The new school year is just around the corner, but what if your child isn't going to school yet? What if they're still too young for school? Or they're not ready yet for school? Or what if they are going to preschool this year but have days free during the week?
As a modern parent/carer, you want to give your toddler or preschooler every possible opportunity to learn, develop, have fun, be happy and grow. Fortunately here in Canberra, there are plenty of opportunities for our children to do and be all these things and more.
Canberra is a wonderfully child-friendly city, with plenty of weekly and regular classes, programs, and activities for your toddler/preschooler. Here are fourteen ways you can keep your little ones busy this year!
1. Swim schools. We live in a country that spends a lot of its time in the water, even for those of us who live in landlocked Canberra. Swimming is a quintessential skill for all Australian children. There are a number of swimming schools for children across Canberra that offer excellent learn-to-swim programs run by qualified, nationally accredited swim instructors in safe, supportive learning environments. Go here to find a swim school near you.
2. Giggle & Wiggle and Story Time sessions at ACT Libraries.Giggle & Wiggle is a hugely popular and fun language development program for babies and toddlers, 0-2 years of age, while Story Time is perfect for kids aged 3-5. Both programs are free and held weekly during term time in various library locations across Canberra.
3. Playgroups. A playgroup is an informal session where parents, carers, babies and children aged birth to school age come together in a relaxed and friendly environment. A playgroup is a wonderful space for your child to have fun, meet new friends and learn new skills through informal play. It's also a great chance for you to meet other parents and carers. Playgroups usually meet weekly and are held at various venues such as church halls, schools, and community and neighbourhood centres. There are dozens of playgroups all over Canberra, including special interest playgroups such as language playgroups, intergenerational playgroups (which usually meet inside an aged care facility), and grandparents' playgroups. There are also the larger Paint N Play groups which mostly meet outdoors and are open to the wider community. For more information on Playgroups, visit the ACT Playgroups Association website here.
4. Gymnastics schools. Gymnastics is a great way for kids to get active and fit. Gymnastics develops the skills of fundamental movement, confidence and competence, and it provides the foundation for future sporting success and lifelong, active and healthy participation in physical activity. There are several gymnastics clubs across Canberra with nationally accredited gymnastics programs and qualified coaches. Read my article here to find out more.
5. Ready, Steady, Go Kids. Ready, Steady, Go Kids is a multi-sport program for children aged 1.5 to 6 years. The program teaches children the fundamentals of 10 different sports and develops essential motor skills in a fun, non-competitive environment. Sports include hockey, golf, AFL, cricket and athletics. For further details, go here.
6. Dance classes. Blueberries dance is designed for children aged 21 months to 4 years of age and gives your child a fun, engaging and all-rounded dance foundation through its unique blend of modern dance tuition with music and drama. Three styles of dance are taught: Jazz, Ballet & Funk, and yoga-lates (a combination of yoga and pilates especially designed for children). Another excellent dance program for young children is run by Lucy Sparkles. Lucy Sparkles offers dance, music and drama classes and workshops for young children across Canberra.
7. Music classes. Studies have shown that children who learn music from an early age are better at learning and retaining new words, have better reading ability and have better concentration and problem-solving skills. Bellchambers Music School in Phillip and Music for Canberra in Braddon offer excellent early childhood music programs.
8. Questacon Science Time. Science Time is a fun and interactive learning experience for little scientists aged 3 - 5 years old and their carers. Science Time lets children participate in hands-on science activities that include experimenting and discovering. Topics for investigation have included robots, flight, insects and spiders, and music and sound. Sessions are held every fortnight during term time. Go here to find out more.
Mini-Minties is a special program designed for children 4-6 years and their carers. It introduces children to the wonders of the Mint and includes a craft activity and complimentary tea/coffee for parents! Mini-Minties meets monthly. For more information on the next Mini-Minties session, go here.
10. Mums and Cubs at the National Zoo & Aquarium. These fun-filled 45 minute sessions include story time, activities and friendly animal encounters. Suitable for Children aged 3 to 4 years. Held at 10am and 11am on selected days each month. For further details, go here.
The Montessori method of education was developed by Maria Montessori. Her child-centred educational approach has been used for over 100 years. The Canberra Montessori School offers a parent-toddler program that will introduce you and your child to the Montessori philosophy of education in action.
14. Storytime at the National Botanic Gardens.
Every first Friday of the month, the Australian National Botanic Gardens holds storytime for preschoolers. Come along and hear some wonderful stories brought to life by the ACT Storytellers, meet new friends, and enjoy the beautiful gardens.