The right age?
What is the right age to start your kids on extra-curricular activities?
One of the funnier discussions I’m often a party to around other parents concerns the right time to start certain extra-curricular activities. These discussions somehow fall into the same category as the right time to start childcare, toilet training, solid foods… but end up sounding a little like a game where the first parent to laugh loses.
Here are some of my sophisticated* views on starting ages:
Ballet – should I start my child at 3 or 15?
This is usually a no-brainer. For a child who wants to begin ballet at 3, they will usually love the classes, love the costumes, love the caring teachers and love putting on performances for you at home. On a regular basis. For 28 minutes at a time. With no intermission. Unfortunately, even for 15 year-old starters with Baryshnikov-esque talent, putting on a solo Swan Lake effort in your living room doesn’t elicit the same, “Nawwwww! How sweet!”. Verdict: 3
Swimming – should I start my child at 2 or 10?
Also a no-brainer, especially in Australia where water safety is a must. However, parents be warned. If you start your child at 2, you will joining them in the pool during the lesson for obvious reasons. If you were once partial to “The wheels on the bus” song, you won’t be after swimming. Verdict: 2
Basketball – should I start my child at 6 or 12?
Not so straight-forward. It is really, really cute watching 10 kids running around in oversized singlets then passing the ball 20cm to their nearby teammates. On the other hand, what’s nice about 12 year-olds playing basketball is that with their added upper body strength, the final score is invariably not 0-0. Verdict: Jury’s out.
Code Camp – should I start my child at 4 or 14?
It depends. Can you wait until they’re 14 to program your Netflix settings and fix your iPhone? Are you content with your child going through primary school without any billion-dollar-Facebook-killing app to their name? If so, the answer’s clear. Verdict: Neither. In-utero is preferable.
In summary, unless the activity itself has specific guidelines, feel free to do as you see fit. If that means standing and holding a cello for 45 minutes once a week while your prodigious toddler, bow in hand, alternates between the strings and your kneecaps, then go for it, I say.
Do you have any firm beliefs on when kids should start or shouldn’t start certain activities?
*Not even slightly.