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Today's Family Magazine

Tumble, leap and learn at The Little Gym of Shaker Heights

By Mary Flenner

For decades The Little Gym has helped children between 4 months and 12 years old develop motor skills in a fun, supportive environment.

These gymnastics-based classes teach kids to get comfortable with movement as they learn tumbling, bars and beam.

The Little Gym believes in a nurturing approach, one that’s individualized based on each child and celebrates their small successes along the way.  Their primary goal is to provide a foundation of self-confidence that children will carry into adulthood. 

It’s a fun environment where kids can develop flexibility, strength, balance and coordination. “Kids are learning and developing so much cognitively, but they’re having so much fun they don’t realize it… it’s almost like one of those desserts with veggies snuck into the ingredients,” says owner of The Little Gym Shaker Heights, Paula Pascarella.

“Our curriculum is professionally developed by experts in every field.  We’re also noncompetitive, which is so important in today’s world,” she continues.

“We take children through movement challenges and listen to creative stories, which help them to become better listeners and follow directions.   The Little Gym creates their own original music and incorporates it into every class.  There’s also a strong emphasis on teamwork and cooperation,” says Pascarella. 

For parents who might be considering enrolling their child in gymnastics classes when they are older, keep in mind that ages 1 to 4 years old are hugely important as the brain develops, and physical activity and developing motor skills play a big part.  As children engage in these physical activities, they’re creating new neural pathways, as well as strengthening cognitive and perceptual abilities.  Numerous studies show the positive correlation between physical activity and academic success.  Classes at The Little Gym also encourage independence, problem-solving and risk taking.

Setting realistic expectations is a big part of The Little Gym philosophy as well, as they offer a mix of structured and open-ended skills and activities.

“Kids can watch or join in, whatever their comfort level.  The Little Gym’s parent-child classes also provide ‘exploration time’ as a very important part of toddlerhood is giving them a safe space to explore,” says Pascarella.

Shamuire Spivey, mother of two children at The Little Gym and member since 2014 says, “The instructors do a fabulous job of encouraging kids and celebrating successes no matter how small those successes may be.  This has gone such a long way in building my son’s confidence in his abilities.”
“We always say, ‘You don't have to be the best, just try your best.’  That really makes the difference for kids to enjoy it.  What deters many of us is that physical activity can be hard.  If you don’t have that introduction at a young age, it can be harder to jump into as a teen or an adult,” says Pascarella.

“Not only are we helping the children, we’re helping the parent.  Our team is prepared to mentally coach the parents on expectations for their children.  We try to act as their springboard to life’s adventures, whether children go on to play sports, try dance, or something else.” 

“I love my job.  I love watching them grow.  They’re like my kids.  I get teary-eyed thinking about the families and the children.  We really are changing their lives,” says Pascarella.   “I’m head over heels for The Little Gym—as a parent, as a business owner—to know I’m doing good in the world means everything.”

The Little Gym of Shaker Heights offers a free introductory class for new families.  Programs include: parent-child classes, pre-K gymnastics, grade school gymnastics, sports skills development, dance, summer camps, birthday parties and parent survival nights. 

The Little Gym is located at 20707 Chagrin Boulevard in Shaker Heights.  Call (216) 752-9049 or visit for more information.

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