Tumble, leap and learn at The Little Gym of Shaker Heights
By Mary Flenner
For 45 years, The Little Gym has helped children between 4 months and 12 years old develop motor skills in a fun, supportive environment.
Programs at The Little Gym are designed to help even their youngest students become what they call, whateveready kids. Kids who are ready to play, ready to learn, and ready to meet key developmental milestones as they grow.
“Now, more than ever, parents are looking for a clean, safe, environment for their children to play, learn and grow. That’s what we provide,” says owner of The Little Gym of Shaker Heights, Paula Pascarella.
The 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 grow in all areas of their development. “Our students are growing not only their physical skills, but also their social, emotional and cognitive skills. They’re having so much fun they don’t realize the development that’s going on behind the scenes… it’s almost like one of those desserts with veggies snuck into the ingredients,” 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 coach the parents on expectations for their children, to set their mind at ease that much of their child’s behavior is typical for the age. The goal is to be each child’s springboard to life’s adventures, whether they go on to play sports, become a musician, an academic, whatever they decide they want to do. We’re here to lay the foundation for success.”
“I love my job. Being able to provide an environment where children can safely interact with others and parents can be with other parents to support each other brings me such joy,” says Pascarella. “I’m head over heels for The Little Gym—as a parent, as a business owner—to know I’m doing something good in today’s challenging 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 TLGShakerHeightsOH.com for more information.