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Dear Toddler Mom, Think Twice About All Those Activities

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Toddler Mom,

You're probably pooped from picking up food off the floor, emotionally drained from getting yelled at about using the wrong sippy cup and hell-bent on making sure you're not shortchanging your precious tot by not taking advantage of all these incredible, brain-building resources and activities screaming "enroll now!" in your neighborhood. I've been there.

"Yes! Enroll us now!" you happily cry as you click on the online coupon code, almost weeping at the thought of soon having 45 minutes to yourself every Wednesday at 10:30 for the next six weeks while your 3-year-old pounds mini-pizza dough in his new toddler cooking class.

Feeling surprisingly refreshed and more human after enjoying "me time" during toddler's first class, you then notice a bright green flyer for "Get One Month Free!" if you enroll your your child in toddler tumbling on Mondays at the gym just down the street. "More relief!" you think. You click "Enroll" on your phone right then and there.

It all seems so lifesaving. A stream of endless quality activities.

But be warned: What starts as innocent classes for toddlers soon becomes a ridiculous racket and over-scheduled black hole that'll have you calendar-ing and running and driving and carpooling from here to there to everywhere by the time your kid turns 6. You will then question why you soon feel more exhausted than before that first cooking class.

Double the fun, double the schedule coordinating, double the driving, double the paying. And what if you have another child, too?!

As I write this, I am momming two daughters, ages 6 and 7. They each take a dance class and a gymnastics class. We are on the cusp of starting piano lessons for the 7-year-old. And then there's the question of getting into some kind of sport so they don't end up being afraid of a volleyball like I was in high school. Normal, right?

Except kids activities quickly spin out of control once your child proves to be potentially good at something.

Your daughter is a great dancer! You should get her into the accelerated program to keep her dancing three days a week so she doesn't fall behind.

At 6?!

So, beware, toddler mom, because I can't take it anymore.

And don't get me started about today's trend for year-round sports initiatives to keep kids competitive before they hit the ripe old age of 8. Yeah, moms, there's no more soccer/baseball/softball/basketball "seasons"—it's year-round, baby. You know, so they don't fall behind.

So, beware, toddler mom, because I can't take it anymore. If someone had just warned me like I'm warning you, things might've turned out differently.

Sure, it's tempting, but it's so not necessary. When pediatricians and child development experts constantly remind us about the dangers of pushing our kids into too much too soon, it makes me crazy to see how many of us parents are still falling into this trap of "If I don't get my kids into the accelerated classes at age 5, they'll never catch up!"

Stop. Breathe. Think. Just say NO. Not yet.

I'm all for challenging our kids to pursue and succeed, but at an appropriate age. A toddler doesn't need to be enrolled in class after class when they can play and learn how to be creative on their own at home and a 6-year -old doesn't need to be wrapping up the final inning on the field at 7:30 p.m. when she should be winding down for bed.

Listen to our teachers, who lament how so many of our kids are incapable of concentrating in school because they've never had any downtime or are just plain exhausted.

Listen to us parents with bigger kids, who whine about not having enough quality family time because we're constantly carting children around.

Take control before it's too late! Don't fall into the toddler activity trap! Age 4 is not 10. Age 6 is not 12. Age 8 is not 14. Time flies fast enough.


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