If you are looking for a way to help your preschooler prepare for success in school, look no further than a good martial arts program. When taking your preschooler to try out a class in any martial arts program be sure to look for a few key ingredients.
First, look to the instructor. A preschooler has only been exposed to a few influential people in their short lives. Parents, close family members, and possibly a few close “family friends” constitute the core of their life influences. Getting them involved in a martial arts program will expand this list of influences, beginning with their new instructor. The martial arts instructor in most cases will be the child’s first exposure to a “teacher” or “authority figure” outside of the family and should be setting a good example for the child. A good youth instructor, especially for preschool aged children, should be fit and healthy. The instructor should be setting a good example when it comes to health, fitness and hygiene. When a child begins to look up to a role model, which is what a preschool martial arts instructor is first and foremost, that role model should be modeling positive body attributes.
After you have found a few instructors who model the type of care and concern for their personal appearance and wellbeing that you wish your child to emulate, consider how they care for their school and equipment. The environment in which the child trains can be very influential on how they choose to take care of their belongings as they mature. A clean, well lit, organized training environment will encourage a youngster to take better care of their own rooms and belongings. The instructor can reinforce this lesson by helping them develop responsibility for their uniforms and belts as well as including them in the cleanup of any equipment they use during class. Consistent exposure to a clean and organized school along with strong role modeling and reinforcement by the instructor is an important aspect of the learning experience for the child.
The organization of the curriculum and teaching methods utilized by the instructor should mirror the attributes found in the instructor. Classes should be organized and well planned, focusing on development of age appropriate abilities. While the class is a martial arts based program the focus for children between the ages of 3 and 5 should be on more than simple punches and kicks. At this age the student should be helped to develop gross motor skills and general balance and coordination. They should also be learning better command of spatial relationships such as right-left, in front-behind, and distance recognition. All of these ideas can be taught using games and fun activities, but the classes should also include development of focus, self-control, respect for others, and listening skills. All teaching methods should include reinforcement of focus and respect, utilizing a “firm-but-fair” set of rules for behavior. This combination of well designed curriculum and appropriate levels of discipline can jumpstart the child’s physical, mental, and emotional development, preparing them for success in their early school years.
Finally, look for a program that encourages parents to participate in the classes and overall learning experience. Parents should be involved in the lessons through activities such as holding pads and acting as practice partners. The instructor should also include the parents in any discussion of proper behavior and life skills. In these early years it is critical that a child learns that parents and teachers work together in the educational process.
A good martial arts program can be a real asset for preschoolers and their parents. The child has the opportunity to develop physical skills that will put them ahead of their peers as they enter kindergarten. The students of a good preschool martial arts program also begin to learn the life skills and behaviors that allow them to grow and succeed as independent individuals. Parents often find much needed help reinforcing the types of lessons in respect, courtesy, self-control, focus, and other skills the child will need to find success in school. Participation in martial arts programs designed for preschoolers also affords the child and parents the opportunity to form new and important bonds in education, taking advantage of the fact that they attend and participate in the classes together. Martial arts education is about much more than simple punching and kicking, offering preschoolers a significant edge as they enter kindergarten.