Toddler Gym, A Home Version

Question from Dr. Sally:

I was reading my neighborhood “Activity Guide” and came across this class being offered called “Toddler Tumbling.” It caught my eye because it sounded like fun–probably a big open safe place where toddlers can do what they are supposed to do–explore. I am guessing there is lots of toddler-size equipment in it and that little ones can move around freely on each piece. I envision it as a wonderful place for little ones to enjoy the opportunity to exercise all their muscles while doing what toddlers are supposed to do–explore!

Here is more of the description.

* This non-competitive class is designed to help toddlers capture movement, drama, gain confidence, balance, motor skills, and improve self-esteem together in a social group setting.

* Bean bags, tumbling mats, rhythm sticks, mats, hoops, tunnels, balls and balance beams are some of the things that will encourage your ‘tuff kid’ to get on the move.

* Parents are welcome to stay but need not be present.

Here are the Class Levels:

* Move & Groove 18 – 36 months

* Mighty Movers 3 – 5 years

Shara - Strawberry Festival

Shara with her youngest daughter.

Shara, as the mother of four children, three in or around this age-range, and also as the owner of EarlyChildhoodNews.net, a very popular blog about fun and natural experiences for kids, I would like to ask you if you would comment on all three parts of this offering.

Can you also mention some ways that parents can accomplish these same kinds of experiences at home in a more relaxed atmosphere for much less money? I just read your post “Can we do 50 new things this summer?” So many of your new things seem like they would be excellent examples. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Answer from Shara:

In response to the first three areas you mentioned:

* This non-competitive class is designed to help toddlers capture movement, drama, gain confidence, balance, motor skills, and improve self-esteem together in a social group setting.

REPLY: All of these things sound great and can be done at home, as well. In fact, kids learn best from their parents, at any age. I’m still learning from my mom and I’m almost 40 (smile). When I had just one child (14 years ago) I took him to numerous classes like this because I wasn’t sure how to teach these things at home. Now I have more experience under my belt (with four kids) and we don’t need to attend any classes in order to teach social skills or movement.

*  Bean bags, tumbling mats, rhythm sticks, mats, hoops, tunnels, balls and balance beams are some of the things that will encourage your ‘tuff kid’ to get on the move.

REPLY: Well, I’m not one to use the term “tuff kid” as that implies something a bit negative. I do like the offerings here and they are all things that can be provided at home. I recently put up a post about Indoor Movement Ideas and I listed out the ways in which our kids keep active at home – no class needed. Taking your child to a class is fine but they need to move at home, also, on a very regular basis. Research shows us that movement = better behavior. When our kids sit…sit…sit…that spells trouble for their body and for their brain.

*  Parents are welcome to stay but need not be present.

REPLY: I understand that the class teacher is attempting to cater to busy parents who want to drop and leave. Many parents have errands to run and they don’t get much of a chance for any alone time. That said, I think it would be far more effective for the parent to stay in order to watch and learn the strategies being taught – so they can be reproduced at home.

July! The Month of Freedom

Here is how Shara answered the last part. The concept of “freedom” is written all over this.

What To Do At Home

In my own home we have a big open space for the kids where most people have a Living Room. Rick and I decided to leave our space open so the kids can ride bikes, use roller skates, ride scooters, jump on a mini trampoline and more. They even enjoy vacuuming so we leave a kid-sized vacuum nearby (funny, I know). We live in Arizona and it gets very hot outside in the summer time. We wanted to be sure our kids could stay ‘on the move’ during those 120 degree days.

Parents can be creative in finding open spaces at home. Consider where you might place a tricycle, a scooter, a mini trampoline, roller skates, hula-hoops, music for dancing, dress-up clothing, blocks, and more. You can buy cheap pool noodles to create an indoor obstacle course and you can use blankets or sheets to design a cool fort. There are so many ways to produce movement-friendly rooms.

As far as social skills go, that’s an article in and of itself. Simply put: kids learn how to be social, kind and caring by watching their parents. Pretend that you are being video-taped every day. What would other people see you doing? In what ways are you training your child to be social, kind and caring? What would a video crew capture on film inside your home that would demonstrate these things?

Do those things a little more often and with added intention. Your kids learn best from YOU.

[Dr. Sally] Thank you so very much Shara for this useful and practical information. My guess is that you just made an amazing contribution to the lives of many parents and their lucky little children.

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Comments

  1. Toddlers usually create their their own gym at home. They usually do not ask permission or allow you to create space. Toddlers love to climb and jump from things. As a parent make your home toddler friendly. You should have: large pillows on the floor, a mat , and some blankets. This will allow your toddler to explore freely and safely and also begin to build self-esteem. This is part of social-emotional development. This is also a part of brain development during the first 2000 days. Tumbling is a natural behavior for toddlers, but they should be guided. If you are a neat freak welcome to toddler world. Toddlers love to dump out stuff and are often not willing to help clean up. Let the tumbling begin!

  2. Hi Daseta,
    How thoughtful of you to add your comments to this post. Many programs for today’s little ones are wonderful in many ways, but it is clear from the original article and what you said that with a little forethought and information parents can set up excellent play environments for their little ones right in their own homes. You make all of this come alive, and I so much appreciate your sharing valuable ideas with us.

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