Gymboree sports classes offer a fun-filled child centric approach to sports and fitness.
CHILDREN learn best in a fun environment and exposing them to sports and fitness should be done in the same manner.
I have always encouraged my daughter, Rhia, to be active, not just because it’s good for her but also because when she’s tired out, she naps and mummy finally gets to enjoy some quiet time.
Although Rhia doesn’t have any weight issues, I still think it’s important for her to learn about fitness at an early age, and be out and active instead of hooked to digital devices as so many children are today.
So, when there was an opportunity to try out a sports class at Gymboree Play & Music in Bangsar, I was excited and eager for her to participate.
My daughter turns 5 this year but I have yet to sign her up for any extra-curricular activities. Most classes require a certain level of discipline and commitment, and I know she’s not ready for that.
The Gymboree sports class, however, takes its cue from the word fun. It aims to introduce the concept of sports in a manner that pre-schoolers would appreciate.
Rhia’s session involved racquet sports and I was wondering how the coaches were going to manage a group of active young children with short attention spans but they pulled it off without a hitch.
The session started with the coaches asking the children some basic ice breaking questions to gauge their interests.
They sat in a circle on a mat with a coach showing them pictures of tennis balls, shuttlecocks and different types of racquets. The children were encouraged to identity these items.
This was followed by a warming up session, where the coaches took them through some basic stretching exercises, including reaching for their head, shoulders, knees and toes, as well as running a few laps around the gym.
My daughter loved the last part because she got to run freely around the room with other children. The children turned this warming up session into a game and gleefully chased each other around the gym. Since the floors are well padded, parents can rest assured that no accidents will happen.
Be prepared for the noise level to shoot up the roof though because excited, pre-schoolers are always loud.
The aim of the racquet sports class is to instill basic skills involved in throwing or catching a ball, gripping a racquet and swinging a racquet to hit a ball or shuttlecock, says Ooi Kim Koon, managing director of Gymboree Play & Music.
“More importantly, they learn about sports and fitness in a fun, easy manner. It’s also about exposing them to the basics of team sports such as working together and learning to take turns,” she adds.
The coach started the first activity by getting the children to repeatedly toss a balloon into the air with an open hand, as well as to toss a balloon to each other. This is aimed at helping them develop the skills needed for handling a ball and doing things such as catching or throwing.
It helps, of course, that children love balloons and enjoy chasing balloons around a room, all of which leads to them getting active and burning off excessive energy.
The next part involved holding a racquet and hitting a ball that was balanced on a cone. This was another activity that the children found very appealing.
My daughter was thrilled and I was surprised at her ability to repeatedly hit the ball without missing her aim.
Young children do find it difficult to correctly handle a racquet but with guidance and encouragement from the coach, all the children managed to perform the activity very well.
“Children must be active and exposing them to sports at an early age is a great way to start. Too many children these days are hooked to digital devices. Our sessions encourage movement and also builds confidence,” explains Ooi.
It certainly helps that the coaches at Gymboree are extremely patient, gently drawing children back into the activity at hand every time they get distracted or wander off.
All the programmes at Gymboree have also been designed and created by child development experts so they are age appropriate and focus on the skills children need to develop.
But I particularly liked the fact that songs and music were included in the class because children naturally respond to both.
My daughter, for example, loved the “cooling off” session at the end of the one hour class because she got to do basic stretching movements to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider.
More importantly, she and the other children in the group never even realised that they were participating in a structured fitness programme.
They were made to feel like they were in a free and fun environment, doing physical activities in a colourful, inviting place with music and laughter.
At the end of the class, my daughter even stayed on to try out the swings, slides and other play equipment at Gymboree, all of which has also been designed with input from child experts.
She ended her session exhausted but happy and looking forward to coming back for more.
She not only got a full workout but also had the opportunity to learn things such as following instructions, taking turns and working with team mates. Those are skills no digital device will ever teach her.
GYMBOREE SPORTS CLASS
A fun-filled child centric approach to sports and fitness. Activities focus on developing the skills required for soccer, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, hockey, racquet sports, track and field and golf.
Activities emphasise on flexibility, confidence and emotional wellbeing to build strong bodies and minds.
Gymboree Play & Music, Bangsar Village II
For children aged 3 to 5.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each sport is covered through a four-week programme. The duration of each class is one hour.