While most South African schools put a big emphasis on sport there’s often not much education around staying active off the sports field. Not every kid responds to or enjoys sports but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t learn the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle. Of course, getting your kids to dedicate time to being active is tricky in our tech-driven age, where exercise and well-being compete against smart tablets and TV for our children’s attention. But now one South African business is changing this – The Kids Gym, the country’s first dedicated child-only gym, offers kids a non-competitive space that nurtures a love for physical activity, regardless of their ability. A space just for them, where mom and dad can relax over a cup of coffee and allow their child dedicated and guided active time away from other distractions.
Walking into The Kids Gym for the first time you will notice that it’s a lot like a typical adult gym – except all the gym equipment is brightly coloured and kid-sized. A coffee shop, serving healthy snacks and a variety of drinks, greets you as you enter and TV screens hooked up to cameras stream the activity on the gym floor to parents who want to keep an eye on their little one’s progress. The gym is split in two, with a more relaxed sensory play area, well suited to tots and unstructured play, on one end and a fully functional gym, suited for slightly older kids on the other. The gym floor is also fully surrounded by a glass viewing area from where parents can watch all the action take place.
I love that The Kids Gym aims to encourage every child, no matter their physical or sporting ability, to be active and embrace exercise and fitness as a lifestyle option. It’s so important for children to learn to be active in a more structured way long before they get to the age of 16 and their hormones start to kick in. Just like any other top of the line gym, the gym floor at this unique space offers state-of-the-art technology and equipment and of course, guidance by trained professionals. It’s a safe space where all children can find and grow their own personal strengths and abilities and it’s about time someone opened a spot like this in SA.
The Kids Gym offers six activity zones, namely the Fitness Zone, Rhythm Zone, Ball Zone, Balance & Climb Zone, Jumping Zone and NinjaZone. The Fitness Zone features custom-designed KIDSFIT treadmills, exercise bikes, moonwalkers and rowing machines to help improve balance, coordination, strength, flexibility and rhythm in an age-appropriate way. The Fitness Zone also teaches skipping – regarded as one of the safest aerobic exercises for children – from the basics to dazzling tricks. Next, there’s the Rhythm Zone, a 64 square metre carpeted area with eight metres of mirrors, offering a range of exciting age-appropriate activities to music, from action songs for younger members through to Zumba and hip hop dancing for teens.
The Ball Zone focuses both on fundamental ball skills, such as throwing, catching, kicking and hitting, as well as the ball skills needed for specific sports. Ball skills are an important physical development milestone, and improve motor and bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, timing and sequencing – all important whether you play sports or not! The Balance & Climb Zone offers balancing beams, slacklines, hanging ropes, rings and trapezes of different heights and difficulties and encourages safe balancing and climbing techniques through stimulating children’s visual motor skills and positioning systems.
If your child loves trampolines then the Jumping Zone is where they’ll want to be. This area has a 12m trampoline track and a 12m air track (spring mat) where children can easily and safely learn to jump and develop basic agility skills, both of which are necessary for strength and gross motor skill development. lastly, the NinjaZone is a first in South Africa. Based on the popular US NinjaZone programme developed by professional gymnastics coach, Casey Wright, it is a thrilling fusion of obstacle training, gymnastics, martial arts and freestyle movement that builds the strength, agility, stealth and mental prowess of trained ninjas (really, it does!).
All sessions in all zones are facilitated under the strict supervision of professional trainers who are qualified in sports and/or fitness. Not only do the trainers ensure that activities are done correctly for maximum health benefit and to avoid injury, but they also act as positive role models at the gym. “At The Kids Gym, no one works-out alone. There is always a trainer to teach children what to do or to supervise children who know the ropes. Workouts are either age-appropriate scheduled and structured workouts, or anytime, mixed open workouts, which are supervised by the trainers” says Janet Mitchell, a trained physical educator and The Kids Gym co-owner.
“Exercise and physical activity has the power to transform lives. I know; as a national gymnastics coach and father of a daughter with a physical disability, I‘ve seen it. It’s with this in mind that we have built The Kids Gym model,” explains Glenn Joselowitz, co-owner of The Kids Gym and father to six-year-old Emily, who serves as the inspiration behind the idea. The Kids Gym also provides a range of special programmes to assist children with low muscle tone (focusing on core stability, balance, strength and postural control); motor function delay (focusing on core stability, balance, coordination and body awareness); and hyperactivity (focusing on concentration, release of excess energy, circuit training and obstacle training).
The Kids Gym flagship venue is now open at Sable Square, corner Bosmansdam Road and Ratanga Road, in Milnerton, Cape Town. A second gym is set to open in Gauteng in 2018. The Kids Gym walk-in prices are R100 for a pay-as-you-go one-hour workout or R50 for playtime in the Playzone. They are also offering an opening special on memberships at R299 per month for unlimited visits.