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As a children's gymnastics provider, we often get the question "How early can they start?" and the closely related question of "What can they actually do at that age?". Both completely relevant and understandable questions, especially when our reply is that in The Little Gym programme, we can start them as early as 4months old. That's always the point we get the raised eyebrows!
To be fair, the natural tendency would be to visualise a baby flying across the room doing cartwheels and backflips, as this is the typical mental perception of gymnastics. Well, not quite. Though it is truly amazing what babies as young as a few months can do when assisted (or 'spotted') by properly by trained teachers, at that age it usually starts with the small component parts of the whole movement. For instance, a baby being assisted to do a "wheelbarrow" is the start of bigger load bearing skills such handstands or cartwheels.
The well proven and well researched reality is that movement for young children is essential for their cognitive development as well as the more obvious physical development. Occupational Therapists who deal with children struggling with sensory perception issues refer to this as "They Pyramid of Learning" (ref. Williams and Shellenberger). Essentially it means that the path to academic learning starts with a strong basis of sensory integration, brought about by physical movement. The earlier this process is started, the better!
Getting into this topic one level deeper, the specific physical movements required incorporate movement in all planes (vertical, horizontal and diagonal) as well as experiences in rotation, balance and elevation. Though there are a few sports and baby programmes that offer some of these, gymnastics is one of the only activities that can offer all of these, and can be broken down into smaller component movements suitable for young babies.
How young his too young? For us, as long as your baby can start bearing his or her own weight, they are ready to be challenged!
As a parent, I often wonder how many activities my daughter can participate in before it gets too much for her (and me!). This will be especially true when she starts school this September. She already goes to The Little Gym, swimming, music classes and now she has taken an interest in ballet (no surprise there for a little girl!). Then, of course, there is kids theatre, specific sports programmes, languages.... the list goes on and it seems that we parents can live our lives shuttling our kids from school to one activity after another.
So how do we choose and prioritise? One idea is to focus on "core" or "life skills" with sufficient exposure to other "interest" activities as a child grows and becomes interested naturally in other things. So for me, I have settled on three main activities for my daughter to give her what I feel are core skills that will set her up for life: swimming, The Little Gym and music lessons. Swimming is self-explanatory, and music I believe is an essential arts skill for the development of cognitive thinking, which also promotes a sense of wellbeing, achievement and gives simple pleasure.
The Little Gym, however, is more of a tricky call, as a gymnastic-based programme may not immediately seem like it fits into the category of a "core" skill. However, the way I have seen The Little Gym contribute to my daughter's development and what other parents have also commented on, means that I do absolutely place it in this category.
It has been proven that undertaking certain physical activities from an early age enhances physical brain development and cognitive skills, and The Little Gym programme is one of the few structured programmes for children as early as 4 months that incorporates these enhancing movements. It also makes kids ready to pay attention at school, as they have to take specific instructions during the classes in order to perform the skills. But most importantly, the programme provides them with core muscle strength, balance and confidence that is essential for them to participate in any sports or other activities that they wish to take up in future. We have seen this, for example, in the speed in which our daughter has learnt to swim and ride her bicycle, as well as how skillfully she kicks a ball compared with her friends and peers who have not been to a programme like The Little Gym. This is especially interesting as we have not noticed that she is has any greater "natural" physical talent than any of her peers.
The final thing though, which I believe is true for any activity, is that a child needs to have fun learning, which is why it is important to spend time choosing an activity provider who understands this and offers the right environment. On our personal journey, we believe that our swimming classes provider and The Little Gym fit this bill... Though we are still seeking the right music class, which is proving harder than expected!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
I often get feedback about The Little Gym programme around commitment, along the lines of "do I have to commit to a whole semester, or can I do drop in when convenient?".
The question is fair. Educational development programmes are an investment into your child's future, and adding up the various activities can add up to significant financial commitment. It would be great for all of us parents to be able to get the best of both worlds - a programme that would benefit our children's development and where they would actually learn something, whilst having the flexibility to make it easier on our time and our wallet.
The reality is that for any programme where you can expect your child to truly learn, develop and progress, whether it be swimming, a musical instrument, Kumon or gymnastics, it requires a commitment and sustained attendance, weekly at a minimum. Drop-in type activities have their place - they are useful for emergencies or unexpected events where we need some space to deal with things whilst having our kids taken care of - but there is no substitute for structure, regularity and repetition for children's development, and hence the required commitment in time and resources behind it.
The times, they’re changing, and it’s becoming even more difficult to keep our kids engaged, happy, and well, out of our hair. I know I’m not alone when I say that I have used my friends: television, computer, and tablet as a distraction for my children when I need 30 minutes of peace.
As parents, we know it’s not always easy, but are kids being exposed to too much technology? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of 7 hours a day using media including television, computer, internet, video games, and cell phones. In an ever growing media driven world, it’s becoming even more important to make sure your child is getting active every day.
So, how can you encourage your child to get active? Show them that being active is fun! Exercise as a family by going for a nightly walk, jog, or having a family soccer game in the back yard. You can also get your children involved in activities outside of the home like The Little Gym to help them appreciate a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come. Whether you’re running, jumping, or tumbling, get moving with your child to build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits!
You know how important it is that your kids eat a healthy dinner every night and we know how hard it is to get your kids to eat the food you want them to eat. If you’re tired of mac & cheese and frozen chicken nuggets, here’s a list of our top five healthy dinners that the whole family will enjoy.
Do children need chores? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, young children who are given household chores “build a lasting sense or mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.” And what parent doesn’t want that for their child?
The article also found that those who began chores around ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have positive relationships with their families, higher academic success and were also found to be more empathetic and responsive to others needs. Need we say more? Check out these 5 ideas for encouraging your child to help out around the house:
To read the full article, click here.
The Little Gym helps kids develop social skills, which studies find may be the most important factor for long-term success.
Science has confirmed it: nice guys don’t finish last. At least not according to a new study which suggests that kindergarten students who display pro-social behavior may be more likely to graduate college and have steady jobs. The 20 year national study tracked more than 700 children from kindergarten through age 25. The researchers found that young children that scored highest in social competence skills, such as sharing, taking turns, and listening, were four times more likely to graduate from college than those who did not. The study also found that, in some cases, these types of social skills may be better predictors of future success than academic skills.
Positive social skills are something that can be learned and improved upon throughout childhood. Programs at The Little Gym help children grow and develop social skills in a fun environment that provides a different context for learning. Games are purposefully designed to enhance social development and the non-competitive environment encourages children to play with each other rather than against each other. Children learn to become more considerate of one another, more aware of the feelings of others, and more willing to work together for mutual benefit. These essential life skills help children learn how to interact in positive and socially acceptable ways which helps them become well-rounded little people so that, as research now confirms, they grow into well-rounded adults.
Good manners are not something that children will naturally pick up. Children need to be taught, reminded, and reminded again of the importance of having good manners. Good manners help children become well-rounded adults. The trick is to teach your child manners that are age-appropriate so they are able to understand why manners are SO important! Here are 6 manners that are at the top of our good-manners list.
Practice makes perfect – keep practicing and reminding your child of the importance of having good manners. Be repetitive, if your child does not say please then simply make them ‘say the magic word’ and they will begin to catch on! Often times role-playing is a great way to have your child experience the appropriate way to act in certain situations. Great manners go a long way and it is best to begin good practices at a young age!
It starts with a sniffle – next thing you know, the whole household is sneezing, coughing, and passing tissues. If you’re feeling confused about how to treat colds and the flu, you’re not alone. Separate the facts from the fiction and check out the top 3 cold and flu related myths.
Myth #1: The flu vaccine causes the flu: Getting a flu shot may cause symptoms that feel like the flu, but the viruses contained in the flu shots have been killed, or “inactivated.” which means they can’t cause infection. While there may be some achy side effects that can sometimes follow the flu shot, it just means your immune system is responding and processing the vaccine.
Myth #2: You’re more likely to get sick if you’re cold: Despite mom’s warnings that you should bundle up, being cold does not cause a cold. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, infections prevail in winter months because they are spread when more people stay indoors for longer periods of time and are in closer contact with each other.
Myth #3: Hugging and kissing are great ways to spread cold and flu germs: Cold and flu viruses like to enter the body through the nose or eyes, so a hug or a peck on the cheek isn’t likely to be dangerous. Don’t be afraid to give your sick child plenty of affection, and don’t worry that a kiss or hug will spread your germs to him (or vice-versa).
Many parents recognize The Little Gym as a safe and clean place in which to bring their children. We work hard to ensure each and every visit lives up to your expectations. Daily and weekly cleaning and sanitation helps keep our environment sparkly and keeps the germs away. And if your child is feeling a little under the weather, our generous make-up policy allows you to attend a make-up class by simply calling us prior to the absence.
Parents are a child’s greatest influence. As a parent, there are many things you can be doing to establish and strengthen your child’s confidence. Here are 6 tips for strengthening your child’s confidence.
Building self-confidence begins very early in life, it is important to set your child up for success. Use these simple tips to help your child become more confident.
It’s no secret that reading to your child is a good thing – but do you know the positive effects reading has on your child’s development now and in the future? According to a recent study in Time Magazine, reading at home with your child early and often activates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language. The study also added that reading has been proven to expand a child’s vocabulary and helps to strengthen the bond between parent and child! Need we say more? Check out these four tips to help make reading together a daily habit:
Everyone knows that physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that it can also go a long way toward children’s brain development? The results of several studies involving grade school children suggest that daily vigorous physical activity can greatly improve children’s development in areas such as a child’s attention, memory, self-control, strategies and goal-setting.
In general, these skills develop rapidly through the elementary school years and then develop at a slower pace during adolescence. The more vigorous exercise a child gets, the more the development of these skills increases and is reinforced. Think of kids on the playground who learn that by pushing themselves to run faster, they can catch who’s “it.” Or consider children shooting hoops who learn that, though it may be frustrating when they miss, the more they practice, the more consistently they’ll make it.
One researcher suggests that:
…in a period when greater emphasis is being placed on preparing children to take standardized tests, these studies should give school administrators reasons to consider investing in quality physical education and vigorous activity programs, even at the expense of time spent in the classroom. Time devoted to physical activity at school does not harm academic performance and may actually improve it. 
So what can you do to help boost your child’s brain through exercise?
Do you read aloud to your child every day? After numerous studies have been conducted to measure the importance of reading aloud to children, The American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy in telling parents to read aloud to their children daily.
Reading, singing, and talking to your child starting at birth has a significant impact on your child’s literacy development. During the first three years of a child’s life their brain is like a sponge, soaking up information and growing at a faster rate than any other time in their lives. That is why it is important to begin conversing with your child to enhance that brain development, and to ultimately set your child up for a lifetime of success.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use the five R’s of Early Childhood Education to help boost your child’s development. The five R’s are;
Reading aloud to your child daily has so many benefits that will help your child enhance their vocabulary and communication skills at a very young age. Use the 5 R’s of Early Childhood Education from The American Academy of Pediatrics to help give you ideas on how to boost your child’s development starting at birth.
Imaginative play is more than just fun and games. In fact, young children learn by expressing their imagination. Picture a child caring for a doll or stuffed animal, or a child pretending to be a fireman and saving the day. These children are creating life-like scenarios and acting them out. With pretend play, children are able to take on different roles, giving them the unique opportunity to learn social skills, problem solving skills, communication, and empathy.
How can you encourage your child to use their imagination? Join the fun! Observe your child’s interest and get on their level, sit face to face with your child and imitate his actions. Keep it simple and take turns. Your child will likely mimic your actions as well. Let your child’s imagination run wild and get playing today!
In this day and age, it is impossible for children not to be exposed to screen time. From tablets, phones, computers, and television, technology is everywhere. But how much screen time, if any is appropriate for young children?
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
As easy as it may be to place your child in front of a screen, there is no evidence showing that electronic media has developmental benefit. Instead, put the electronics away and offer your child non-electronic formats of fun such as books, board games, and active play. Taking a “electronic diet” doesn’t need to be grueling, rather see the developmental benefits in limiting screen time now and in the long run.
Read the entire article from The American Academy of Pediatrics here: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx
Making friends as a new mom is not always an easy feat. It’s like standing in the cafeteria on the first day of school surrounded by strangers wondering where you fit in – but this time you’re at the playground, you have a baby on your hip, you just finished singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the 1000th time, and you just want to have an adult conversation. Is that too much to ask?!
Whether you’re at the grocery store, the playground, or at The Little Gym, as a new mom you’re constantly scoping out potential mom friends, eager to strike up a conversation about ANYTHING. No matter where you are, making new mom friends does not have to increase panic or stress. Here are 5 tips for making mom friends with ease.
Finding new mom friends may not always be simple, but having one or two really awesome mom friends can make a world of a difference. So the next time you’re at the grocery store, playground, or even your local The Little Gym, don’t be shy – strike up conversation and see where it takes you! There are plenty of fish in the sea and soon enough you will have a group of great mom friends that will last a lifetime.