At what age did you begin to take your child to structured activities?
In my teen years when my mom remarried, our new blended family put a lot of focus on being a part of an organized team. I gravitated mainly towards music and theatre with 4 years of swim team, my step-brother gravitated heavily towards sports as this was a large part of his upbringing. "When will your children be a part of a team?" was a big question from my family of origin. Not "if," but "when."
As Penny grew older I watched to see where her interests take her. For a while she was very creatively driven; especially loving to paint with textures and clearly working on her dexterity even without too much promoting from me. Around the age of 3, I noticed a shift and she started to experiment with moving her body in different ways. She loved swimming lessons and began to emulate her older cousin's gymnastic tumbling and cheer moves. I began to research local area options for dance or gymnastics for little kids.
When I talked with Charlene, one of the two owners of The Little Gym of Everett, I knew this was what we were looking for! The Little Gym offers so much more than a physical outlet for children; their focus is multi-dimensional.
The Little Gym runs a full year curriculum, so you have the option of signing your child up for the school term or on a monthly basis. We went weekly, sometimes more if there were drop in classes available. The Funny Bugs class (which was her age group) is an independent class - the parents watch through the window and a teacher very effectively wrangles a group of 3-6 year olds. On our first day, I watched with amusement, trepidation and later full on pride when I saw how Penny quickly learned how to reign in her pre-schooler crazies and begin to truly focus her energy to complete a set.
Each class session starts the same way - we are welcomed at the door by one of the two teachers (Brittany or Charlene), Penny places her sweats and shoes in a cubby and is ushered into the gym to sit with her fellow classmates with Teacher Char. Teacher Char begins the class with a warm up song and a few laps around the mat to help focus the kids. Charlene explained that every activity within The Little Gym has a purpose beyond what we see. Running in a circle is more than an energy burn; it helps the kids start to use their peripheries and patch where their classmates are running. The music changes to have the kids run slow, fast, loudly, quietly, up, down, etc.
Each 4 week period has a new curriculum theme that has accompanying skills that the children will learn. The themes have included "Which Muscle to Hustle," where they being to pin point which muscle group to work on, "Blast Off" focusing on imagination in space and applying different movements in an outer space theme. As the weeks progressed, Teacher Char would show a routine with 3-4 movements in a set just once to the class and spot them as they moved through. It was impressive to see how on task the children would be for the 45 minute class.
After the third or fourth session I had a moment of huge pride that welled up within me. I had watched Penny go through these motions, learn how to properly hold herself on the bar or beam. On one set, I saw her quickly and with strength pull herself up onto a bar, lock her elbows and hold herself suspended for several seasons. No wavering. Her muscles engaged, she had a huge smile on her face and she realized what she had accomplished. I caught myself clapping and saying "good job," and realized that she couldn't hear me through the window, but the other parents sitting with me smiled knowingly as they too had seen their children meet a goal recently. Sometimes you just can't hold back that kind of happy.
At the end of each class, Teacher Char and Teacher Brittany swap spots and while Brittany winds the kids down with a game or bubble popping, Charlene comes out to debrief the parents on what the kids had worked on. We cheer on the kids as they come out of the gym and they all line up for their reward of stamps from one of the teachers. It didn't take long for even Ruby, who would sit with me during Penny's class, to run over excitedly and sit patiently with the other kids for her ration of stamps.
So if you ask me, The Little Gym is #1 for where to sign up your kids for a physical activity. I'm sure some of the students there are destined for greatness in sports, but that's the not primary goal here. The goal is to help give children an all around experience that includes learning about gymnastics and helping them learn how to use their bodies in a purposeful way, while learning social skills on how to properly interact with other children - not necessarily with their parents hovering over them to make sure everyone says "please" and "excuse me" (something that I can surely be guilty of).
The Little Gym has over 300 locations world wide and is great for kids from age 4 months through 12 years old. There are a variety of classes; such as gymnastics, baby & me, KinderMusik, dance, karate, sports skills and more. In addition to regularly scheduled classes, The Little Gym of Everett offers "Parental Survival Nights," where your child gets an evening playing at The Little Gym while mom & dad get a break! There are drop in class sessions, summer camps and so many other fun monthly activities. It's really more than what you would expect!
Connect with The Little Gym of Everett
Disclosure: Thank you, Little Gym of Everett for giving us the opportunity to try out your classes for Penny! No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.