What age should you start looking for activities for kids?
This really depends on the activity you are looking for. There are wonderful activities for little babies like Jimberoo and Kindermusik where the babies are hardly even crawling, yet they benefit greatly from the exercises and development provided. Swimming classes start from 6 months old and children develop early water skills that give them a great start in learning to swim. At Brent Street we have 3 year olds who take their first 45 minute class that combines stretch, jazz and basic ballet steps with storytelling and mime. Keep in mind that for many activities it is best to send your child once they are toilet trained as dealing with little accidents is not the role of the dance teacher.
What benefits do kids get from extra-curricular activities?
There are many benefits both socially and physically that assists children throughout their lives. A young child involved with other students will develop social skills that provide assistance for them getting ready for school as they learn to interact with other children and begin to follow basic instructions.
Many activities that involve some type of discipline are ideal as this can set them up for life where they are required to learn the ‘rules’ and follow ‘instruction’. Activities such as ballet, gymnastics, physical culture and karate involve discipline and many students later in life are grateful for the lessons learned at an early age.
Children benefit greatly from team activities as they learn about sharing, trusting, and supporting each other through competition.
Any form of physical exercise is wonderful for children and they don’t even put the exercise ‘label’ on it. They are just having fun and the fact that it is good for their bodies is a bonus. A child involved in regular physical activity will most often take that habit into adulthood and therefore continue to look after their physical wellbeing.
Self esteem is boosted through mastering new things and children are particularly encouraged by achievement. A child who is not a brilliant scholar may be a wonderful dancer or actor and their sense of self worth is highlighted when they are performing on stage.
How do you manage too many activities?
Get a big diary! The key is to look for a balance in all things for your children. Just like you aim for a balanced diet, you should also aim for a balance in activities. Too often we see young children burning out as they have too many demands on their time. There should be at least one or two free afternoons a week where there are no extra-curricular commitments so the child doesn’t feel they are always on the go. It is tough for parents too, rushing from place to place so plan your activities as a family and agree on what is achievable and then agree on the things that probably won’t work for all.
How can you prevent being a 'stage mum'
Don’t start sentences with “now, I am not a stage mum”!
There is a big difference between a stage mum (or dad) and a parent who just wants the best for their child. The latter understands that everyone in the dance or drama class needs to be seen or heard, the stage mum insists on their child performing the most lines in the play or being in the front row in every dance. The person, who suffers the most if they have a stage mum, is the child. Recently a very talented child missed out on a role in a popular musical because the Producer did not want to have anything to do with the child’s mother. This is the thing that the stage mum doesn’t understand - you are NOT helping your child by pestering the teacher, calling the agent every day or (heaven help you) following the producer around at the audition reminding them how good your child is! Give it a break. Let your child (through their talent) get the role, be picked in the front row or deliver the lines without the added pressure.
How do you know what will interest your child?
Mostly they will tell you. They might have seen something on TV (every kids who dances in the lounge room to the Wiggles wants to try hip hop!), on YouTube or have seen other kids doing something and they might want to try it. Remember the famous scene in the movie Billy Elliot where Billy watched his sister’s ballet class then wanted to try and he was a natural.
They may be influenced by others, everyone is ‘into’ hip hop, or breakdancing, or they want to be on Dance Academy. If they don’t tell you it may be they are worried that you will say no (remember Billy Elliot - boys don’t do ballet!) or they may think that they will have to be good at it before you will let them try.
They key is let them try lots of options if they are unsure of what they want to do and book them into trial classes first off. At Brent Street we offer a free trial class for all new students and if they enjoy the first class that’s a good indicator of what they might get out of it.
What type of activities will suit different types of kids (ie. a shy kid might benefit from ... etc)
Drama classes are wonderful for developing confidence. If your child has difficulty expressing themselves it may be that they have never been heard, or they don’t know how to make themselves heard. In a drama class every child is heard. They are encouraged to speak, to get involved, to project their voice, to yell, to scream to tap into fantasy worlds and for many it is the only time they feel safe to ‘let go’.
Singing classes are of great benefit to all children. To learn and know they have a voice at an early age and to experiment with their own inbuilt instrument is a gift. Many people never sing as they fear they can’t sing in tune and miss out of the joy of music throughout their life. Your child may never be an opera singer but to learn to sing in tune is a gift every child should have.
Very talented children will benefit from private lessons where they can work on developing their strengths. Often one on one time with the teacher will assist a nervous child who cannot perform in a group so often a few private lessons can help build the confidence.
What costs are normally involved?
It is not just the cost of the classes you need to consider. Remember most activities have added costs and many parents don’t allow for the additional expenses that come with having a child who wants to sing, act and dance! So here are just a few things to consider that will affect the budget.
Dancing also involves; dance shoes, clothes (leotard for ballet, tights, hair net etc), costumes and entry fees (if your child wants to compete in eisteddfods), examination fees (if your child does ballet or tap exams) tickets for the family to watch the end of year concerts and eisteddfods, costs of photos and concert DVD’s, travel costs if your child is chosen to compete interstate or internationally.
Drama costs - scripts, books, costumes, concert tickets etc, travel costs if your child is chosen to compete interstate or internationally.
Singing - backing tracks, sheet music, pianist to accompany for competitions, stage appropriate clothing, shoes and accessories, travel costs if your child is chosen to compete interstate or internationally.
This article was written by Suzy Yates, General manager of Brent Street. Brent Street offer a number of different courses, from the Petite Performers Program, which is a fun entry into dance for kids aged 3-6 years, right through to the certificate IV in performing arts, for students looking to make performing their career.