How to Decide the Next Best Step?

As adults and parents – we tend to be planners. But time, as experienced by children, is primarily present tense. One of the joys in working with children each day is being right in the moment. Over the many years at AAHCDC, we have seen the most successful decisions, ones that help children thrive and families feel happy, are decisions for the “next best step.”

There is a lot of pressure for families to make decisions, keeping the best possible options open for their children. You may hear things like, “you have to join in Kindergarten or your child will not be able to get in” or “in order to play in high school, you need to take private lessons starting at an early age...” This makes the decision for the next best step feel overwhelming – will my child be left behind? Is my child overbooked and stressed out?

The thing about development is that is happens on its own time table. The experiences children have at certain stages can help support development, but it cannot speed the process up. Exposure to concepts and opportunities can enrich knowledge, thinking and brain development. Young children also need unstructured time for their growth: time when they make up the rules/games, building their imagination and creativity.

Asking yourself two main questions can help lead you to making a good choice for the next best step.

What is my children ready for?

What activities support our values as a family?

Regarding the first question – what is my child ready for? It is helpful to consider both emotional and cognitive development. Emotional considerations include thinking about how your child manages their day, their stamina, their level of independence, and ability to manage separation feelings.

Cognitive considerations include thinking about what is stimulating to your child cognitively including opportunities to express themselves, academic building blocks (letters, numbers, shapes etc.), imaginative creation, and opportunities to expand and deepen their interests.

A key consideration to this question includes the interactions with teachers and peers. Is it an overall supportive environment? Is it language rich? Do students feel safe to take risks? Is flexibility in thought supported, encouraged? Teachers can give you feedback regarding your child’s school life. You also can observe your child at home and in other group settings.

Considering the second question requires reflection as a family. Does our family prioritize education, active lifestyles, connection to nature, etc? Do we function best with a predictable daily routine or do we enjoy some free flow days? It also requires analyzing the goals of the possible programs and activities you may be considering.

At AAHCDC, our philosophy is consistent throughout all our programming, supporting the whole child, emotionally and intellectually in a joyful, exciting learning environment. We are a flexible environment for each child to grow uniquely within a framework of deep understanding of human development.