs, and parents know their children best. Some toddlers enjoy activities outside the home, especially in the winter months, when options for play may be limited. If your child is enrolled in a quality preschool, he or she will be engaging in many activities, and should be learning important social skills. Small children need lots of attention, and a routine that includes a gym class, swimming, library visits, etc., can help both children and parents by offering a change of pace and an opportunity to meet other toddlers and  parents. Some preschools offer half day options, which are also a great way to introduce a child to a social environment and encourage exploration outside the home."  -- Debbie Propper Lesnoy, teacher at Helen Troum Nursery School and Kindergarten, Fair Lawn, NJ

It's a Good Pastime

"Whether it's a dance class, baseball, or whatever, I think it's a good idea to get them involved as early as you can. Otherwise, you, the parent, are going to go crazy trying to find things to occupy their time ALL the time. Plus, your child might enjoy themselves, and isn't that the goal?" -- Mark Lehman, preschool teacher, Massillon, OH

Don't Overdo It

"Depending on the energy level of your child, you may want to start out with as few [outside activities] as possible. Most children will grow tired of something rather fast and will want to move on to the next thing. If you really want your child to be involved in more than one activity at a time, maybe pick one that is high-energy and one that is more low-key."

Spend One-on-One Time

"Time goes way too fast. The kids grow up and get involved in way too many things. For the most part, I'm just planning on letting my daughter play a lot outside -- swimming, riding bikes, taking walks. I just want to spend time with her as much as I can."

They'll Learn Valuable Lessons

"I feel activities teach my kids valuable lessons: teamwork, commitment, sportsmanship, encouragement. My children have become very confident children and make friends quickly because new kids are always coming into the mix. My take is, if you can afford the time and money to place your children into something, do it."

Let Your Child Decide

"I think activities for kids are a great way for them to grow! I won't push them or force them to do anything they don't want to, but if they ask I'm all for it! I couldn't get involved in activities growing up -- my parents always said 'we can't afford it' -- so I'm excited when my kids ask to do stuff."

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