What Classes Can My Toddler Take?

A toddler experimenting with color during their art class

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Toddler classes are an excellent way to keep young minds and bodies active. What’s more, participation in different activities, such as swimming or music, during these crucial early years can aid your child’s development and help them hit those all important milestones.

However, choosing what classes to enroll your toddler in can feel like a minefield when there are so many available. Here, we take a look at what classes are out there and explore how each one could benefit your child.

The Importance of Classes

An introduction to a wide range of activities and interests at a young age can aid your child’s development in many different ways. For example, participating in an activity within a group setting will strengthen your toddler’s developing social intelligence. Turn-taking, listening, and copying will encourage their language development, confidence, and independence. 

Organized activities that involve moving their bodies—whether that’s gymnastics or swimming—can hone developing gross motor skills. These are required for body movements involving the large muscles in your toddler’s arms, legs, and torso. This can also help your toddler to walk, run, and jump. 

There are also classes that can give your little one’s fine motor skills a workout, too. Anything requiring coordination between their eyes, fingers, and hands—such as shaking a tambourine or catching a ball—will strengthen the muscles required to (eventually) do daily tasks. Think: writing, dressing themselves, and tying their shoelaces.

Often, classes aimed at toddlers will draw on a combination of all of the above skills. However, each child will thrive in a different environment, so it’s important to explore a range of activities until you find something that resonates with your toddler. 

Types of Classes

In the short term, introducing your toddler to a broad variety of different activities can aid developing minds and bodies. In the long term, harnessing your toddler’s natural curiosity of the world around them could potentially foster a lifelong love of a particular interest.

Music Lessons

Allowing your toddler to access a range of musical instruments is an excellent way for them to learn about cause and effect and refine fine motor skills. There is also compelling evidence to suggest that interactive music classes benefit babies' and toddlers’ developing brains, too.

A study looking into the difference between an interactive music class and a less structured lesson found that the babies that took part in the interactive lessons smiled more, had better communication skills, and displayed a more sophisticated brain response to music.

With this in mind, look for a toddler music class that offers structured participation. This might include both parents and toddlers experimenting with music-making together, as well as learning songs and corresponding actions. The use of instruments like shakers and drums are helpful.

Team Sports

The number of organized sports available to the toddler age range has seemingly exploded over the past decade. Games such as tee ball, basketball, and soccer are available to kids as young as 18 months. However, researchers are divided on how and if these classes actually benefit a toddler’s development.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 6 do not yet possess the motor skills required to play organized team sports. There are also additional concerns regarding whether developing young bodies are susceptible to injury.

Jessica Fraser-Thomas, PhD, MA, an Assistant Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University in Toronto, Canada, has done extensive research into the benefits and potential drawbacks of organized sports for toddlers and preschools. 

Jessica Fraser-Thomas, PHD, MA

Does the coach have any training? How is the coach engaging with the child? [Is your child] having fun out there or is it just one big nightmare?

— Jessica Fraser-Thomas, PHD, MA

Dr. Fraser-Thomas found there are certain psychological benefits to be gleaned from team sports for toddlers, if conducted in the right setting. “In terms of benefits, we found developing social skills, developing pro-social behaviors, opportunities to practice self-regulation, and even a little bit of math and linguistic skills,” says Dr. Fraser-Thomas.

However, before enrolling your toddler into a team sports class, Dr. Fraser-Thomas recommends parents ask themselves a series of questions: “Does the coach have any training? How is the coach engaging with the child? Are they doing simple things like getting down on eye level? Are they connecting? [Is your child] having fun out there or is it just one big nightmare?” Finally, look for a small class with a narrow age range, as evidence shows that these are the most effective. 

Arts and Crafts

While an arts and crafts class is a fun way for your toddler to experiment with an array of different materials, colors, and textures, it can have developmental benefits, too. Grasping a pencil or crayon, rolling a ball of dough, or working out how to use different art tools, both help hone your toddler’s fine motor skills.

An art class is also an excellent environment for your toddler to learn about cause and effect. What happens if I mix this color with that one? What happens if I cut this ball of clay with the plastic scalpel? A class aimed specifically at toddlers will nurture your child’s developing creative side in a safe, age-appropriate setting. 


There are plenty of other benefits that come as a result of your toddler receiving swimming lessons, including learning crucial water safety skills. An Australian study that examined the physical, psychological, and cognitive benefits of swimming lessons for babies and young children found that children who undertook regular swimming classes displayed advanced motor developmental skills, compared to children who had not received lessons.

The same study, which followed children aged between newborn and 5 years over a three-year period, also found that regular swimming classes aided cognitive, language, and social development.

While the AAP recommends formal swimming classes for children aged 4 and over, infants and toddlers can still use lessons, accompanied by caregivers, to become confident in the water. When choosing a class, ensure the instructor is safety certified, including CPR and lifeguard certifications.


Gymnastics classes for toddlers can help encourage fine and gross motor development. Moving their bodies improves strength, flexibility, and coordination. Plus, it can provide toddlers with a strong foundation for any future sports participation.

In gymnastics, weight-bearing activities can also stimulate bone density, which is required for a healthy skeletal system.

“Gymnastics [teaches] balance,” explains Dr. Fraser-Thomas. “It's working on fundamental movement skills. It's exploratory, it's creative.” What's more, research shows that gymnastics can improve cognitive function too. Studies indicate that it can improve spatial memory, which is the type of memory needed to recall locations.


Much like gymnastics, dance can positively impact your child's fine and gross motor development, as well as their balance and coordination. Through dance, your child is learning how they are able to move and control their bodies, as well as figuring out how to express themselves creatively.

All of that jumping, hopping, and reaching that occurs when a toddler is dancing encourages the build up of strength and flexibility. It also is an easy way to add more physical activity to your toddler's day. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that toddlers are physically active for at least three hours per day.

In addition to the physical benefits of dance, studies show that it can aid your toddler's cognitive development, too. Through the introduction of rhythm, beat, and tempo, an understanding of counting and logic begins to take root.


Toddlers are naturally inquisitive, so exploring and experimenting with their surroundings is instinctive to them. You can harness that curiosity by attending a science class, where they will gain a greater understanding of the world around them through play, song, and hands-on exploration.

One science experiment can stimulate emotional, social, and cognitive development, as well as refine fine and gross motor skills required to handle different pieces of equipment. However, an early years introduction to science education also strengthens the message that STEM is for everyone, regardless of gender or background.

“The benefits [of introducing toddlers to science] are immense, especially more so when you're looking at genders and young girls, and trying to break all of those stereotypes that exist,” says Carmelo Piazza, MA, an educator and founder of the Brooklyn Preschool of Science in New York. “Laying the foundation [at] two, three, and four and five is crucial.”

Foreign Languages

Introducing a second (or even third!) language to your toddler has been shown to improve their cognitive ability, problem solving and concentration, as well as their ability to multitask and listen. 

While you can introduce a second language to your child at any age, evidence shows that babies and toddlers aged between 0 months and 3 years are particularly receptive to detecting different accents and picking up on new vocabulary. This is due to the elasticity of their developing brains and rapid neural (brain pathway) formation. 

Although exposure to a foreign language comes relatively naturally for children of bilingual families, studies indicate that teaching children from monolingual families new languages through regular sessions of play and song is entirely possible.

Alternatives to Classes

Of course, not every family has the time or means to sign their toddler up to every class available–nor is it absolutely necessary. For most activities, there are ways to provide the same enrichment that a class can bring from your own home. 

“Sometimes, we as parents, don't realize that we deter the inquisitive nature of children,” says Piazza. "Let kids be the innate scientist who they're meant to be." You can nurture your child's curiosity for science at home by allowing them to experiment with cause and effect. What happens if I jump in this puddle? What happens if I mix these paint colors together?

There are also plenty of free online resources, such as Twinkle, Scholastic, and PBS Kids, which collectively provides hundreds of options that can be searchable by age and activity. The learning materials provided cover science, art, music, and math. Examples include how to make your own play-dough, cotton bud painting templates, as well as songs you can learn with your toddler.

Diverse activities will stimulate different areas of development, such as fine motor skills and cognitive development. You could even arrange a scheduled playdate, so that your toddler can reap the social benefits of your at-home class, too. 

In addition to giving your little one's mind a workout, you can encourage them to move their bodies with a range of free online classes on YouTube. You can choose between creative dance, ballet, and even yoga to help with coordination and balance. Plus, it stimulates those gross motor skills.

However, just as an introduction to certain activities in a structured way is valuable to your toddler’s development, so too is plenty of free play. Free play is where children determine what they play with and for how long. This form of play is a crucial step towards your toddler gaining an understanding of how their bodies and the world around them works. It provides a setting for their imaginations to flourish.

The recommendation for pre-schoolers is that they have at least one hour of free play per day. So, if your toddler prefers free play over classes or other scheduled activities, rest assured that they will still be assisting in their own development.

A Word From Verywell

As a parent, it can sometimes feel as though there are hundreds of different classes available to your toddler, all of which promise something else in terms of their development. While we all want the best for our kids, try not to feel pressured into enrolling your child in everything. Instead, try one class at a time (if you are able) and combine that with other activities at home, as well as plenty of free play.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Nicola Appleton
Nicola Appleton is a UK-based freelance journalist with a special interest in parenting, pregnancy, and women's lifestyle. She has extensive experience creating editorial and commercial content for print, digital, and social platforms across a number of prominent British and international brands including The Independent, Refinery29, The Sydney Morning Herald, HuffPost, Stylist, Canva, and more