Popping popcorn is one of 2-year-old Ava Giacometti’s favorite workouts. The corn in question is part of the EyePlay interactive videogame, which projects images on the floor that move, change color and pop when kids jump on them.
Ava’s mom, Mitzi Giacometti, joined Wayne’s Club La Maison for EyePlay, along with the swimming lessons, karate and other activities her two children can enjoy while she’s working out. “Many gyms offer babysitting, but this is much more than that,” she says. “I was looking for something that would allow my kids to release their energy in constructive ways. I also wanted them to feel comfortable knowing that Mommy is right over there, releasing her own energy. My kids know that they go to the gym to exercise, and so do I.”
At Club La Maison, the Kids Korner program is scheduled to coincide with adults classes, giving parents a solid hour to spin, box, Zumba and more. Creating Kids Korner was a special focus during the gym’s 18 months of renovations, which were completed late last year. Additions include a clubhouse at the pool, an art room, and a game room with an arcade and foosball.
Kids also have their own exercise room for karate, dance and yoga, with hardwood floors, mirrors and ballet barres. “That space is just for kids,” says Greg Hoisington, children’s program director at the club. “It’s their own little home.”
The wave of family-friendliness hitting local gyms is not only convenient—it’s logical. “If fitness and exercise are important to Mom and Dad, they want to instill that in their kids,” says Caitlin Richardson, coordinator of Sports Club for Kids at Philadelphia Sports Club in Radnor. “Going to the gym becomes something they do together.”
One of the most popular classes at Sports Club for Kids is boxing for ages 7-13. Once a week, for 45 minutes, kids work out with an expert boxer who’s also a personal trainer. That combination makes him a great teacher, Richardson says.
Local tweens are also looking for personal trainers. To meet that demand, PSC introduced youth sports conditioning in early 2016. “The goal is to get students trained and ready for their schools’ sports season,” says Richardson. “Our trainers work on agility, stamina and endurance.”
PSC hosts birthday parties and day-long camps during school vacations. Club La Maison does the same, and has summer camps, too.
Adults shouldn’t worry that kids are taking over the gyms. “They’re confined to their own spaces,” says Hoisington. “Grown-ups do their own thing, and the kids do theirs.”
An exception is yoga. PSC and Club La Maison offer family classes, and certain workshops and classes at Prana House Yoga in Bryn Mawr are open to children as young as 5. “Kids take to yoga very quickly,” says Nadia Hopkins, who owns Prana House with her husband, Derek. “The breath feels good in their bodies, and kids aren’t worried about looking silly if they fall over. We make the ancient concepts of yoga approachable Sometimes, that means naming poses after things they recognize, like a bunny or a frog. Other times, we create a journey of imagination by telling a story they can take part in through poses.”
Parents can even use the poses with their kids at home. “When it’s time to go to bed, Mom can say, ‘Let’s practice sleepy breathing,’ and do that exercise, which is putting their hands on their bellies and inhaling deeply to see how high they can get their hands.”
Self-soothing is another big benefit of yoga. “For kids who deal with anxiety, anger or sensory issues, it can provide calm and peacefulness,” says Hopkins. “They’re creating that for themselves through just breath and movement.”
It’s important to keep in mind how gym programs differ from team sports. “It’s about exercising to exercise,” says Hoisington. “It’s not about making the team—or beating another team. Kids are working to better their skills and move to the next level.”
It’s really about a mindset. “My mom did exercise videotapes, and I got into fitness through her,” says Giacometti. “I want to model the same thing for my kids. In my house, we don’t complain about going to the gym.”
JUMP, SKIP, RUN
Exercise guidelines for kids ages 6-17.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1. Kids should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
2. Most of those 60 minutes should be moderate or vigorous aerobic activities like biking, brisk walking, running, dancing, playing tag, soccer, and basketball.
3. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done at least three days a week, including gymnastics, playing on a jungle gym, push-ups, and pull-ups.
4. Bone-strengthening physical activities should be done at least three days a week, including hopping, skipping, jumping, running, gymnastics, basketball and tennis.
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