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We are in a situation where we need to choose between ballet classes and swimming classes for our 4-year old girl. Problem is that we cannot afford both of them. We need to choose one.

On the other hand, she loves and asks for both. She has been having swimming lessons since the age of 6 months but she hasn't taken any ballet lessons until now (but she loves dancing and listening to ballet music while in the house and she always speaks to me about it).

Our baby is a bit of an introvert, so I guess having ballet classes with other children would help her express feelings and emotions among other people and feel more confident about it.

On the other hand, swimming is good for physical development and in some way I will feel safer when going on vacations by the sea.

I am sure that there are much more skills developed by each activity and I would happy to learn some of them so I can make a more suitable choice.

What would you suggest?

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Simple solution: Sign her up for water ballet classes. –  DA01 Oct 27 '11 at 1:42

8 Answers 8

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If your daughter has been taking swimming lessons for the past three and a half years, then is it safe to assume she can swim safely in at least one type of stroke on her own?

If so, then I'd be inclined to suggest ballet lessons, while checking your area to see if there are free or affordable swimming pools that you might have access to. Some areas have community pools that are quite cheap, or even free, and some of the less affordable pools may offer discounted days for local area residents.

While access to a pool isn't as good as swimming lessons, you can work with your daughter directly to provide supervised swimming practice, which is still good for physical development and safety, as well as improving her confidence in the water and being (hopefully!) fun. All without sacrificing the option of ballet lessons.

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unfortunately, because of the recession my country goes under, most community pools have been shut down. The same holds for other artistic or sports activities municipalities offered in the past (painting, ballet, football, etc). That is why I said we can only afford one of them. Because we now have to pay. –  xpanta Oct 27 '11 at 7:03

My youngest also likes both activities, but what decided us was that ballet was so much more expensive than swimming.

She now does swimming, and is on the waiting list for Tae Kwondo (this is just because her siblings both compete in TKD so it makes sense to get them all in - less journeys)

For us it comes down to cost - how many different activities can we get them into at this age without breaking the bank. Later on they can decide which ones they want to focus on, if any, but we feel we need to give them exposure to a wide range so they can gain some experience of them.

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In reality I think it's going to be up to you to know for sure what works best for yourself and your child. There are probably alternatives to many of these, but if cost is an issue and you look for cheaper alternatives you do tend to get what you pay for. Some of the things I've heard about ballet (my cousin was a ballet-dad and his daughter teaches at a local ballet company school) is that it's not all that personally expressive after awhile. Higher prestige schools do tend to be competitive, especially if the school participates in a yearly recital, where some students try to get the "prestige parts". Parents add into this but for young kids, my cousins daughter teaches 3-5 year olds, some parents helicopter over their kids and demand attention for their child and others think of it as babysitting time. As in most things, look carefully.

For a specific choice you can ask your daughter, if she could only have one what would it be? Sometimes 4 year olds know what they want, most times not, but I like to at least get my kids input and see what they want. Swimming is good full body physical development, although I have seen ballet have good results for poise, posture and other benefits as a full body, aerobic exercise. It's not as good as swimming obviously, but it's no slouch either.

If you can't decide, make a list with your child and wife and go over the pros and cons of each and see what you come up with. Involving the child is also a good precursor for helping solve family issues with input, never hurts to start them young.

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I like the approach of having a family discussion writing down pros & cons, including the kid. I totally agree that it is a good precursor for helping future more serious family issues –  xpanta Oct 26 '11 at 18:37

My daughter did ballet classes for a few years, starting form the age of 4. The reasons we chose ballet was:

  1. she had a interest in it
  2. she was a "girly" girl
  3. she had a bit of a discipline issue, we thought that starting ballet would prepare her for the discipline of school

Even though we live in Australia (where swimming is the second religion after football) we did not do swimming classes because it is taught in schools and we have been told that at that age it does not help that much - if the child falls into a pool they will just sink. Take that with a grain of salt.

She really enjoyed the ballet classes though found the teacher to be too strict. She was never going to be a ballerina but we did not care since she was learning how to learn, she enjoyed it and it was a source of pride for her. Personally, I hated all the pomp and ceremony but that was probably just our class. Eventually she did not want to continue because she didn't like the teacher. By then, she had started school and was a few years older so we enrolled her in karate classes to maintain the discipline. Soon after, she also started basketball so she could learn a team sport. She is now ten and still enjoying both karate and basketball and is a good swimmer.

In short: ballet provided her with skills beyond twirling in a pink tutu. Caveat emptor: it is expensive.

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If you have to pick between the two, switch to ballet. At this point she should be a good enough swimmer to save her life if necessary, and should not need further lessons unless she is going to compete. And swimming skills can be developed enough for future fun just be getting her into the water.

BTW .. when your daughter gets older (perhaps 8), try Water Polo! It is a great sport for fitness/conditioning, teamwork, and physical and mental toughness.

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Another thing to consider is her developmental needs. How does she do socially in comparison to how she is in terms of gross motor skills? Your and her efforts would be better suited to find something fun to cultivate anything on which she could improve. With my experiences as an assistant in a preschool classroom, children vary greatly in that regard. If you're sure, talk to her pediatrician or teacher to see if they've done any formal/informal assessments of their own.

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Your decision will ultimately reflect the reasons you are considering these activities. Given that they are both physical, and both have social elements, I would suggest you ask her. Which one does she want to do? And if she changes her mind next year, so be it. It's good to try lots of things, find what you enjoy and do what you love.

That you are giving her the opportunity to consider her own preferences and participate in the decision making process is important, and I believe should be started early. If she can't decide, you helping her come to a decision will be a valuable exercise.

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Would you allow her to change her mind mid-year? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 11 '11 at 21:40
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I make my children finish the year of whatever they have started or reach the SMART goal they have set for themselves whichever makes sense. It's a challenge knowing how long to make them persevere since if they love something, they will stick with it through that growing period when it's difficult. No, I would not let her change her mind mid year. –  nGinius Nov 12 '11 at 2:56

I believe this can be a learning lesson for her. Be honest. Let her know that it is expensive to take lessons and let her choose which she wants to do. She doesn't need to know all the details of the finances, but letting her know that classes cost money and that we have to make choices with our money can be a really important life lesson. The other thing is to let her know that after the season is over she can switch if she changes her mind. At four, she will have so many opportunities for her to explore, there is no need to force her into one or the other. Most importantly...Enjoy whichever she decides - for now!

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