19 answers

3-Year-old Too Shy Participate in Group Class Activities

I've been taking our three-year-old to a Little Learners class. It's like a pre, pre-school. The parents stay with them and they do a little gathering at the beginning and sing a hello song, and a few other songs, etc. Then they have stations they can do as they want for the rest of the time. At the end, the group gathers again to say goodbye,and get a stamp. My little boy is just fine for the "on your own" stuff, but he cries to be held and tries to run off during the group singing. I think it is just a phase, or maybe he is just shy because they sing directly to him during one of the songs where they say hello to each child. I make him stay in the group and won't let him run off to the stations until it is time, but he just hangs on me and won't do anything and hides his head. My husband takes him to a little sports class and he does the same thing there most of the time during group instruction. When it is time for free play the last few minutes, he's fine.

He's been at home with me most of his life. He was in full-time daycare for 8 months last year and did fine.

Has anybody had a similar experience with shyness or this type of behavior? Thanks!

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?™

Thank you so much to all for your input. Today my husband took him a little earlier because before they had gotten there right on time when the gym was full, and that's when he seemed to shut down being overwhelmed by the other parents and kids. They got there before anybody today and he was able to get comfortable with the surroundings before anybody got there, and he did much better. He still had his shy moments, but that's okay. I think it will be good to just keep taking him so he can have fun when he wants to and be exposed to the other children. Thanks again, everyone!

Featured Answers

When my son was little and I was a stay at home mom, I couldn't get him to participate in the group activities at Gymboree, either. But he just marches to his own drummer, nothing to worry about. He gets along fine with his classmates. 2- and 3-year olds just don't always fit into a mold.

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I am curious about the class that you send your son to. I have a 21/2 year old son who is a total mama's boy. I have him signed up for preschool in the fall, but I am not sure if he will be ready. I would love to find a class that I can also attend too. Could you please let me know a little more about the Little Learners class?
As far as your dilemma...it just sounds like your son is not ready yet for the whole group experience by himself. He will be someday. Good luck and thank you in advance for the info. about Little Learners.

My daughter was VERY shy at classes we took at Brookfield Zoo. When we did circle time, and say a hello song to each person, she would cry after we said her name. She just turned four and we did another class. She had absolutely no problem with it at all. I think it is just a faze.

When my son was little and I was a stay at home mom, I couldn't get him to participate in the group activities at Gymboree, either. But he just marches to his own drummer, nothing to worry about. He gets along fine with his classmates. 2- and 3-year olds just don't always fit into a mold.

My son who is now almost 4 was the same way. He has started to become more comfortable without me but he is still very cautious and shy and would much rather stay home with me than go to preschool or a class. My husband and son did the same type of sports class and I did the same type of Little Learners class, my son had the same reactions as yours.
I found a Park District class last fall that was without me, it was short, small and low key, it was the first time there weren't total tears (if you want to know more about it please email me). I recommend to still sign him up for classes, acknowledge his feelings but tell him he still has to go and encourage, encourage, encourage.
Signing my son up for preschool when he turned three was almost painful for me because I was so worried he would be so sad and miserable. I'll be honest, it wasn't easy for him or me and we still have rough days but it was probably the best thing for him.
My husband and I went through feeling like it was our fault and our son had low self-esteem. You know what? it's his personality, I think my son will always be timid and shy and we are okay with that.
I hope knowing your not alone brings some comfort.

My first daughter was very shy also. I tried Gymboree with her and she did the exact same thing that you are describing. I was at home with her always and if she wasn't with me, she was with daddy or her grandparents. We put her in a little learners class at 3 also, but the parent only got to stay with the first day, after that, they were dropped off just like school. The first time she cried (she wasn't the only one) and sat under the table the entire class time. By the third or fourth time, she went in no problem. By the middle of the year, she was so much more outgoing, even her teachers had said what a transformation she had made. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall and she has no problems going up to other children or teachers now. The one that we had her in was through the Hampshire Park District and it was wonderful. Maybe your son might need something like that because he sounds exactly like my daughter was.

WOW...you've had alot of feedback on this one!! It's sooo comforting to know there are many others out there with a similar dilemma. We want to socialize our "only" child, and are finding he is on the "shy" side. He spends most of the time with adults - me, hubby and family members, although we have done countless toddler classes. Now he is 3, alot of the classes are drop-off classes. He loves interacting with us and is very talkative etc, but take him to a class and he just stands to the side - but takes everything in!! We have the "pep" talk before-hand and he understands, but gets overwhelmed I think with the other kids. He is naturally observant, and knows the answers to the questions being asked...but will not budge an inch. I know we are not supposed to compare our kids, but I see so many of the others so socially adept and I get dishearted - when I shouldn't. I myself know I was shy as a child so it's probably to an extent "inherited" - and thankfully yes, I did eventually grow out of it!
Thanks for asking this question, as I am going through exactly the same thing, but it sounds like it's a phase which they will eventually grow out of. I look forward to the day I see him participating from start to finish, and can't wait to tell me about his day in class!! Good luck!

my son has always been highly cautious and unsure of new situations and still is at 4.5 years old. while he did pretty well at group gymnastics classes, he's definitely still getting used to group soccer instruction and only lasts 15-20 minutes out of the hour-long class before wandering off and complaining that he's too tired, too hot, too shy or whatever excuse seems like it would work at the time. it is hard to see and i'm trying to enforce keeping him engaged in watching what the other kids are doing in class rather than wandering off and doing his own thing -- if he sees them having fun i'm hoping he'll eventually drift back and join in. i was pretty shy as a child and see that in his personality as well.

keeping up the exposure is important, it takes time but they do need to learn to deal with groups and organized activities because they are a fact of life. one thing that helps with my son is letting him know in advance what's coming up and what my expectations are. after a bad class we talk about it and i just say we'll try again next week and maybe you'd like to try playing this with them or that. so he knows we'll be going back and has some time to get used to the idea and prepare a bit. as we're heading to an activity i talk a little about what he might do there and the other kids and the coach/teacher so he gets more familiar with names. and also mention that i'd like him to stay with his class and have a fun time trying things out. when opportunities present themselves to maybe see some of the same kids in a less-organized activity, that might help break the ice and make him more comfortable. also smaller group activities are an easier base and then move up to activities with bigger groups and more structure.

Is there a possiblitiy to stay with him during this time until he is comfortable for you to leave and a transition is made. My son sometimes needs more time with hugs and kisses before I leave. Then sometimes he likes to push me out the door, as it is a way he feels more in control. I also have to check my needs and it is hard for me to let him go and he is picking up on that.

I know that the more I get frustrated and feel hurried, he gets more needy. So I try to look relaxed and just give him his time (I plan for it).

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