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.