If like me you have an overactive toddler who likes to run, climb, jump and spin their way through life, you are always looking for new ways for them to burn off some of that energy.
So when the new Gymfinity Kids in Chatham invited me along to try one of their pre-school sessions, of course I was going to say yes.
I was given the option of a class for parents and children aged two to three and a half, or a child-only class for little ones ages three and a half to four and a half
My daughter is three and a half - and as much as I liked the idea of enjoying a bit of peace and quiet while watching from the sidelines - she can be quite shy with new people so I opted for the parent and child class.
Millie and I turned up to a Wednesday morning session not sure what to expect. My first impressions of the gym (located in the former Dickens World building) were good - it was bright and full of things that looked lots of fun - from traditional gymnastic beams to a giant foam pit. And judging by the little voice beside me saying “wow!” Millie was impressed too.
There were just two other children and their mums in the class. Instructors Ruby and Rebecca eased us in with a child-friendly warm-up to start with, which included star jumps, touching our toes and stretching.
Then it was time for the first of three obstacle courses. Millie carefully watched the demonstration from Rebecca, and then proceeded to basically do her own thing around the gym floor. She had to hop through hoops, jump over blocks and tip toe along a line.
Her favourite by far was getting to do a roly-poly with the help of one of the instructors. She whizzed around the rest of the course to get in as many turns on the roly-poly ramp as she could.
The second and third obstacle courses got a bit more challenging as they involved using more equipment and being off the gym floor on things like beams and blocks (which must have seemed very high to a three year old).
What I loved is that they all got to go around each course several times, and by the third or fourth time, Millie was doing it on her own and brave enough to let go of both mine and the instructor’s hands on the balance beam.
She was full of beans on the last obstacle course and raced from one challenge to the next with a big grin on her face, and shouting cannon-ball at the top of her voice as she jumped from one of the high blocks. Millie can be quite shy and quiet in new surroundings so it was lovely to see.
The instructors definitely put her at ease. And everything had a child-friendly twist so it wasn’t too daunting - they had to hop like bunnies through the hoops, put their arms out like aeroplanes on the balance beam and place their hands on two colourful handprints when they were jumping over blocks.
Gymfinity’s Vicky Tamplin told me how their sessions can help with a child’s development.
“Being active is so important for children’s development,” she said. “Not only does it improve their strength, balance and coordination to help them grow tall and strong, but it also supports their mental health and overall development.
“Being active releases endorphins, so often healthy and active children are happier, and structured activity classes like ours also support children’s growth, confidence, resilience and independence.
“Our classes are loads of fun so children don’t even realise that they are picking up essential life lessons along the way such as respecting others, building resilience and the importance of trying their best.”
At the end of the session, the children got some free time to use any of the equipment. All three made straight for the huge foam pit at the back of the gym. They also got to bounce on the trampolines and have a go at the gymnastics rings - all under the watchful eye of the instructors who could help them if needed.
As well as pre-school sessions Gymfinity Kids which also has a centre in Maidstone, also offers gymnastics classes with children grouped by age and level, ninja knights classes that combine martial arts and freestyle movement, advanced workshops, holiday clubs and birthday parties.
Vicky said: “Our gymnastics, ninja knights and pre-school classes are all about children building their strength, balance and co-ordination, whether that’s learning how to do a forward roll, doing a somersault or mastering a new ninja skill.
“We have the broadest variety of classes in the industry – in terms of skills, abilities and age groups – meaning that we can tailor a progression pathway for any child.
“And all of our classes are recreational, which means that we make sure to balance children’s progression with tonnes of fun so they are excited to come back to their class each week.”
And while the classes are lots of fun, Gymfinity says their philosophy is also about something important - "building a happier, healthier nation”.
Vicky added: “Our purpose is to lay the foundations for a happier, healthier nation. We are the UK’s first and only provider of clubs and nurseries using the three pillars of movement, nourishment and development to enhance overall wellbeing in children.
“Childhood inactivity, obesity and mental health problems are a growing problem in the UK, all of which have been exacerbated by Covid-19.
“We want to inspire children to gain a passion for being active and to develop healthy habits from a young age that will stay with them for life.”
To find out more about Gymfinity Kids in Chatham and Maidstone, click here.