Activities for a 4yo - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 01-20-2012, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
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DS has always been a very social kid. Even as a baby, we HAD to get out in the mornings EVERY DAY or he would be completely miserable. I had pictured domestic bliss, hanging out with my baby every day, staying in PJs til noon and just bonding with him at home. But nope. We had to be out of the house by 9 or he'd start melting down. So I adapted.


As soon as he was old enough, I started him in a toddler gymnastics class once a week. He LOVED it, and it gave him the activity and stimulation he needed to wear him out so he could nap in the afternoon. He's been doing that for 2 years so far, and has progressed really well. Now he is in a "real" class with only a few other kids (all boys) and it's a 90 minute class. The coach moved him up b/c he wasn't nearly challenged enough in her preschooler class. He liked it at first, but now after 6 months is saying he wants to quit. He seems to like it while he's there, but always says he doesn't want to go. Last session, I sat him down and said, "It's time to sign up for gymnastics again. You keep saying you don't want to go. If you don't want to go, we'll stop. If you do want to go, we need to pay now." He said he wanted to keep going, so we signed him up. Now he's complaining that he doesn't want to go.


He did the same thing with soccer class. It's not a team, just a skills class for 3-5 year olds. He liked it at first, then decided he didn't want to do it anymore, so we stopped. He complained about going, but then had a blast while there. But since the complaining continued, I let him stop.


He goes to preschool three mornings per week. Then he was doing soccer one morning and gymnastics one morning. Now he wants to cut everything but school.


I am definitely NOT one to push my child into being overscheduled. It seems that his activity "needs" are changing and we'd be better off just doing museums and playdates on his days off. But DH wants him to continue in at least a sport, and I kind of agree. The kid is very athletic, and very energetic, but is moving quickly towards being satisfied with TV and video games. (We don't do a lot of screen time at our house, but he has educational games on the computer that he can play and he loves to watch PBS videos on trains.) I really want to keep him active and not let him become the couch potato I was raised to be. But I also don't want to force him into activities he doesn't like.


Is it fair to tell a 4 yo he HAS to do a sport, and just let him choose? (And of course we can vary it -- we're not married to one for life, but some of the programs have annual memberships you have to pay in addition to the class fees, so it's wasteful if we don't stay for the whole year.) Do we let him take time off and wait til next year? And hope he doesn't start liking being at home all the time in the process?

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#2 of 6 Old 01-20-2012, 01:58 PM
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My son is also 4 (and 3/4!) also has 3 mornings of preschool and is also very social and active. He's done swimming lessons, an after school bike club and a couple of skiing lessons. Sometimes he is reluctant to go too and I don't always know why. I usually push him to go anyway because I know he'll be fine once he gets there but it can be a struggle. Honestly, I feel like less is more at this age. I try to never do more than one activity at a time and have it all low key. Ad hoc activities usually work best as you can tailor it and easily change your mind about going. We go to a drop in 'toddler gym' about once a week and also regularly go to the library, visit the train table at the mall, have playdates, go to the local farm, etc. He loves riding his bike so we do a lot of that too. 


My advise would be to make the 2 free mornings looser but still active. You could take him swimming, for a walk/ bike ride, go to the library or a drop in activity. Here we have those ball pit type places where kids can run off steam. You might like to check out 'Simplicity Parenting' by Kim John Payne. I actually haven't read it but I've been to a lot of his talks and workshops so I have the general gist. It might make your DH feel better about holding off on organized sports for a year or two. 


Slightly OT, DS also is very easily drawn into screen time. I think because his body and brain don't really relax on their own he finds the 'numbing' effect very soothing. Unfortunately, screen time is terrible for his behaviour so we limit it to a movie once a week. I wish he was a bit more able to self regulate TV because it's the only time I can relax and potter around the house (when he's awake) but it's just not on the cards right now. 

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#3 of 6 Old 01-20-2012, 11:06 PM
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I would probably let it go for a while. I’ve learned that sometimes they just had enough, they need to rest and do nothing. The thought in my head when I face similar situation sounds like “what if....” and a lot of fears are coming up (I don’t want him to be a potato couch). In my experience, we need to keep suggesting different types of activities, but do not force them, especially not at 4. I agree with you that there is no point of pushing him at that point. When he’s 8 it’s a different story, but as for now try to direct him toward other activities (board games, books etc), and just enjoy your time together :-)







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#4 of 6 Old 01-21-2012, 01:05 PM
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I'd let it go as well. Sometimes a break rekindles an interest in a sport, or perhaps not, but if he feels forced to continue he would really start disliking. You don't need an activity to keep him active but I understand that it does make it easier. Maybe try something new, swimming, t-ball season is coming up in the spring. Maybe he hasn't found something that he really loves or maybe he is just being a 4 year old. 


I have a 5 year old complainer. She took tap last year, loved it, did it this fall again and she complained every class so we just dropped it. We might try again next year if she wants to. She loved it while she was there but in the car every time time going it was whine, whine, whine. She doesn't whine for her gymnastics class so even though she loved dance last year, she isn't feeling it this year. 

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#5 of 6 Old 01-22-2012, 04:39 AM
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If he likes it while he's there, keep him in gymnastics.


Gymnastcs is not really a "sport" at that age and you're not forcing him to compete (in fact he can't compete until the fall he's 6 on Sept. 1). 


It's full body and mind conditioning.  If he seems to enjoy it, the fact that he has a hard time *transitioning* to getting there, is just part of the territory of being 4.


When my son was 4, he asked to go back to gymnastics.  He's talented.  So he would be having a blast in there, but then one minute out of 90, some disappointing thing would happen.  He'd stub his toe, he'd see a birthday party going on in the gym for some girl he didn't know, etc.  And so from 89 minutes of smiles, the story I'd get is that "I don't like gymnastics and I don't want to go back because I didn't get a piece of birthday cake."  This is where parental guidance is in order ... they don't have perspective.  They don't realize, like an adult would, "Hey.  I didn't feel like getting off the couch, but once I got to the gym, I felt great.  So I will get off the couch."



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#6 of 6 Old 01-22-2012, 10:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for that. Nothing he does is an "organized" sport in that there's no team, no competition, no major events to work up to. They're just classes. He complained about soccer, saying it made him tired. Um, yeah. You're SUPPOSED to be tired after running around outside for an hour. And the class isn't all running around -- there's plenty of turn-waiting and coach-talking going on, so it's not exactly a rigorous cardio class or anything. And the same for gymnastics. It's just strengthening and skills.


He's very small for his age (he's 4, but wears mostly 2T clothes) and I want him to be strong and confident in his body. I don't ever want him to feel his size means he can't keep up with his peers, so that's why I hate the thought of him becoming more couch-potatoey. I don't care about him making a team or competing, ever. I just want him to have fun being active. But I definitely don't want to force him into activities he doesn't like. It's just hard for me to tell what's 4 yo stuff and what's him being truly unhappy. I've tried to talk to him about what exactly he doesn't like, and he can't answer that. I've even asked if he'd prefer to go back to the other gymnastics class where it's not as long or as strenuous, but he can't answer that. I'm having real trouble getting him to open up, or at least helping him to express himself.

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