Organized Group Play
I'll preface this by saying that my middle, who is 3.5, has never been in an organized group activity with children his age. He's never been in a daycare setting, either. He's starting his first year of preschool in the Fall (he'll go for 2 years), and he's a very high-energy tyke, so DH and I thought it would be great to enroll him in gymnastics to get him used to learning in a group.
I'm starting to wonder if it was a mistake.
The gymnastics class is organized very well and he absolutely loves it. There are appx 5-6 coaches, with 1 coach per 5 children in a group. They rotate through several different obstacle courses, spending about 10 minutes at each course. It goes fairly quickly, so they're not sitting still for long periods of time. My child seems to be the only one that has a hard time waiting his turn, following instruction, and not running off and jumping into the marshmallow pit, or just running off like a maniac in general. The poor coaches spend more time retrieving him than they do coaching, and finally they just give up and let him do his own thing. Typically, the director will come in and hold his hand and sit with him the entire time and walk him through everything, but she wasn't there last week and it ended in disaster. I ended up having to leave with him 15 minutes early because after I had to hurdle over parents to stop him from running out of the lobby and into the parking lot, he then decided to push the backroll wedge into the marshmallow pit before jumping into it himself...while other children were in the pit. I was afraid that he was going to hurt someone.
He was very, very upset, throwing a tantrum the entire way out saying he wanted to go back in and play gymnastics, but he was being a huge distraction to the other kids at this point and like I said, a danger. I told him that we would try again next week.
Anyway, I'm interested in suggestions. I've already paid for the 8 week session, so I'd like to continue. Should I not be so concerned about him doing his own thing (provided that he not be so much of a danger to the other kids, obviously) since he's having fun? Should I write the director and ask what she suggests? It's so difficult watching him through the glass window running amok while the other kids are being so obedient.
ETA: Right now he’s very interesting in a group setting. He kind of acts like he doesn’t know how to act. He’ll start showing off and acting like a goof. I know I have an older child, but they are totally different.
...and I've tried three times to change "orangized" to organized, but it's not working, so sorry about that!
Last edited by sparks3; 03-11-2013 at 12:51 PM.
My son did soccer for 3-4 year olds, and there were often children doing their own thing. the coaches were very flexible. They allowed parents to come and help, if needed. They allowed the child to join in when ready. So, I don't think that running around and having fun, doing his own thing is that atypical for a 3.5 year old energetic little boy.
That being said, I would have a talk with the director to see what her expectations and suggestions are.
I know you already paid, but have you looked into other less structured group activities? Maybe one where there is more free play and even less children. I know there are only 5 kids per group, but that is 25-30 kids in all, and I really find that no matter the adult to child ratio, when you have a lot of kids, that can be really a lot for some children. Perhaps this class is not a fit for your child?
It sounds to me as though he really doesn't know how to act in a group setting, so I think it would be best to stick with it and give him a chance to learn. Although, if I felt he was a danger to the other kids I might find a different group activity.
Have you ever taken him to story time at the library? Or some other activities in the community where he can learn to listen and wait?
I do think gymnastics is good because he can get his energy out, although maybe he's so excited he's a little overwhelmed.
(Oh, and I fixed the thread title for you!)
Last edited by Gwenn; 03-11-2013 at 07:12 PM.
Me (39) DH (46) & furbabies * m/c 7/08 4/12 11/12
Story hour at the library is a good idea. It also is a mommy and me activity, so that you could teach him how to behave in a group setting. Plus, it's free, so you don't feel bad having to leave as necessary!
I'd continue with the classes. The whole point is to get him acclimated to the class setting (where he's not the sole focus of the leader's attention - and where he has to focus on the teacher). He's learning that by being there and being corrected. And you say that he is having a good time, but for the discipline. That's part of the learning, too.
If the instructor needs you in the class, he/she would probably ask. Or you can ask after the class what you can do to reinforce their instruction during the time in between the sessions.
Thanks for the input, ladies! We'll see how things go this week. It's reassuring to read that other children often do their own thing at this age since he was really the only child there that seemed to have an issue. That marshmallow pit was just calling his name!
The coaches seemed to be fairly laid-back about it, and the week before last the director even made the comment, "Levi, you really need this class, buddy!", commenting on his high energy level. So, I think the fact that he was having a difficult time staying with his group bothered me more than it did the coaches/director mostly for the fact that I didn't want anyone (or him) to get hurt.
Hopefully the director will be there on Saturday so I can talk with her quickly after class and see what she thinks about what we can do to help Levi. Part of my problem, too, is that I am unsure of when it is appropriate for me to help retrieve him or just let him be. Obviously, when he runs out into the lobby, that's my territory, but I need to know from then when/if they need my help. She's really great, though, so I'm sure she'll let me know.
I love the story hour at the library idea! I will look into that at our local library. He absolutely loves storytime at home, so I know he'll love that, too.
Thanks, Gwenn, for fixing the title.
It sounds like you might be overthinking it. I don't blame you as I do the same. I would let him be until the end of the paid period and evaluate then if I want to take a break or go for another session. I second the story time at the library as an additional source of organized setting. You can also look if your city has some activities (ours has a ton) and ask around for other organized free activities (local boards or moms groups). In our area, I had almost every day filled with some free organized semi-structured activity for my kids. Now, I send them to preschool but I could still do the same if I wanted to. IME, mommy and me story time and such are the best precursor to gymnastics/preschool etc.
KEVIN (6) & MATTHEW (4)
My DS has been in organized group settings constantly since he was 15 months old. We've done weekly library storytime, monthly nature classes at the park, and we did a weekly music class for a year when he was 2. And even thought he's been exposed to group activities like that without fail....he still can't listen, stay on track, follow with the group. Totally a personality thing. (ETA, he is turning 4 in April.)
Also this past fall we enrolled him in a 3 year old gymnastics class with 9 students to 2 teachers. He was constantly hiding under equipment, not following the course when the teachers weren't directly one on one with him. So were a few of the other children for that matter.
We quit (we participated the entire 4 weeks we had already paid in advance however.)
We moved him to a parent participation gymnastics class for 3 year olds and it is going SO much better. He still gets distracted. He still stares at himself in the mirror and makes faces, runs to the wrong equipment, etc. But since the parents are with their children, I am able to easily redirect him.
Since you paid further ahead, that might not be an option for you to change activities, but I would probably stick out it, providing he wasn't endangering himself or others. Just being in the class won't teach him to be more focused, but the experience can't hurt.
Thank you, ladies. I do think that I was probably overthinking it...I always tend to. Capricity, thank you so much for sharing! You're right, the experience won't hurt. And at least he is getting a LOT of energy burned out of it. It sounds like it is just more of a personality thing, which eases my mind a bit, too, because I was beginning to wonder if he was the only 3 year old in the world that acted this way!!
I have 3 in gymnastics (2, 3, and 5). What you are seeing is not unusual for kids in that age group who are not used to structured group activities. I'm glad your coaches are willing to work with him, but they are there to reinforce the rules and teach gymnastics. Even with only 5 kids per group they don't have time to teach him basic behavior like don't go in the parking lot alone. Pulling him out would NOT be my first recommendation though. I would first look at what you are expecting of him other times. If you give him instructions does he expect you to help him complete them? If you don't "hold his hand" is he able to complete simple instructions (ie, stay here, find your coat, go to the living room, etc) on his own/with limited supervision or does he just do whatever he wants as soon as you're not looking? Does he have some concept of what expectations are and what your general expectations of him are? Does he know what he's supposed to be doing in the class and that doing his own thing is distracting and potentially dangerous? Being in the class is a great way to reinforce the concept of organized group behavior but those concepts need to come from you first. Like all developmental skills some kids can just "pick it up" but other kids need more specific instructions about interacting in a group. What it really comes down to is him becoming more responsible for his own actions and choices because there's less one on one time. That's something you can work on all week that will help immensely. As for what to do when he's in class, ask whoever is in charge if they want you in there to help guide him or if they want to assign someone to him till he starts improving - and he will improve with time and guidance.
My other suggestion is in reference to his abundance of energy. Does he get time to run and play hard most days? Does he do anything before going to class? It's hard for anyone to focus of they have too much energy. My 2 year old struggled with this her first couple of classes even though she's outside running pretty much every day. The class is at 10 am so she doesn't get much of that before we go. I started going a few minutes early and letting her run a few laps around the spring floor first and she's now top of her class - in fact her teachers want to move her to the 3 year old class next month (9 months early) because of her advanced skills and ability to follow instruction. She's always been my wild child. Of all the kids I never would have expected to hear that about her (the older kids have always been more calm so I wasn't surprised when they moved up early) but I was one proud momma last week when they told me about Kimber. Not that I wasn't proud of Keira and Gabe but it was a huge accomplishment for her because of how far she had come and how fast she did it.
I just reread that and it sounds super heartless and a little like I'm saying you're a bad parent which TOTALLY wasn't my intention. Since I can't edit on my phone let me clarify. There's nothing wrong with you or your DS. When I said it came down to him being more responsible that was about life in general. The gymnastics class is to help him get ready for preschool- work out the kinks now so to speak. This is a big thing that a lot of kids and patents deal with at this age. It's not a personal failure it's just personality. It's just a matter of finding what works to get you from where you are to where you want to be so evaluating where you stand is essential to moving forward. I completely agree that siblings can be night and day different which was the point of the story about Kimber. What I did with the other kids clearly wasn't working from the beginning so I helped her make a change and she blossomed. Sometimes it's the little things. Don't give up because the break through moment might be just around the corner for him.