Like most good ideas, Gymboree Play and Music didn't begin in a business meeting—it began out of necessity. In 1976, Joan Barnes, a California mom, found herself frustrated with the lack of spaces where she could take her kids for safe and age-appropriate play time. Knowing that other parents were undoubtedly feeling the same frustration, she took matters into her own hands and founded Gymboree Play and Music. She consulted experts to design a curriculum of activities to foster the development of children’s cognitive, physical, and social skills through structured play. She hired a nationally renowned playground designer Jay Beckwith to design the proprietary play equipment at her centers. And her staff began conducting entertaining classes covering subjects ranging from music to sports to impart valuable lessons of imagination and physical activity to developing minds. As their children learned and socialized, parents also found benefit in meeting and befriending other moms and dads in their local area. More than 30 years later, her vision has proved to be a success: more than 712 child-centered franchises now spread over 42 countries, bringing confidence and creativity to thousands of youngsters in several continents and to one in the center of the earth.
Hands-on learning and playtime in JW Tumbles’ interactive classes help children explore the far reaches of their cranial caverns. Parents with toddlers younger than 3 years old can enroll in parent-participation classes such as Squeakers Class, geared toward four- to 10-month-olds, Little Maestros is a musical adventure for kids four months to five years, or Wobblers Class, where baby bodybuilders 11 to 18 months old practice tumbling and balance to increase motor skills and decrease the need for sippy-cup creatine shakes. Ages 3 and older can fly solo—parents can watch from the sidelines if they wish—during age-appropriate and highly interactive independent classes. The Stompers Class prep 3- to 4.5-year-olds for kindergarten, while Specialty Classes introduces kids from 3 to 7 years old to specific forms of fun in a non-competitive environment. Each class meets once a week, leaving plenty of time for use of the playspace passes.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers 4 months old?12 years old with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents magazine.
Clad in fatigues and soaking in sweat, the denizens of Pure Power Boot Camp lift logs, climb walls, and navigate obstacle courses. If it sounds like military boot camp, that's no accident; each of the drill instructors are current or former military members. Presided over by Lauren Brenner?who became a personal trainer at 16 before playing Division I tennis and working as a trainer for the Syracuse men's basketball team?each instructor leads a platoon that trains together multiple times per week. Pure Power Boot Camp's boot-camp training is ideal for adventure races like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or Warrior Dash as it incorporates real obstacles and situations. After their initial training, members can enroll in maintenance courses that help them keep their new bodies in shape and offer an excuse to see the climbing wall with which they fell in love.
No matter the class, Twisters Gymnastics Center's instructors always make sure to pack their lessons with a hearty dose of encouragement. They inspire students of all ages and skill levels in a 6,200-square-foot gymnasium outfitted with an array of tumbling and gymnastics equipment, from balance beams and pommel horses to colorful tumbling obstacles and a foam pit. Their introductory Mommy & Me and Mini-Gym classes help kiddies build strength and develop muscle control, and their more advanced sessions, including competitive gymnastics, nurture students' desires to test their skills against others. Each child's safety is equally important as their physical development; every instructor is certified in basic first aid and CPR, is USGF-safety certified, and is proficient in scaring away grizzly bears with nothing but a glare.