The following was written for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
Ever wonder where all the good after-school kids’ classes are hiding? Turns out there’s more for your little explorers than just a hefty semester of gym time. Think: Carmelo the Science Fellow, Baby DJ, Puppetry, Junior Tennis, Mandarin and more. We all know investing in early childhood development pays off in adults who learn well later in life, too (that might be one reason you’re so savvy now.) So it’s no surprise 6 in 10 children are involved in an extracurricular activity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Taking this a step further, the more fun your child is having the more well-adjusted they are likely to be from a social, cognitive and physical perspective.
Here’s what we mean:
Buddies (Social Development)
There’s a real purpose that comes with play: to let us know things are possible. Things outside of our days, of ourselves. There are people who aren’t like us. There are things we love to do — and things we don’t love but other people squeal over. Socialization allows us to uncover our identity among a larger group or context. It’s also great for developing tolerance, empathy and camaraderie. Plus it can lead to some hip new friends.
The Kids Passport
Smarts (Cognitive Development)
There are book smarts and then there are street/activity smarts. The kind of creative, non-academic thinking that pushes the boundaries. For this, the early years are a pivotal time in brain development. Both the bonds between child and parent, and the first learning experiences lay the foundation for each child’s future behavior and learning methods. Activities influence this connective pattern-making. For example: everything from linguistics (e.g. foreign language playgroups) to creativity (e.g. handpainting), problem-solving (e.g. board puzzles), and decision making can help develop a child’s learning in a positive manner.
“Opening my daughter up to all the projects and places in this world is one of the most satisfying parts of being a parent for me,” says Will Hughes, a father of a 1-year-old daughter in Brooklyn.
Skills (Physical Development)
Recognized educator Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of children.” This is especially true when you look at the CDC’s Milestone Checklist for early development: Able to climb, count, draw, pedal, dance, etc. Prioritizing coordination, balance, movement and an active lifestyle isn’t just the platform of the First Lady (she’s got it right). It’s a way to expose your children to the tactile stimuli — including touch, sight, sound and smell — that’s transmitted into sensing pathways. The key is to vary the stimuli. Try tae kwon do. Give junior tennis a go. Ballet for all. Soccer, too. You get the point.
The Kids Passport
But have you ever tried to find a good (preferably cool) kid’s class near you?
It might as well be rocket science. There are over a half million Google search results for “kids class.” And even if you find one with a good website, it’s tough to find vetted reviews. Slots that don’t fall during nap time or school time? Good luck.
That’s why we started The Kids Passport. It’s the easy way to discover the whole wide world of kids’ classes near you. Started by us — a Brooklyn parent and co-founder — and we hope to provide the type of activities and experiences that will help children grow in positive and exciting ways.
Marissa Evans and Stephanie Choi are the co-founders of thekidspassport.com, which helps parents find the best after-school classes in New York neighborhoods for one flat rate. They plan to expand to neighborhoods all across the country.