we finally have a winner!
I finally found a gymnastics class that will work for M. The first one she was in was way too structured. For three year olds it was ok, but it was listed as walking-3 years. They demo’d the circuits before each activity, and the kids were expected to sit still and watch and then copy. M spent a lot of time frustrated, just wanting to do her own thing and go at her own speed.
So I put it on hold for a while, just doing open gym with her whenever I felt like driving to one (all the local gyms did not have open gym for toddlers). Once she was closer to being two, we tried the one at the Y. This one was completely unstructured, just a few pieces of old, not easy-to-use equipment placed out on a gym floor, older girls on the other side of the gym, and basketball players coming in and out. M was so distracted and over-stimulated, it wasn’t worthwhile.
There were two more options within a 30 minute drive at private gymnastic/cheer gyms. So Wednesday I took M and we just showed up to one, to see what it was like. The gym was colorful, with Nemo fish on the walls, which M immediately liked. A group of 3 girls were jumping in an inflatable bounce house with parents blowing bubbles. I spoke quickly with the instructor and owner, told her my concerns about the previous classes, and she assured me that she did not expect a 24-month-old to follow along with all activities, that there were multiple stations set up and she was free to roam the gym and do those things (with my supervision) or particpate with instructor-led activity as she wished. There were some interactive songs, and then they moved to beam and floor circuits which were all very toddler friendly. Later they blew up a different bounce house with slides.
While the older kids (closer to 3 and age 3) were able to follow instructions to work on specific skills, younger toddlers like M had plenty to do, like kick a balloon for hand-eye coordination, walk on beams and jump and land on a colorful target, hang from bars with a stuffed animal held between their feet. The instructor told me the goal of each station, and M just did what she wanted. There was even a swing hanging from the ceiling that she really loved. No one looked down on her for not paying strict attention or working on the instructor-led activity, and she did come do those activities when she felt they were interesting. Several times she had a big smile on her face… and that’s what I like to see!
At the end the kids are supposed to come together (but no one is forced) to sing a song or two with motions, and then play a couple parachute games. This was a lot like the music classes M did from 8-20 months. She actually participated really well, even though she was a bit shy. In the end, she gave the teacher high fives and she didn’t want to leave. I’m really, really happy with the instructor and her understanding of the different developmental needs of toddlers. What a 24 month is able to do as far as class participation is way different than what a 3 1/2 year old can do! (The class is for 1 – 3 1/2 year olds.) Instead of feeling frustrated that she couldn’t focus or work on what the older kids were doing, M was given free reign to go at her own pace and do what interested in her, and still have a somewhat structured space. I loved it! And more importantly, M loved it.