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Getting young kids involved in sports or activities


kristof65
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The current thread on Miss South Carolina brought up something I've been struggling with, and since I don't want to threadjack that too much, I'm posting here.

 

I have a son who's 4.5 years old. I'd like to get him involved in something he can be passionate about and enjoy, whether it be a sport, hobby, or even music. However, I don't want to force him into anything, but neither do I want to go down the path of spending lots of money each year for his changing interests (like my parents did with me).

 

He's shown interest in a few things - like when I dug out my old electric piano and plugged it in for him to play with, but we're not sure how to read what's passing interest and what may become a life-long passion. As for sports, our city has a nice program where the kids get to explore five different sports, so we're going to enroll him in that and see which one he talks about the most. But there are other activities besides sports we think he may be interested in as well:

 

Go-kart racing - he loves driving about with me in my Miata with the top down, and he loves toy racing cars. I know that there are go-kart racing programs for kids, just don't know where to start looking.

Music - he loves playing with my old piano. I don't really want to sign him up for Piano lessons, but am looking for some sort of program he could explore his music interests in.

Trains - he loves trains, but I can't really think of any kids activities with trains, save building a layout together.

Martial Arts - like most boys his age, he's a Power Rangers fan, and he talks about his older cousin, who does Tae Kwon Do. Not sure if he would like martial arts though - might just be a TV thing.

 

Anyway, my question is for you parents with older children - how/when did you get your kids involved in their favorite activities, and how did you determine what was right for them. What other activities are there out there that he could explore?

 

My basic thinking is that at this age, I'd like to expose him to as much stuff as possible with out committing him to anything, and then see which one sparks his passion.

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Well the good thing is is that if there are any activities you think he may like, find a group that participates in them and ask if there is a "trial period". I was involved in swimming and when you move you have to find a team that fits your personality and style. There are usually offers where you can attend and participate in several practices for nothing or discounted prices.

 

you may want to check into that and see if there is anything he can try now and take it from there

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Music: My mother, a pianist, says that when a child knows his ABC's (can read them and recognize them) is when they are ready to begin any kind of music program. If they don't know them, it's harder for them in the beginning. She won't teach Thomas until he knows them.

 

Now that is out of the way, you can check into your local museums and art galleries to see if they have any kind of learning activity programs for young children. Generally these programs are either free or cheap and exposes the children to facets of the art, such as playing different instruments or listening to a small symphonic band or quartet, or doing some arts and crafts type things. The children get to experience painting, sculpting, and other forms of art that helps them learn if it's something they want to pursue. Around here there are summer things, such as free music in the park, or members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra will do special children's programs for Mother's Morning Out type things. Check into such programs to see what's offered.

 

You can also check into places like Michaels and Home Depot, who offer various craft type activities for children and their parents, often for a small fee. My brother took his son to one where they built a toolbox or a birdhouse (I can't recall which) at his local Home Depot.

 

Local parks might offer go-cart and motocross racing for young kids. If your child is interested in racing and cars, take him to a racetrack or Monster Truck Rally. He'll end up with fantastic memories regardless whether it's a lasting passion or not.

 

The best thing you can do, though, is share your hobbies and interests with him. My mom and dad finally took us ice skating one time (I was about five) and my brother and I begged for skating lessons. Who knew, then, that we would end up doing it competitively. I finally quit because, at around age 10, I decided I didn't want a full time job anymore. I moved to horseback riding, but quit that because mom had signed me up for Western when I would have preferred English, and the coach was pressuring me into competitive barrel racing, which I was not interested in at all.

 

I know you don't want to spend large sums in equipment when the child might be changing interests from year to year, but at least you got to experience all those different things. Sometimes kids do have to try things for a little bit in order to decide whether they like them or not.

 

Whatever you do, though, listen to your child. In the sixth grade our PE coach made EVERYONE try out for track during gym class, whether we wanted to or not. If we didn't try out, he would fail us. If we were put on the track team and didn't participate, he would fail us. I hated track. I hated running. I wanted NOTHING to do with it, but was forced to be on the team. I told the coach I didn't want to be in track, and my mom knew I hated running, but she didn't listen to me. I didn't want to fail gym class, so I relented because I felt I had no choice. I wasn't happy, didn't want to do it, and felt ignored. Finally, I rebelled. At the first meet, I walked the track so we would lose. I was quickly removed from the team. The coach threatened to fail me until I, with my mom standing there, told him that I had originally told him I didn't want to even try out for track. When my mother finally heard the whole story and realized the kids were being forced into the team, she let him have it.

 

My rebellion, I hope, taught that coach that you can't force children to do something they don't enjoy.

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As far as trains go you are living in a state rich with train lore. Take him up to ridge the Georgetown Loop RR that runs from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back. You can even add a mine tour to that one although at 4 I'm not sure he would be that interested in the mine.

 

Take him to the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden right across the highway from the Coors Brewery.

 

Pikes Peak Cog Railroad runs to the to of Pikes Peak (where did you think it ran)

 

Royal Gorge Railroad runs along the old mainline right along side the river at the bottom of the gorge, spectacular

 

Durango and Silverton RR down in Durango

 

Cumbres and Toltec RR runs from Chama NM up to Antonito CO (its a long one though)

 

You don't have to build a layout to have a interest in trains besides at his age I would recommend the Brio wooden trains anyway, they are a lot sturdier and can be passed down to his kids (I know thinking ahead but my son is 18 and his brio trains are packed safely away waiting for the inevitable).

 

Heck just run down to Caboose Hobbies one day and let him check it out.

 

I'm a huge train geek but I don't have a layout.

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Well, I'm one of the "older children", not a parent, but I'll try to weigh in here.

 

Piano is a very good introduction to music; so that even if he doesn't turn out liking piano, other instruments will be easier to take up.

 

There are many benefits to martial arts, but I would suggest waiting a few years. By my observation, the really young kids just don't get as much out of it--they don't have enough focus, among other problems.

 

As to the trains...I'm not sure if they still make them, but Lego had a large train line. A bit tougher than your typical layout, and much easier to modify on the whims of a child :upside:

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You can also check into places like Michaels and Home Depot, who offer various craft type activities for children and their parents, often for a small fee. My brother took his son to one where they built a toolbox or a birdhouse (I can't recall which) at his local Home Depot.

 

At least at my store we have Kids club every Saturday where there is a different craft every Saturday, for about $2 plus tax your child can sit for a half hour and do a craft. Then during the summer is Kids craft camp. Schedules and crafts available differ by store, call your local store and ask to speak with the "Classroom Event Coordinator." At my store we have a woman who runs a kids craft night once a week which entails a couple crafts, dinner (Usually pizza) and a Disney Movie or some other children's movies. She charges $10 I believe and that covers everything, the craft, the pizza and the movie and it's about a three hour class.

 

Something else you can do is sit down with him with a book full of artistic things and look through it with him and have him point out the things he's interested in and then do those things with him. He gets to do something cool and you get Father - son bonding time. It's a win-win situation.

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On the music end of things, you could also check out any dance studios nearby --my kids both love it. Our studio starts kids out around 3, but it varies from studio to studio. My son (5) was told that he had to do a month to see if he liked it(we're billed monthly), then make his decision. 2 years later and he's asking when dance starts for the fall. :rolleyes:

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Heisler - done most of the train things here that don't cost a lot of money - we've visited some of the various train sites, like Silverton, but haven't ridden the trains because of the cost. He's got both the Lego Duplo trains and a wooden train table I built for him last year. I guess when it came to trains, I was wondering if there were any thing else aimed specifically at kids like the Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine days they have at the Colorado Railroad Museum.

 

Enchantra - at what age can kids start participating in the stuff at your store? Around here, it seems that most of activities like that want them to be 6.

 

Thanks for the input everyone.

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When my kids were younger, I tried to get them involved with things they were interested in, and brought them along to things I did to give them exposure to many options. My soon went through the train phase as well, but I will warn it is probably a phase and soon it will be more Lego sets, video games, all kinds of things. As they have showed interest in trying things out, I've gotten involved with them and supported their exploration. In fact I wouldn't be gaming and painting for competition if it hadn't been for my son's interest. I have closer relationships with my kids because we have developed common interests. They have both turned out to be musicians, I was always a sports guy, but they love it and the passion they have for it is the important thing, and I support it however I can.

 

Try lots of different things, let them explore all thats out their and support the things they show a passion for, they will find them. When you find interests in common there is a lot of opportunities for spending time together.

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