Beginning solo classes and activities 

Some children are born fiercely independent, taking their first steps without ever looking back, whereas others need to hold their parents’ hands for a bit longer. If Baby is on the more timid end of the spectrum, you may find yourself wondering when she will be ready to face school and group classes on her own. The key is not to look just at her age, but instead to look at her ability to adjust to situations when you’re not there with her.

A number of factors play into a child’s readiness to begin activities ON her own. You may find that Baby can do some tasks at home – like using the potty, or putting on her shoes, for example – but can’t when she is being cared for by someone else. Since separation anxiety is common in toddlers, Baby may be too focused on the fact that you’re not with her to act in a way that shows her full potential. In cases like this, she may not be ready to be in a group setting without you just yet.  

Here are some common concerns parents have about their children beginning classes on their own, and simple solutions to help get them ready for the transition.

The problem:

My child doesn’t play well on her own.  

The fix:

For Baby, entering a group setting without her favorite playmate (you!) can feel intimidating. However, it’ll go much more smoothly if she has the chance to get used to playing on her own first. You can work on this at home by encouraging a brief period of “quiet time” every day that gives her some time to play without you by her side. From there, you can gradually build up the amount of independent playtime Baby has every day, so that she can begin to adjust to entertaining themselves for a growing period of time.

The problem:

My child isn’t physically ready.

The fix:

If Baby seems behind her peers in the self-care department, don’t fret. Some children just catch on more quickly to concepts like washing their own hands, dressing themselves, and, yes, potty training. For children who are disinterested in those areas, your best bet is to be consistent at home with a routine. Be verbal in your approach so she will be able to connect words with actions, even in unfamiliar settings. Once she sees and hears what is expected, she will likely be more inclined to follow directions. And a little praise goes a long way!

The problem:

My child doesn’t deal with transitions well.

The fix:

Since group classes often shift from one activity to the next, getting Baby used to transitions ahead of time can really help her out in a class setting. You can practice by explaining to her that she has a set amount of time to play, then it’s time to transition to another activity, like eating or taking a bath. It’s common for this to be met with resistance, but she will begin to understand the concept quickly.

The problem:

My child doesn’t play well with others.

The fix:

This one might not be as much of a problem as you think. For toddlers, the idea of having to share toys is absurd, and biting is a perfectly reasonable way to exert their authority. You can work on this by repeatedly explaining – even if you sound like a broken record – proper behavior and expectations. But this kind of behavior isn’t unexpected in a toddler. Unless Baby seems particularly aggressive, chances are the issues at hand are age-appropriate and will become better in time.

The bottom line:

Change can be overwhelming for toddlers, so the best approach in encouraging independence is generally a gradual one. You can start putting this gradual change into action with just one class per week, for example, before adding anything else to Baby’s activity schedule. If she is starting preschool, you can often talk to the staff about dropping Baby off for just an hour or two on the first few days, until she starts to get better acclimated. While tears may fall those first few of days, soon she might actually start to enjoy her newfound independence – and you may soon be wiping her tears because class is over and playtime has come to an end!
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