Business

Kids flip for The Little Gym: Federal Way franchise teaches life skills

Taylor Mentink, 3,  practices doing a backward flip at The Little Gym in Federal Way. - Jacinda Howard, The Mirror
Taylor Mentink, 3, practices doing a backward flip at The Little Gym in Federal Way.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

It’s a great day at The Little Gym, Susie Cohen said as she answered the phone at one of Federal Way’s newest businesses.

Cohen is the owner of The Little Gym, 1414 S. 324th St., suite B201. The gym opened at the end of August, and business is picking up as more Federal Way folks realize what The Little Gym has to offer.

The gym is designed for kids ages 4 months to 12 years. In a gymnastics setting, the youngsters learn motor skills, build confidence and enhance their emotional, intellectual and social skills.

“Our program is gymnastic based, but really, we’re about teaching life skills,” Cohen said.

The kids show up weekly to participate in classes. From the time the youngsters are 4 months to 3 years old, parents sit in on classes. After that, the kids are on their own with the instructor as parents watch from the lobby.

Teachers encourage kids to explore, challenge themselves and try new things. They conduct class in a non-competitive manner. Tumbling and games are part of the theme directed classes. This all contributes to a child’s physical and mental growth, Cohen said.

“What separates us is our passion for every child to be successful in life,” she said.

On a recent visit, kids practiced doing things backward. With help from their teacher when needed, Diesel Keighron, Sasha Ginn and Taylor Mentink, all 3 and a half years old, walked on a balance beam, flipped on a low-hung bar and crawled down a set of parallel bars — all backward. Thick mats were used for safety.

Teachers practice emotional praise and positive feedback based on specific actions to make learning fun and help kids gain confidence, Cohen said. Instead of telling a jumping child he or she is “doing good,” a teacher will say something like, “you did a good job landing on your feet.” The kids are not made to do anything they do not want to do. Staff believes it’s more powerful if children make their own choices.

“When a child is emotionally fed, they’re in a better place to learn,” Cohen said.

Parents who bring their children to The Little Gym value this philosophy as well. Sam Ginn said he and his wife bring their daughter to The Little Gym so she can socialize with her peers, get exercise and learn to be engaged in activities.

Sasha has built her skills for the past three weeks and is already eager to show her parents what she’s learned, Ginn said. Not long ago, Ginn took Sasha to a park, where she proudly demonstrated what she was taught in class, Ginn said.

“She talks about it at home,” he said.

Rachelle Mentink brings her daughter, Taylor, to The Little Gym so she can gain confidence and socialize, Mentink said. For Taylor to get up in front of people and not be afraid to be herself and perform is important, Mentink said.

The Little Gym is a franchise business. My Gym, a Little Gym competitor, opened just a few doors down a year or two ago and has since vacated the space and closed. Cohen said she is sure her business will remain in Federal Way.

She and her husband, Stephen, own three Little Gyms and started in the business eight years ago.

“We will be here for the long haul,” she said.

Check it out

For more information about The Little Gym, visit www.thelittlegym.com/federalwaywa/pages/default.aspx or call (253) 529-0309.

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