Parents and children can explore new classes together
While we anticipate the start of spring and watch for the first daffodils to appear, parents of young children must grapple with the big question. Is my child ready for preschool?
While the answer may not be simple, the St. Charles Park District has some creative programming for young children to help prepare them for a school atmosphere, as well as provide fun learning and play opportunities.
One great avenue for parents and children is the Music Together family class for babies through age 5. Participants sing, dance, use instruments through musical play while practicing motor skills. This program is one of the few where a parent can bring children of different ages and find plenty for everyone to enjoy.
Playtime Pals and Growing to School, provide children as young as 2 years the opportunity to experience their first preschool activities with the comfort of an adult nearby. Once a child is engaged and ready for the next step, Look at Me I’m Almost 3 is offered. This is an independent classroom experience, allowing each child’s adult to wait in the lobby.
Early childhood classes like this in the spring and summer help prepare children for preschool, said Kara Guizzetti-Reif, recreation supervisor at the St. Charles Park District. With the health concerns over the past couple years, many children haven’t been able to enjoy the typical social activities like playgroups and story times. These programs help a child gain independence and build confidence as parents look ahead to preschool in the fall.
“It gets a child into school mode with the support of a parent or trusted adult. They learn how to follow directions from someone else, how to share supplies or toys, and how to take turns,” Guizzetti-Reif said. “At first mom or dad are there, but then, they begin to step out on their own. Children are learning valuable social skills and able to apply them right away.”
And, it’s not just time for a child to learn about shapes, colors and letters, it’s also a place to socialize, make friends and learn etiquette, respect and cooperation. Classes that bring together parents and children provide a perfect setting for the grownups to make friends too, bonding over potty training and picky food habits.
“I always tell parents that this is a place to find their tribe. Other parents are going through what you are going through, and it helps you realize you are not alone,” Guizzetti-Reif said, adding these relationships often last well beyond a class or two. Parents discover and create life-long friendships including those they can trust enough to list as emergency contacts on school forms and beyond.
St. Charles Park District offers two locations for preschool with a classroom in the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center for Threes or Pre-K classes, and 4 classrooms at the Pottawatomie Community Center, housing Twos Plus, Threes’ and Pre-K classes. Resident and nonresident registration for fall preschool classes, ages 2 ½ to 5, is ongoing. For details, visit stcparks.org/preschool.
For a more active class with toddlers check out the District’s sports programs of soccer, basketball, tball and more at Sportsplex and Pottawatomie Community Center. There’s plenty of parent and child classes for both to get some fitness into their day and have fun learning sports basics together. As children grow older and more confident, they can advance to independent classes with their peers.
The District’s Dance with Me program invites parents and a child, ages 1 ½ to 3, to have fun together as the basics of dance movement are taught for boys and girls. The class is also a great way to introduce young children to the dance studio.
While many programs provide opportunities for toddlers and parents to bond in class together, consider the opportunity for parents to earn their black belt in karate as they master the program with their children. The Illinois Shotokan Karate Club offers group martial arts lessons where parents can learn along-side their children. All ages develop flexibility, strength and coordination through fun and disciplined activities.