We are the team of The Little Gym Sofia in Bulgaria! Our gym is the first one to open in Bulgaria and we are super excited to be the ones to introduce the magic of The Little Gym to the kids on our city. We feel privileged to do our internship in The Little Gym The Hague and can’t wait to meet you and your children later this week! In the meantime, here is a little information about us:
Martin: I am the owner of The Little Gym Sofia. I discovered The Little Gym through my younger daughter, Martha (7 yrs), who has been following the program in The Hague for 3 years now. I fell in love with the program, the philosophy and the teaching methods of The Little Gym. I have always wanted to find a way to help children, to do something that helps them develop their full potential. When I discovered The Little Gym, I realized this was the thing I had been looking for. Having gone through extensive training in The Little Gym program and philosophy, I have not only learned about gymnastics and teaching concepts, but I feel I have also become a better father. And here I am today, with a background in international law and criminal justice, I am bringing The Little Gym to my home country in order to enable the kids from Sofia to experience its magic.
Radoslav (Rado): I am thrilled to be part of the very first The Little Gym in Bulgaria. I am crazy about sports. I have been chasing the ball since I was 3 years old. As a kid, I started with football and after that I tried almost every sport – from handball, to gymnastics, athletics, martial arts, swimming, rafting... Practicing sports is like breathing for me. I love kids. I have been teaching different sports to children of different ages and love working with them.
Gergana (Gery): I just love being part of The Little Gym family. With a bachelor degree in special education, practicing various sports has been a major part of my life since I can remember. In addition, I just adore children. I am a proud mom of three and also a passionate kids photographer. I love working with children, they inspire me and motivate me. Having the chance to combine all my loves and passions at The Little Gym makes me genuinely happy.
Lilyana (Lily): I feel privileged and super happy that I have become part of The Little Gym. I have graduated from the National Sport Academy in Sofia as a Sport Coach and a master degree in Karate and Sport for High Achievements. My sport career started with karate when I was just 9. I became part of the National Karate Team at the age of 13 and earned my black belt at 18. But my real passion is soccer – I played it professionally for 7 years. I love working with kids. I have been a karate coach since 2007 and a soccer coach of boys and girls. Children inspire me and make me a better person."
It is true – kids nowadays find it hard to focus, can’t keep their eyes on what they are doing and sometimes miss important details in instructions. Usually, in group activities the little ones actually learn how to pay attention, to listen carefully, to respond to verbal guidance and to become more engaged.
Here are some activities (group and individual) your child can benefit from:
1. Kids may not respond to direct instruction when it comes to everyday activities, like brushing their teeth, for example. They may resist, which could lead to an angry parent and we don’t want that to happen. So, next time consider making up a song or a rhyme to bring attention to the task. This will help the kid remember what he is supposed to do. It could also be used for academic purposes – when you are trying to teach your child a certain concept.
2. It is very useful to have your child repeat instructions back to you. This way he engages different brain structures and builds strong neuron pathways, important for learning.
3. Clapping to indicate the sounds in a word, stomping feet to count – these will help your child be more engaged and make stronger memories.
4. Learning and playing with hands-on materials, play dough, etc. – this will help the child who loves to touch and be touched.
5. Children need to move in order to learn. Use balls and bubbles to promote body awareness and perceptual motor skills, body positions and balance.
6. You can engage movement in learning when possible. Use the space you have to make the kid move around and may be pick up flashcards which he has to memorize. Or tape different parts of a puzzle on the walls and make your child jump in order to reach them.
The most important thing is that learning can happen in a fun and natural way for the kid in a safe environment, where the child feels independent and valued.
It was the Sunday evening of a really cold day. If you have stayed at home with your child or children during these long winter days, you probably know how overwhelming and energy-consuming that could be sometimes. Well, this particular Sunday was different for my family because we played a game. Not a calm game, nope. But one, which requires lots of running, coordination, good motor skills, planning and, of course, lots of laughing (and, as a bonus, results in a deep sleep at night).
I learned about the Mr Fox game earlier that same weekend during a very dynamic and creative recruitment meeting of The Little Gym Sofia which I was invited to observe and evaluate. This game was played and directed by the future instructors and the management team. When I observed how these enthusiastic, happy, positive young professionals became consumed by the activities, not spearing their energy but dedicating their full potential, I immediately imagined how they would interact with my own children. And I realized that I want this to happen for several reasons.
The Little Gym embraces the philosophy that every child needs someone who has faith in their success and who guides them through the process with patience and love. Games, fun and gymnastics are the tools which the instructors (imagine the guys I described above) use to develop motor skills, coordination, flexibility, body awareness which are essential for our children participation in any everyday activity, not only sports. The program is structured in such a way that the kids will acquire essential skills for their particular developmental stage and, through sport and movement, they will actually become more confident, socially engaged and capable of taking risks.
As a psychologist and a parent, I have always dreamt of such a place where the role-model figures will evoke warm emotions in my children and there will be trust to be gained and attachment to be developed. I imagine a place where I will be able to look from not so far, staying in the same hall (it is really good to stay and observe the class, it is worth it!) admiring the efforts of my 4-years old boy (who is a very active little beast) and the complex activities that my 9 years old (an elegant tween) demonstrates. They will look for me in the hope that I have seen their accomplishment. And I will be proud.
So, that night when we finished playing Mr Fox countless times and my daughter gave me a breathtaking hug, saying: “Hey, mom, I want us to play more often like that!”, I knew that The Little Gym is our place. We can’t wait for it to open in Sofia.
[Anna Joukivskaia, a mother of two, is a family therapist, who has been working in the field of education, development of social, communication skills, emotional intelligence, healthy self-esteem in individuals. She has been involved with the well-being of parents and their children for 12 years. Anna holds a degree in Clinical Psychology from Richmond University in London (2005).]
To be exploring the world without fear is one of the first and most essential signs of confidence that a healthy child develops. When mom and dad are not over-protective and let their kid learn about their surroundings, fall and get up again at times, but still eager to try new things, then they are in the process of raising a confident child.
When do parents actually start worrying about their kids’ safety? When they learn how to crawl. And later, when they learn how to walk, when they are around 1 year old. With walking comes the wider world. The wider world means more trouble, some might say. May be true, but when we are close enough to react if something happens and not so close for the child to feel he is constantly watched over, we have a great chance to succeed in dealing with hazardous situations. When the child falls, for example, our instinctive reaction might be to run across the room to “save” him. My advice is – count before you run. You will have seconds to assess the intensity of the situation and in most cases the kid will not cry (if we haven’t induced this reaction in him) and will start up again. This is how our children learn their early life lessons and develop independence.
“I know” and “I can” are the words we want to hear from toddlers. It is our job as parents and professionals to develop the passport for a lifetime of social well-being – a healthy self-esteem. How people value themselves, get along with others and perform in school and work later in life all depend on their self-esteem. Setting the grounds is essential.
The times, they’re changing, and it’s becoming even more difficult to keep our kids engaged, happy, and well, out of our hair. I know I’m not alone when I say that I have used my friends: television, computer, and tablet as a distraction for my children when I need 30 minutes of peace.
As parents, we know it’s not always easy, but are kids being exposed to too much technology? According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children spend an average of 7 hours a day using media including television, computer, internet, video games, and cell phones. In an ever growing media driven world, it’s becoming even more important to make sure your child is getting active every day.
So, how can you encourage your child to get active? Show them that being active is fun! Exercise as a family by going for a nightly walk, jog, or having a family soccer game in the back yard. You can also get your children involved in activities outside of the home like The Little Gym to help them appreciate a healthy and active lifestyle for years to come. Whether you’re running, jumping, or tumbling, get moving with your child to build the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits!
You know how important it is that your kids eat a healthy dinner every night and we know how hard it is to get your kids to eat the food you want them to eat. If you’re tired of mac & cheese and frozen chicken nuggets, here’s a list of our top five healthy dinners that the whole family will enjoy.
Do children need chores? According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, young children who are given household chores “build a lasting sense or mastery, responsibility and self-reliance.” And what parent doesn’t want that for their child?
The article also found that those who began chores around ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have positive relationships with their families, higher academic success and were also found to be more empathetic and responsive to others needs. Need we say more? Check out these 5 ideas for encouraging your child to help out around the house:
To read the full article, click here.
The Little Gym helps kids develop social skills, which studies find may be the most important factor for long-term success.
Science has confirmed it: nice guys don’t finish last. At least not according to a new study which suggests that kindergarten students who display pro-social behavior may be more likely to graduate college and have steady jobs. The 20 year national study tracked more than 700 children from kindergarten through age 25. The researchers found that young children that scored highest in social competence skills, such as sharing, taking turns, and listening, were four times more likely to graduate from college than those who did not. The study also found that, in some cases, these types of social skills may be better predictors of future success than academic skills.
Positive social skills are something that can be learned and improved upon throughout childhood. Programs at The Little Gym help children grow and develop social skills in a fun environment that provides a different context for learning. Games are purposefully designed to enhance social development and the non-competitive environment encourages children to play with each other rather than against each other. Children learn to become more considerate of one another, more aware of the feelings of others, and more willing to work together for mutual benefit. These essential life skills help children learn how to interact in positive and socially acceptable ways which helps them become well-rounded little people so that, as research now confirms, they grow into well-rounded adults.
Good manners are not something that children will naturally pick up. Children need to be taught, reminded, and reminded again of the importance of having good manners. Good manners help children become well-rounded adults. The trick is to teach your child manners that are age-appropriate so they are able to understand why manners are SO important! Here are 6 manners that are at the top of our good-manners list.
Practice makes perfect – keep practicing and reminding your child of the importance of having good manners. Be repetitive, if your child does not say please then simply make them ‘say the magic word’ and they will begin to catch on! Often times role-playing is a great way to have your child experience the appropriate way to act in certain situations. Great manners go a long way and it is best to begin good practices at a young age!
It starts with a sniffle – next thing you know, the whole household is sneezing, coughing, and passing tissues. If you’re feeling confused about how to treat colds and the flu, you’re not alone. Separate the facts from the fiction and check out the top 3 cold and flu related myths.
Myth #1: The flu vaccine causes the flu: Getting a flu shot may cause symptoms that feel like the flu, but the viruses contained in the flu shots have been killed, or “inactivated.” which means they can’t cause infection. While there may be some achy side effects that can sometimes follow the flu shot, it just means your immune system is responding and processing the vaccine.
Myth #2: You’re more likely to get sick if you’re cold: Despite mom’s warnings that you should bundle up, being cold does not cause a cold. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, infections prevail in winter months because they are spread when more people stay indoors for longer periods of time and are in closer contact with each other.
Myth #3: Hugging and kissing are great ways to spread cold and flu germs: Cold and flu viruses like to enter the body through the nose or eyes, so a hug or a peck on the cheek isn’t likely to be dangerous. Don’t be afraid to give your sick child plenty of affection, and don’t worry that a kiss or hug will spread your germs to him (or vice-versa).
Many parents recognize The Little Gym as a safe and clean place in which to bring their children. We work hard to ensure each and every visit lives up to your expectations. Daily and weekly cleaning and sanitation helps keep our environment sparkly and keeps the germs away. And if your child is feeling a little under the weather, our generous make-up policy allows you to attend a make-up class by simply calling us prior to the absence.
Parents are a child’s greatest influence. As a parent, there are many things you can be doing to establish and strengthen your child’s confidence. Here are 6 tips for strengthening your child’s confidence.
Building self-confidence begins very early in life, it is important to set your child up for success. Use these simple tips to help your child become more confident.
It’s no secret that reading to your child is a good thing – but do you know the positive effects reading has on your child’s development now and in the future? According to a recent study in Time Magazine, reading at home with your child early and often activates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language. The study also added that reading has been proven to expand a child’s vocabulary and helps to strengthen the bond between parent and child! Need we say more? Check out these four tips to help make reading together a daily habit:
Everyone knows that physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, but did you know that it can also go a long way toward children’s brain development? The results of several studies involving grade school children suggest that daily vigorous physical activity can greatly improve children’s development in areas such as a child’s attention, memory, self-control, strategies and goal-setting.
In general, these skills develop rapidly through the elementary school years and then develop at a slower pace during adolescence. The more vigorous exercise a child gets, the more the development of these skills increases and is reinforced. Think of kids on the playground who learn that by pushing themselves to run faster, they can catch who’s “it.” Or consider children shooting hoops who learn that, though it may be frustrating when they miss, the more they practice, the more consistently they’ll make it.
One researcher suggests that:
…in a period when greater emphasis is being placed on preparing children to take standardized tests, these studies should give school administrators reasons to consider investing in quality physical education and vigorous activity programs, even at the expense of time spent in the classroom. Time devoted to physical activity at school does not harm academic performance and may actually improve it. 
So what can you do to help boost your child’s brain through exercise?
Do you read aloud to your child every day? After numerous studies have been conducted to measure the importance of reading aloud to children, The American Academy of Pediatrics announced a new policy in telling parents to read aloud to their children daily.
Reading, singing, and talking to your child starting at birth has a significant impact on your child’s literacy development. During the first three years of a child’s life their brain is like a sponge, soaking up information and growing at a faster rate than any other time in their lives. That is why it is important to begin conversing with your child to enhance that brain development, and to ultimately set your child up for a lifetime of success.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use the five R’s of Early Childhood Education to help boost your child’s development. The five R’s are;
Reading aloud to your child daily has so many benefits that will help your child enhance their vocabulary and communication skills at a very young age. Use the 5 R’s of Early Childhood Education from The American Academy of Pediatrics to help give you ideas on how to boost your child’s development starting at birth.
Imaginative play is more than just fun and games. In fact, young children learn by expressing their imagination. Picture a child caring for a doll or stuffed animal, or a child pretending to be a fireman and saving the day. These children are creating life-like scenarios and acting them out. With pretend play, children are able to take on different roles, giving them the unique opportunity to learn social skills, problem solving skills, communication, and empathy.
How can you encourage your child to use their imagination? Join the fun! Observe your child’s interest and get on their level, sit face to face with your child and imitate his actions. Keep it simple and take turns. Your child will likely mimic your actions as well. Let your child’s imagination run wild and get playing today!
In this day and age, it is impossible for children not to be exposed to screen time. From tablets, phones, computers, and television, technology is everywhere. But how much screen time, if any is appropriate for young children?
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
As easy as it may be to place your child in front of a screen, there is no evidence showing that electronic media has developmental benefit. Instead, put the electronics away and offer your child non-electronic formats of fun such as books, board games, and active play. Taking a “electronic diet” doesn’t need to be grueling, rather see the developmental benefits in limiting screen time now and in the long run.
Read the entire article from The American Academy of Pediatrics here: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx
Making friends as a new mom is not always an easy feat. It’s like standing in the cafeteria on the first day of school surrounded by strangers wondering where you fit in – but this time you’re at the playground, you have a baby on your hip, you just finished singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the 1000th time, and you just want to have an adult conversation. Is that too much to ask?!
Whether you’re at the grocery store, the playground, or at The Little Gym, as a new mom you’re constantly scoping out potential mom friends, eager to strike up a conversation about ANYTHING. No matter where you are, making new mom friends does not have to increase panic or stress. Here are 5 tips for making mom friends with ease.
Finding new mom friends may not always be simple, but having one or two really awesome mom friends can make a world of a difference. So the next time you’re at the grocery store, playground, or even your local The Little Gym, don’t be shy – strike up conversation and see where it takes you! There are plenty of fish in the sea and soon enough you will have a group of great mom friends that will last a lifetime.