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Childcare and School: Finding a recreation program that suits my child

Organized activities can be a fun, safe way for young children to develop skills and self-esteem and to make new friends. One of the first signs that children are ready for organized activities is that, on their own, they show an interest in them. This usually happens around age five or six. But interest alone is not enough. Before children are really ready to join an organized recreation program, they also have to show that they can understand the rules of the activity.

Try to avoid choosing activities for your child. Instead, try to expose him to several activities, even doing some together, and then see which one he enjoys most.

When selecting a program, be sure to meet the instructor and make sure that the environment is safe. Before your child joins, try to watch some practices and games - and keep doing so even after she has joined the team, to be sure that her ability matches the expectations of the activity.

Tell the instructor if your child has any special needs, such as an allergy. And talk to the instructor regularly to see how your child is progressing. Also ask your child how he is enjoying the program.

Avoid putting pressure on your child to play to win. Instead of asking, "Did you win?" ask, "Did you have fun?" or "Did you learn anything new today?" It may help your child learn to bounce back after disappointments if you let her know that you're proud of how she and her teammates played, even if they didn't win that game.

Your child may need a chance to try a few different activities before finding the one that he really likes. Be patient during this process.

If your child is not having fun, speak to her and the instructor to identify the problem. If the problem can't be changed, try a different activity. On that note, it's a good idea to have your child try several activities in the early years, instead of specializing too soon. And don't place your child in so many activities at once that she begins to feel stressed, or has no time left to relax or play by herself.

Don't compare your child's skill level to that of other kids. Keep in mind that children develop at different rates. And if your child wants to stop an activity, don't force him to continue after he has given it a reasonable try. After all, it's supposed to be fun.

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