When my first child turned 2, I remember feeling very behind the curve. Besides a single session of baby swim class (which was a tremendous failure — for me, at least), I hadn't signed her up for a single activity. No mommy-and-me music lessons, no infant gymnastics, no tiny sign language classes. I was obviously failing her and her future college admissions applications, and I knew I needed to do something about it. Then I got pregnant with her baby brother, was physically drained for nine months, and felt too miserable to care that she wasn't learning a second language as a toddler.
Now that my daughter is 7 and her brother is 4, my views have changed drastically on the necessity of signing up your kids for classes long before they've even spoken a sentence that anyone besides you can understand. In fact, I think it's a total waste, not only of money, but of valuable time that you could just be enjoying your child and not stressing about how they don't seem to be a swimming prodigy at 18 months old.
Absolutely nothing will happen if you decide to wait until your child is developed enough physically and mentally to actually understand and process what they're doing.
Maybe you actually enjoy driving your small child to endless activities and waiting for them on the sidelines or hidden behind a door because the teacher has decided your presence is a distraction on your kid's journey to learning. Maybe you really enjoy the mommy part of those mommy-and-me music classes. Kudos to you, but most moms I know don't sign up for these kid classes because they like them or even feel like they're enriching their children in any concrete way. Instead, they spend the money and time because they're afraid of what will happen if they're the one mom who doesn't register their toddler for yoga and hip-hop.
Let me tell you that the answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing will happen if you decide to wait until your child is developed enough physically and mentally to actually understand and process what they're doing. For example, I've sent my son to swim lessons twice. The first time, he was about 15 months old, and it went something like this: the sweet instructor had us all (because of course I had to get in with him) stand in circles and sing songs, practice scooping our toddler's arms, and play with water toys. My son preferred jumping in and climbing out of the pool over and over again and fighting other kids to dominate the one cool toy there. And then, halfway through the class, he decided he was done and started screaming until I led him out of the pool while giving the instructor an apologetic smile and wave. What was I actually getting for the $200 I dropped for these lessons? I still don't know.
Last week, at 4 years old, I signed him up again, hoping he'd be able to shed the floaties by this Summer. The swim-lesson experiences were day and night. This time, I sat on the sidelines and watched as a sweet instructor spent 30 minutes teaching my child to blow bubbles, get in and out of the pool safely, and swim five feet unassisted by her. He graduated to the next level by the end of his first lesson, and she assured me he'd be swimming solo in just a couple of months. Cost-benefit: obvious.
Simply waiting for my child to grow old enough to be actively engaged in the classes I've been spending all this money and time on made all the difference. He wasn't just a passive participant, only there because I was hoping it would give his tiny brain an edge for life. He was actually learning things and enjoying himself. So learn from my mistakes, save your money on the baby classes, and don't feel a bit of guilt about it. You're doing no harm, only good for your wallet and your sanity. And your children? They'll never know the difference.
Editor's note: This piece was written by a POPSUGAR contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of POPSUGAR Inc. Interested in joining our POPSUGAR Voices network of contributors from around the globe? Click here.