Activities for Preschoolers

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi BPN, my almost 4 year old is in need of more physical activity/ work on his physical literacy. He has a fantastic imagination and can play animals or characters from stories for hours on end (he also does this with his friends at preschool), but it is a real challenge to get him to participate in any kind of sport like activity or to try anything new physically ( like climbing at the playground or scooter).  I obviously don’t want to push anything on him that just isn’t him, but I know he’s got energy to spare at bedtime that could have been used, lol. I used to make up elaborate games to get him to ride a balance bike, kick a soccer ball, etc. but cannot do that now as we have a new baby, and he would quickly lose interest in that anyways. He is also very timid with other children- he’s friendly, but if there is a chance kids will be in physical contact with him/ bump into him, he will not do that activity. He is a bit behind other kids his age in terms of physical abilities (has a more difficult time with stairs, balance, tumbling etc) but I think this is more due to fear than developmental abilities… any  organized activity ideas? Can kids this young do theater? Thanks for any help!!

    Sticky art lab in Berkeley used to be very friendly and supportive, my kid is much older now so my information is old, but it might be something he'd like-?

    Our 4YO is loving the City of Berkeley tennis class ("red ball") for kids their age. It's not that many kids and they're all around the same age, and many of us parents have commented that our kids are way more excited for tennis than they have been for soccer, etc. It's a good mix of learning tennis and just fun active playing. The "Tot Splash" time at various pools has been good too.

    Have you considered an outdoor school? I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but there is a huge difference in the amount of physical activity one gets being outside in nature vs. playing in a daycare backyard or even a playground.  A movement/dance class might also be something to look in to.

    I don’t know if the class is still the same, but the gymnastics class at UC village used to be really great for this. Coach Matt ran it when my kids were little. It was fun and inclusive but still a great chance to improve coordination and physical confidence. In general, the classes at UC Village were perfect for my less athletic kids — ABSC and that type of thing are better for more naturally athletic kids IMHO. You might also look at a pre-ballet class for preschool kids. I know people sometimes don’t think of this for boys, but dance is a great way to develop coordination and physicality. Often, the classes for the youngest kids use a lot make-believe in the dancing and it‘s not strict yet. So kids have fun but also get nudged into trying new skills — can you try to skip, now let’s hop, etc.? 

    Kids 'n dance has dance/theater/tumbling classes for 3-5 that involve lots of imagination play.

    Hi there,

    I'm not sure if I have any suggestions, but I really resonated with your post as I also have a very physically timid preschooler. He is 3.5 and is very friendly, loves to play cars/trucks/trains, but also reserved when it comes to physical activity. The best word to describe him is "cautious," and we have described him this way since he was a baby! I also imagine he is a bit behind his peers in physical ability, as he is fearful in many physical situations and is cautious to do scooters/bikes, etc. We have really encouraged playgrounds which has been helpful--also going when playgrounds are less crowded so he can take his time on the structures. I have not really met anyone else who describes their child as physically timid, so its nice to hear there are others! Hope these kids can connect as they grow older. 

    Anyways, I'm not sure if I have suggestions regarding organized activities, but I was thinking of art or music classes, or maybe something science/engineering based as he gets older. I will follow this thread for other suggestions! Please feel free to DM me if you'd like to connect.

    thanks so much for these suggestions, BPN community! I am grateful for them :)

  • Our kiddo is going to start going to preschool 9-6 Monday through Thursdays, but we made a Friday a half day so that we can have a regular mommy and me afternoon.  I was thinking that maybe we can bake / cook / garden together, maybe go to the park.  But there are a lot of Friday afternoons to fill!  Any suggestions about what else we can do and places we can go?  Or any good classes on Friday afternoons?

    Oh my goodness, there are SOOO many things you could do! Like an excursion to Little Farm and the Merry Go Round in Tilden Park. A trip to Habitot or Children's Fairyland or Lawrence Hall of Science are all wonderful for a 3-year-old. Go to the beach with a bunch of sand toys, a blanket and a big snack. Go on a short hike to Redwood Regional Park;after you park, there is a play structure just a short hike in on the Stream Trail, easy enough for tiny legs (less than a quarter mile I think, and it's on a paved trail if you prefer stroller); there are a few picnic tables just a short walk beyond the play area for snack time.

    You can also do theme afternoons at home. Like maybe one day is ABC day, and you get out the ABC puzzle and blocks and magnets (or whatever you have) and play with all of it and then take a walk through the neighborhood to see what letters you can find. Or tea party day where you make tea together and then have a tea party with all the stuffed animals, or superhero day where you pretend to be your favorite superhero and then play with figures/characters. We even did a fire safety day, where we talked about basic fire safety, tested the smoke alarms and practiced crawling to the front door; my kid LOVED seeing Mommy and Daddy crawl around (we did it on a weekend as a family); then we each pretended to be a fire and took turns pretending to put out the fire with a pretend hose.

    Get out art supplies and do it together (color on opposite pages of coloring book, or color with markers on thick paper, or glue stuff together, or string beads).  Also have days your kiddo leads the way, because sometimes spontaneity is best. If you're looking for places to go, check out 510families, which has tons of ideas for kiddo outings. Have fun!!

    I recommend looking into Jon's School of Music, which offers classes for toddlers and kids (age 1.5-6) at Totland park in Berkeley, including on Friday afternoons. Jon's music classes offer toddlers a chance to play a huge assortment of musical instruments, many of them in toddler-size (e.g., guitar, cello, violin, horns, piano, etc). Plus the kids learn musical concepts and have a blast while doing it. My 3-year-old son has been taking classes with Jon for a year, and he adores it. To give you a sense of his enthusiasm: After taking a few weeks off, I told my son we'd be restarting music this week, he jumped up and down and hollered with joy of the level you'd expect for a trip to Disneyland. Even though the new class sessions technically started this week, Jon is still enrolling new kids. Highly recommend!

    We are also a big friend of Jon Music of School!!! My son is with Jon for over 2 years now. He LOVES the music class so much and whenever he gets off from the class, there always a big smile on his face. Jon is a professional musician and he knows all the music skills and tricks to teach children, toddlers, etc., One of the specialty of Jon is: he can combine music theory into fun games, pretend play & drama. Even young toddlers can understand and follow his instructions too. Another bonus part is: we always have our kids do a play date at the Totland playground after the music class since the class takes place inside the Totland playground clubhouse. So, kids are friends and playmates inside and out of the music class. I would say, Jon music not only bring us the joy of learning music but also bring us a good group of Mama/Playgroup support group too! So, we are highly recommended it to everyone who is looking for music class and fun things to do in the East Bay Area!!!

  • Hi all! I have an almost 4 year old and 19 month old. My 4 year old has done the usual list of classes (East Bay Music Together, Crowden, some gymnastics, swimming, soccer, and ballet) second child has pretty much done nothing b/c it's been tiring to keep up with doing two classes on the weekends (working parents so weekday classes are tough right now) for the 4 year old. In theory, I'd love to find a place that can accommodate both kids in their lessons (either in the same class if a large age range allowed or many classes for the various age ranges running at the same time)....any suggestions beyond Bladium soccer? I could do East Bay Music Together again, but is that going to be too boring for a 4 year old? Thanks!

    I'm facing exactly the same issue, and would love to hear more ideas on what to do with two kids aged 1.5 and 4. Here's my thinking so far: Music Together offers a Spanish language option (canta y baila conmigo), so that might be challenging for both kids in different ways. Another option I've looked at are concurrent but different gymnastics classes - from a brief look at online schedules, both Head over  Heels in Alameda, and Berkeley Rec Club offer concurrent Saturday and Sunday classes for these age groups. The other idea I might try is concurrent and back-to-back soccer classes (this might work with Super Soccer Stars depending on how far you're willing to drive). Finally, I envision hanging out at Lawrence Hall of Science and at the Oakland Museum of California with both kids, as they seem to have a lot for these age groups. But this has stumped me too - I'm really looking forward to ideas. 

    Thanks for response! I was thinking the same in terms of different level but same scheduled time for certain classes....Bladium usually has a ton of classes, so may try that for the summer as they have classes for both age ranges typically scheduled at the same time. A little bit out of the way in terms location but manageable. Was also looking into Head over Heels, and maybe swim classes at YMCA or Aquatech...tough to get into weekend classes though.  Fairyland, zoo, Oakland Museum and Chabot center have been good spots for us but hoping to get more ideas to mix things up....Lawrence Hall and Rec Club are good ideas to check into...

    Have you visited Hands-On in Berkeley ( It’s a STEAM lab, and we love it so much. The owner is a teacher, and it’s great for sibs because she will set out different projects based on the age of each kid. And she limits the number of kids who are in at a time, so the kids get plenty of attention. The drop-in sessions are for ages 18 mo - 6 years, I think, so perfect for you! Enjoy!

  • Hello - After a few somewhat disastrous attempts signing up our 4 year old son for various sports and swimming classes, I’m looking for suggestions for any regular or semi regular classes or workshops on the weekend, of maybe more the learning/science variety (as opposed to athletics), appropriate for 4 year olds? Ideally in the North Oakland/Berkeley area. We do one-off things on our own, but I’m looking for something a little more regular-with-an-instructor/teacher type of thing (we can certainly participate with him though).  

    For example, I know the Lawrence Hall does Little Explorer workshops (which we haven’t done yet due to scheduling...), but is there anything else out there along those lines? Thanks!

    My 4-year-old has literally run away from the various sports classes I've signed him up for, so I can relate! I'm not sure if this would be of interest to you, but one thing my son has actually really enjoyed is a weekend language class. It's an hour every Saturday during the school year. He's had fun learning something new and meeting new kids, and since parents don't attend the class, it's also a nice chance for me to run errands or get in a quick workout while he's there. Some language centers also offer other types of classes, like art, music, etcetera. Good luck finding something that works! 

    Have you looked into Tinkergarten classes? Outdoor learning classes for children ages 1-8 years old. These classes meet weekly and each week a different play scenario is presented to facilitate learning through play. You can take a free trial class to see if your son would be interested in this type of class before signing up for a full 8-10 week session. Classes are offered throughout the area, and I'm sure you can find one that fits your schedule!

  • Looking for buddy for 4yo son

    (1 reply)

    I'm home with the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays and since my oldest turned 4, I've noticed that the playgrounds on these days are mostly filled with younger kids. (I'm guessing lots of 4-5 year olds are in Pre-K full time!)

    That said, I really would love for him to have a playmate who is close in age, if not older. Any suggestions for classes or playgrounds or places where we might find a fellow 4 year old for our Tues/Thursday adventures?

    Toddler gymnastics classes at the Albany Village Community Center (on Monroe) were pretty good for both my kids at that age.