A place where kids have fun, learn and grow physically and emotionally
Physical activity, boldness and eagerness to take risks, to learn and grow are crucial for children's development, but for the modern urban dwellers this is often hard to do. The Little Gym is a place where this can happen in a safe environment, under the control of trained instructors and after a curriculum that teaches children a lot more than how to do a cartwheel or a somersault. The Little Gym is a place that helps children to develop physically, emotionally, and intellectually in a structured way that uses gymnastics to teach important skills such as confidence, positivity, team work and stamina. Children of all age can benefit from the program – from babies to students. Martin Petrov, founder of The Little Gym Sofia, tells us more.
What is The Little Gym and what makes it different?
On the outside, The Little Gym is recreational gymnastics for children in a safe, multicolored, purpose-built facility. On the inside, it is a patented early child development program. We use gymnastics as a vehicle to help children develop not only physical, but also life skills. Our philosophy and teaching methods introduce the children to a way of "being" – healthy, sporty, positive, confident, compassionate, helping others. The Little Gym is a springboard to life's adventures. It equips the children from an early age with the skills and attitudes they need to be successful and balanced adults. This is also what makes us different from most children activities. We are not a playground, nor a school, yet we combine play and learning. We call it Serious Fun – our goals are serious, but our methods are fun.
What are the core goals of The Little Gym and why are they important?
At The Little Gym, children gain confidence and self-esteem, learn how to overcome obstacles and fears. This is the main goal of the program, which transpires from every page of our curriculum. The beauty of it all is that it happens through play and fun, lots of movement and music while the children develop their physical and social skills, and emotional intelligence. In our gym's safe and stimulating environment the children feel comfortable to try out new things free from fear of being mocked or laughed at. Our specially trained instructors know how to engage and encourage them to try their best. No wonder then that for the kids, The Little Gym is their favorite place to "play" whereas in fact they learn so much just by being part of the classes, without even realizing it. And come see the cartwheels and somersaults they do. It really is not just play.
Why did you decide to open The Little Gym in Bulgaria?
The Little Gym is an international franchise established in 1976 in the USA. Now it has over 430 clubs on 6 continents. I first set foot at The Little Gym in The Hague, The Netherlands, where my younger daughter attended it. I fell in love with the place and the effect it had on the children. I had never seen so much positive energy, laughter and fun at one place. A few years later, I decided to change my professional career and quit my job at the International Criminal Court. I needed a change. The Little Gym was that change. It materialized an old dream of mine – to help children, to do something good for them. I wanted the Bulgarian children to experience the program. This was 4 years ago. The rest is history. We now have 450 members. About a third of them have been with us from day one. Some children couldn't even walk when they first joined the program.
The Little Gym aims to bridge the gap between generations. How do you achieve this?
We are a family-oriented place and parents, grand-parents and siblings are welcome to observe from the lobby the classes and to socialize with like-minded people, while sipping a coffee, or reading a book. The children love that mammy and daddy are watching them so they can share with them each new success. It is lovely to see how dads bond with their kids, you can tell this is their special time. We see more and more expats at The Little Gym these days, too. Our instructors speak English and so do most of our clients. The Little Gym has become a natural integration environment for expats.
What do the babies and toddlers classes include?
Our parent-child classes for kids from 4 months to 3 years of age offer individualized instruction focussing on age-specific skills. The detailed lesson plan introduces new skills and techniques every week. Children develop their independence in an environment where they can climb, roam, and safely explore. They practice new physical skills while focusing on listening, manners, patience, and following directions. Our youngest members build strength and develop coordination while observing and learning from other kids. Our group activities boost social and emotional skills and teach the children how to take turns and share the equipment. You should see the smiles on all faces – both the children's and the parents'. It is fun!
What characterizes The Little Gym's preschool gymnastics?
The classes for children aged 3 to 6 years help building physical skills in a group setting, allowing them to interact and make new friends. Children start linking different skills into more complex ones and learn to remember multiple directions. The combination of solid gymnastics skills and the ability to process the instructors' directions boosts their confidence and prepares them to excel in school and athletic challenges. Your child will take part in imaginative learning, building physical skills while working on socialization, listening and following directions.
What about your gymnastics for students?
Transformation is the big word here. At this age, children are still developing confidence in their abilities. This is why we divide them by skill level, rather than by age, so they can accelerate at their own pace. They learn specific techniques that improve their strength, balance, coordination, and agility. With a solid foundation of gymnastics skills, they will confidently transition from the I'm-not-so-sure-about-this attitude to the Of-course-I-can-do-it! phase. This way, a cartwheel becomes a round-off and a handstand turns into a handspring. In an environment where pressure is minimized and fun is maximized, our gymnasts happily strive for the next level. And they are loving it!
I want to organize my child's birthday at The Little Gym. What will be different from the usual experience?
You will get the entire facility only for your party. We will start with an hour of fun gymnastics in the gym, exploration and games that stimulate the imagination. Our instructors lead the activities and take care that all children are safe. At the lobby, the adult guests can watch their kids' having funs in the gym while enjoying a snack or a drink. Parents love the birthday parties at The Little Gym as they combine sports and learning with play and fun in a safe and private environment. As one parent's review says, his son's birthday at The Little Gym was "substantially different from the zoo that birthday parties turn into at most playgrounds and birthday centers."
Sofia, 118 Bulgaria Blvd
phone: 0888 594 441