My sons and I have participated in many baby/toddler/pre-school gym classes over the last four years, and our experience has been mixed. The best classes we have taken are ones in which the instructor has an understanding of a child’s physical development and uses that knowledge to plan activities that are purposeful. The worst classes, though led with effort and energy, have been open-play time with kids running wild between apparatuses and very little meaningful instruction.
With these experiences in mind, I was eager to visit the The Little Gym on the Upper West Side with my seven-month old, Sam, and our NYC Dads Meetup Group. Here are my thoughts on our experience:
The Space: The gym is located on the second floor above Fairway and is accessible by stairs and an elevator. The front desk/waiting area is spacious and can accommodate several large strollers. The gym is very large and filled with mats and various pieces of equipment for all ages. The room is filled with natural light and cooled down after we opened a few windows. The restroom is equipped with a changing table.
The Staff: The staff was very inviting and helpful. I spilled some of Sam’s milk when I was preparing his bottle before the class and the person at the front desk was quick to help out with a paper towel. Our instructor, Leah, was engaging and able to adapt to the wide range of ages in our group (3 months to 2 1/2 years). I got the sense that she had been trained in childhood physical development.
The Class: The class started with a welcome song that included bells that all the kids seemed to enjoy. Leah cranked up the music and led us in some activities that each of us could do with our children. We walked, we rolled, we danced, we sang. Next, Leah brought out a parachute and led us in a few more activities. After the parachute, Leah allowed us to explore the space with our kids. She also brought out a few pieces of equipment meant for younger kids and showed us how to use those. From my perspective, she was able to work with each of us individually and she was great about telling us what she was doing, why she was doing it, and how it would benefit our children. Finally, she gathered the group together and we sang a good-bye song (surprisingly, one that I had never heard!). When I first saw the space, I was worried that the instruction would be focused on the gym equipment, and would therefore not be relevant for Sam. I was very happy, however, that all of these activities were very fun for the dads and kids of all ages.
Overall Impression: This was definitely one of the better gym class experiences I’ve had. The team has found the right balance between fun that will keep your child engaged and meaningful instruction that will benefit your child’s physical development.