Craft classes, kindergym, playgroups and baby yoga. So much choice! How do you choose? Why not DO THEM ALL? It's good for your baby to be stimulated, to be enriched and learn stuff while their little minds are open to it all, right?
Wrong. Like most of the experts, I believe that overscheduling is not an enrichment of the child's life. In fact, it's actively bad for them. Lylah, at The 36-Hour Day, was musing about this recently; I think that when we're talking about toddlers, extra-curriculars are unnecessary. They're not wrong, but they're certainly not essential.
What, after all, do all those classes and activities provide?
Social skills? They learn those in daycare, with siblings, with neighbors. If you have an only child who doesn't attend daycare or preschool, a weekly playdate with a neighbour is all it takes. (And I don't mean a closely supervised, activity-packed, parent-directed social hour. Have a friendly coffee with the other child's parent, throw some toys in the kids' general direction, and let them get on with it.)
Cognitive skills? If the child helps out in the kitchen, follows Dad around the workshop, gets a couple of stories before bedtime -- that's math, language, and pre-reading.
Physical skills? Enrolling your 3-year-old in a local weekly soccer game is fun, but the exact same skills could be learned in an informal kickball game with a parent and maybe a neighbor child before dinner -- with no overt teaching, just playing for the fun of it.
Creative outlet? Yes, there are some darling art classes for toddlers, and it's so cute to see the kids all bent over their hunks of clay, but give a child access to paper, glitter, glue and playdough, and they can learn/experience all that at home. No problem.
So, why sign a child up for an activity? When you're the parent of a baby and/or toddler, the extra-curriculars are for YOU -- for your own social needs, to find your support group, to enjoy the sight of your child playing in a new environment, to get a break while someone else amuses them for an hour. There's nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, parent-nurturing is an excellent reason to sign a child up.
If you want to enroll your child in something, go right ahead. Make sure they enjoy it, keep it to one or two activities a week, and have fun! But if that's just not your style, you can relax in the awareness that the only compelling reason to do it is for you. If you don't want to, you don't have to -- and your child will be just fine!