Lytham, 1st December 2008: Busy toddlers are attending up to six organised classes a week, on top of nursery or preschool, as parents try to give their children a head start, according to a new survey from Talking Tots, a national preschool activity group.
In a survey of 1,000 parents across the UK, three quarters of parents with children aged under 5 years believed giving their children a head start was a 'really important' for choosing specific activities, with one in five parents spending more than £600 a year on preschool classes such as French, swimming, yoga and art.
“While classes are really beneficial, it’s absolutely essential to give young children downtime, where they can just play and spend time with family and friends,” said Lisa Houghton, a mum of two and co-founder of Talking Tots. “You might not think they’re learning anything but independent play gives children the chance to practice conversation and social skills, develop imaginative skills and create their own entertainment. Watching a parent sort the laundry or making cookies for Christmas can be incredibly important to your child's development.”
Despite the current economic climate, just 10% of parents nationwide say they expect to reduce spending on preschool activities and classes in 2009. Forty percent of parents said their spending will probably increase, while 47% said it will probably stay the same. On average, parents in the UK spend £442 a year on pre-school activities. This rises to over £900 in the South East.
To continue to afford preschool classes, parents are willing to reduce spending on holidays, eating out and even clothes. Overall, 82% of parents would reduce spending on eating out in restaurants to pay for toddler activities, while half of parents would consider cancelling the family holiday.
Children in the South East attend the most preschool activities – more than four a week, on average – while children in the Midlands attend the least – less than two classes per week. Children in the North East are most likely to attend free toddler activities, with 80% of parents regularly taking their preschoolers to a local mother and toddler group or the library.
Activity classes provide important benefits to children, says Sue Atkins, parenting coach and author of Raising Happy Children: “Classes are much more than just a way to entertain the kids for an hour. They have a real impact on children’s development, and are a wonderful way to bond, build confidence and learn social skills such as taking turns, listening and sharing.”
If money is tight, Sue advises focusing on classes that provide a rounded experience. “Remember you are your child’s greatest teacher and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Look for one or two activities that offer children lots of fun, the chance to develop over time, and which are well organised, and remember that your child will get as much pleasure out of a walk in the park or a visit to the library as they will from more expensive outings.”
Key Survey Findings:
*Parents in the South East spend most on preschool activities and classes, with 15% of parents spending more than £100 each month.
*When choosing preschool activities, the most important factors for parents are that children have fun (90%), socialise (82%) and get a head start (75%). Parents also chose classes because children would learn new skills (60%) and because they offered good value for money (40%).
* The most popular PAID FOR activities among preschoolers are: communication and sign language (66%), swimming (44%) and singing/music (33%). Overall, 8% of toddlers learn a second language, and 7% take yoga classes.
* The most popular free activities are visits to the park, the local library and a mother and toddler groups.
About the Survey:
Talking Tots surveyed 1,000 parents of preschool children in October and November 2008 online and at Talking Tots classes. Full details by region are available on request.
Tracey Park and Lisa Houghton are available for interview and can comment on the survey findings as well as providing advice to parents on how to boost children’s development. HIGH RES PHOTOGRAPHY IS ALSO AVAILABLE ON REQUEST.
About Talking Tots
Talking Tots is the UK’s fastest growing preschool activity franchise, operating in 22 UK locations, and with more classes launching every month. The company was awarded “Best Innovation for 2008” in the What’s on 4 Little Ones awards and was highly commended in the “Best Toddler Development Class” category. The company was launched by Tracey Park and Lisa Houghton, paediatric speech and language experts.
To find a local Talking Tots class, please visit www.talkingtots.info or contact Talking Tots on 01253 735 355. For press enquiries, case studies and photography, please contact the Talking Tots press office on email@example.com or 07923 504 514
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