I always like to try out new things with my children, so when I saw an advert for The Little Gym in Windsor, I was curious to find out what it was about. Today we tried out a toddler class and found out more about what they offer.
The Little Gym is on William Street, right next to the Jelly Lounge which I wrote about last month. It’s brand new, only 3 months old, and is owned by two mums Matina and Andrea. I met Matina today who showed me around and led the toddler class.
When you get to the entrance, you have to buzz in – they keep the door locked for children’s safety. When you walk in, it is such a lovely open space, full of colour – so so beautiful! You park your buggies up at the front and there are coat hooks and shoe racks.
This is the area outside the actual gym, with sofas, tables and chairs, a play area for the children. There’s the most colourful rugs I’ve ever seen and a kitchen where you can help yourself to tea and coffee. If you come earlier than the class time, you can hang out here before it starts.
But also, as a member, you can come here with family any time, bring your own food to eat if you want a break from shopping in town, there’s baby change and loos, basically it’s like a home from home for members.
Anyway, back to what The Little Gym are about – they do gym classes up to age 12, and there are 8 instructors who are qualified gymnasts and primary school teachers, all trained in child development, and one of the instructors is a world champion GB gymnast! The classes are done by term, rather than drop-in. The school-age classes are after-school, and in the day are the Parent and Child classes which are 45 minutes long. It’s split by age – 4 to 10 months (bugs), 10 to 18 months (birds), 19 to 30 months (beasts) and 30 to 36 months (super beasts). Lily being 20 months tried out the ‘beasts’ class.
It was a lovely small group, with about 10 toddlers plus their mums. The classes take up to 18, but 10 was actually a good size, not too overwhelming and a really good, friendly feel. When you sign up to the gym, you sign up to the same class each week. It’s a 21 week semester and there’s a learning curriculum, so it’s like a mini school for toddlers. And I could tell immediately, the toddlers were all very comfortable around each other, the instructor knew their names. I can understand the reasoning behind booking a whole term of classes instead of it being drop-in.
What amazed me about this place was how comfortable Lily was straight away. If you follow my blog, you’ll know how Lily usually takes a while to warm up to places – if anyone tries to talk to her, they’d get the shy face or the screwed up face! But not here, she was right on all the gym equipment straight away, jumping and climbing on the foam pieces, crawling through tunnels, and the smile on her face! She was soooo happy, I could not believe it!
You know what else was nice about it, apart from it being so bright and colourful, it smells new! You know how some places have that sweaty smell, well here it smells nice! Everything is new and clean. It’s somewhere you WANT to hang out.
The class took part in the centre where the parents and toddlers sit in a circle. Lily was off playing, but Matina said that’s okay, if I stayed in the circle she would eventually join. So I stayed in the circle and joined in the group activities without Lily. There was singing, clapping, getting the children to say their names. The idea of this bit is to build children’s confidence, social skills, eye contact, that sort of thing. There was running around, jumping spinning. And sure enough, Lily kept looking over and then ran over to join in. It worked! She especially loved running with everyone in a circle. It was so lovely to see her so happy!
Each week there is a different theme according to the curriculum, kind of like at school. Today’s class theme was ‘colours’, last week’s theme was ‘high and low’. Matina had coloured objects to help teach the toddlers colours, pointing out anything in the room that matched the colour she was holding. The children were very interested, even at a young age, you can see they are taking it all in.
The children were then allowed free-play. Lily actually walked along the balance beam with me holding her hands. Her favourite was the rock-climbing slide, she wanted to go again and again. I did help her up but she was really using her hands to hold the rocks while climbing up with her feet. You can see how this gym gets them to use coordination. They also change the equipment around each week so to keep it interesting.
In the centre, the instructors set up different activities, including teaching the children to do rollie pollies with a song. Hands up, hand down, spin around – something to that effect, while Matina helpled them flip over. She did Lily, and my goodness she loved it, the giggles she gave! One of the toddlers could actually do rollie pollies unaided, I was like wow!
Other activities including finding scarves of a certain colour and bringing them to the instructor, matching bean bags to hoops of the same colour, getting the children to roll across the foam pieces. A bubble machine was brought out, which of course brought lots of excitement. Everything was done with singing and enthusiasm.
I could really tell the difference from a paid class than the usual free things we go to. There’s real one-on-one attention, and there’s more teaching going on rather than just letting the kids run loose. I wish I could put it into words, but it just felt that bit more special, like more care and attention is given to the children. Just looking at their little faces, I could see the children were very happy there. No tantrums or bad behaviour, no fighting amongst the toddlers. Even Lily didn’t mind them, being more intrigued in what the other children were doing.
So that was the class, and Lily came out happy – though it took a while to get her out of the gym (I think she would have liked to stay there all day!). Now, these classes are not cheap – it costs £380 for 21 sessions, which is a big commitment, but I am considering it. I’ve never seen Lily so happy outside of home, and these classes are teaching them social skills that will help when they start school. There is the option to pay by instalments, and if you can’t make a class, you can let them know by 9am so you can get a make-up class at a later date.
I also thought I’d mention, as it’s good to know about potential birthday party venues, they do parties at the weekend where you have the whole venue to yourselves. You get 2 instructors to do a class for the children and it costs £270 for 15 children for a 1 1/2 hour party.
And for the school hols they are doing Easter Camps if you’re looking for something to occupy your kids.
If you are interested in classes at The Little Gym, do have a look at their website for the timetable – at the moment you can contact them for a free trial class to see if your child would like it.
The Little Gym is located at Unit 2, 31 William Street, Windsor SL4 1BB.
I’m certainly thinking about bring Lily back, who knows, maybe she’s a future gymnast!