Just because you secretly wanted to become a softball star doesn’t mean your kid harbors the same fantasy. Maybe you realized that when she threw tantrums instead of pitches at practice last week. So how can you figure out which fitness activity is the best fit for your child? Here are some pointers.
Telltale sign: Your kid is doing pirouettes in the living room. Many parents call Virginia Britton, director at The Alexandria Ballet studio, to report that their children are “spontaneously dancing.”
The curriculum: For younger students ages 3 to 9, the studio’s weekly ballet classes focus simply on “creative movement.” So kids who aren’t naturally coordinated don’t have to worry about going en pointe quite yet.
Lessons learned: Ballet is a foundation for any kind of dance that kids might want to pursue in the future, Britton says. “But I think the main thing is ballet includes a lot of self-discipline, and students are just expected to behave,” she adds.
Telltale sign: Your kid gets a kick out of trying something new. “We get all kinds of kids,” says Gaby Macias of Creative Martial Arts. “We get shy ones, very excited ones, the ones that say they don’t like martial arts and then really like it later.”
The curriculum: Classes emphasize self-defense, respect and discipline, and they don’t include sparring — or fighting other students — until an intermediate level.
Lessons learned: Students build quickness, power and mental toughness in the process. They also get accustomed to facing challenges, like when they’re tested to receive the next-highest belt. “We really want the kids to earn it,” Macias says.
Telltale sign: Your kid is bouncing off the walls (and you could use some balance).
The curriculum: Janice Williams, senior vice president of program development for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, says parents should understand “the tempo” of their children to match them with the right program. Some classes provide a social setting for perfecting cartwheels while others have a competitive bent for potential future Olympians.
Lessons learned: Tumbling classes teach tykes to overcome fears and achieve goals. Students of all levels increase their flexibility and strength through the training.
Telltale signs: Your kid is competitive and plays well with others.
The curriculum: Players hone skills like sprinting and dribbling before putting them together for scrimmages and games, says Ellis Pierre, director of coaching for Bethesda Soccer Club’s girls teams.
Lessons learned: Soccer requires teamwork and hard work — as well as cardiovascular fitness and strong leg muscles. The sport can also teach kids how to handle defeat. “When things are not going well, how are you going to respond to that? That’s some of the ingredients of a successful person,” Pierre says.