After years away from The Little Gym, I recently returned to sign my toddler up for the Birds class. It was like a wonderful homecoming. Here is the back story. The Little Gym was my first foray into the sometimes-scary world of playgroups, movement classes and the baby band hour at local coffee houses. I was a bit nervous as a new mother to go to these events solo. Yes…I now see how absurd my fears were, but at the time the thought of walking into a room full of strangers, who would clearly be better mothers than I was, seemed very overwhelming.
Apprehension aside, I needed to do something social with my new bundle of joy. I desperately wanted to get out of the house after my first daughter was born. I was lonely. All of my friends were still working and didn’t have kids. I was a fish out of water. I wanted to find an activity that had a small fixed group of people that met weekly. I wasn’t ready to start rocking at Jammin Java. Call me crazy but I don’t think your infant should have to wear earplugs in order for you to meet people. Don’t get me wrong; I came to love kiddie rock in later years. I might have joined a local playgroup but, at the time, my idea of play was a night out in Arlington or Adams Morgan. I truly had NO IDEA that mommy playgroups existed. If it wasn't listed in a local parent's magazine, it was invisible to me. Hey, why do you think I started the website…for people like me!
I digress, since The Little Gym in Fairfax was a mile from my house and they took critters as young as 4 months old, it was an easy decision. I signed up about 10 minutes after my baby turned the appropriate age. Looking back on those days, I think it was one of the best decisions I made as a new mother. For that hour, once a week, I forced myself to shower, get ready and get back into the somewhat real world. I made amazing friends that I am still very close with today. Shout out to Beth, Meg and Anne. My daughter learned to play nice with others and she still has contact with some of her pals from The Little Gym. After seven years it is wild to look back at the photos I took of her as a baby with her buddies on the play mat chasing bubbles. Great memories!
NOW FOR THE EPIPHANY
When I had my second child in December 2011, I sort of waived off the notion that I had to go back to a movement class. I thought I have this motherhood thing figured out. I now had wonderful and supportive mommy friends. I debated, ”Did my infant really need to be in a class?” I thought I don’t need this “crutch”. That is what I told myself. Then something funny started happened.
My husband and I both noticed that our younger daughter wasn’t doing some of the fun stuff that our older daughter did at the same age. I am not sure if it was The Little Gym or not…but our older child was walking by 9 months. I never needed a gate. She could easily get up and down the steps. She could do a full tumble and would tuck her head without prompting. She was also able to jump out of her crib at 17 months of age…but that is a different story.
Now mind you our latest arrival isn’t a slouch. She is a strong child. She is nimble and without urging or assistance was walking by 11 months old. But still…I could see the difference between the two children. It seemed my time at The Little Gym, with respect to skills and socialization, did make a positive difference in my older daughter. Quoting Fancy Nancy “I knew what I had to do!”
When I recently returned to The Little Gym of Fairfax I started to remember all the reasons I why I adored the curriculum. It was wild to see and then remember all of the amazing things a toddler can do with his or her ever-changing skill set. My instructor, Meranda, had the children walking and running with their parents. She had toddlers doing forward rolls and navigating obstacles courses. They were holding onto uneven bars and even sharing balls. How tragic…I had never even held my younger daughter’s hand and walked with her. I guess her ability to walk still seemed so new to me that I didn’t even think to build on the skill. It also forced me to realize that she needed a pair of sneakers! This child is walking and is ready for primetime!
My little 13 month old held my hand with delight and squealed with laughter as we quickly joined the group in a light jog. This was a clearly a fun adventure for her. Some may say these skills are just fun party tricks and kids don’t need formalized classes; however, after playing both sides of the fence on the topic, I can tell you that these classes are more than impressive tumbles and balance beam routines. The instructors, through the class curriculum, inspire children to explore all of the exciting changes that are occurring during their various stages of development.
In the case of The Little Gym, the locations are filled with a community of skilled and cheerful instructors. They have classes that excite and delight little ones of all ages. And for parents and caretakers they are, by default, a gathering place to discuss milestones, methods and even the everyday madness of child rearing. Chances are someone is going to help you figure out how to get rid of that binky, possibly guide you to the perfect weekend event or maybe aid you in executing the perfect karate-themed birthday party. Friendships and dialogue abound especially in the Parent/Child classes.
If you would like more information about the DC Metro area The Little Gym locations and classes, visit http://thelittlegymsofdcmetro.com/. Classes cater to children ages 4 months to 12 years old. Classes include: Parent/Child, Gymnastics, Karate, Dance and more! They also host festive birthday parties that are insanely simple for parents. Camps and parents’ survival nights are also offered.
Note, if you do not have a Little Gym close by, take a look at the DC Metro Mom ENRICHMENT GUIDE.
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