A few months ago we enrolled Sam in a Little Gym class. My husband started coming to the sessions with us because I couldn’t carry Sam through a lot of the activities as part of our turn-over of Sam responsibilities. Yet after watching several sessions, he felt that it was no different from the Gymboree classes we used to attend. I on the other hand, having done the research and the classes (and once upon a time, I did teach part-time in Gymboree), see the difference. As a spectator it’s easy to assume the similarities, but having done both, I feel I can give you a glimpse of their differences for your benefit as well.
Gymboree Play and Music. The premise of Gymboree I believe is to learn through play. A lot of the Play Class activities involve building imagination and creativity, first and foremost. The physical and motor development that you can get from the different equipment set-ups (that change every 2-3 weeks), I feel is something that comes as a natural consequence from all the activities. Then there’s the use of the playful colorful Gymbo mascot, which makes it very entertaining and kid-friendly. Who doesn’t love kisses from Gymbo the clown?
When Sam was younger we would attend the Play and Art classes. In particular she loved the parts of the class where they play with the parachute, bubbles and then sing and dance with Gymbo. We used to go as well for the free play sessions, where as a member you’re entitled to use the equipment outside of class time so she could run around and explore.
I feel that Gymboree’s disadvantage is the inconsistent quality of the teachers. While I have seen and participated in classes led by really great teachers, in general I feel that a lot of the other teachers are not as experienced with the children as they should be (here in Chapel Hill as well as in Manila). I myself was allowed to teach without any child development requirements (though I hope that I still did my students justice!) which is something I would expect of teachers in developmental classes. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have been hired! As a mom though investing in my daughter’s development, I feel strongly about the teacher being able to teach both the children and the parents. I would want the teacher to add value to my child’s life, and be able to tell me why this activity or that activity is better for her at this stage in her life (and what we can do at home to further supplement this). That of course, is just my personal thought and opinion on the matter. 🙂
The Little Gym. The Little Gym uses parachutes, music and bubbles in their classes too, however I believe the main difference is that they aim to develop motor and social skills founded on gymnastics (ie physical development comes first). The “play equipment” alone is composed of balance beams and trampolines, which is very very different from the set-up found in Gymboree. In the class that we attend, the teacher educates sets up groundwork for skills like forward rolling, balancing and swinging on bars, and teaches the parents as well how to properly spot your child. The creativity portion comes in the games associated with some physical skills. The Little Gym also promotes independence more, because after a certain time they encourage the parents to stand back and let the children learn the skills on their own. Eventually the goal is to get them to classes where the parents aren’t as involved in the actual session.
With respect to the teachers, I feel that they are a little bit more trained and experienced — well, they would have to be if they’re teaching gymnastic skills. The teacher in our class demonstrates the skill of the week (which gives me a little bit more confidence that she knows what she’s talking about). The other thing I like about the teaching staff at the Little Gym that we go to would be how involved I feel the teacher is in Sam’s individual development. The fact that we have an action shot sent via email or even a questionnaire that I filled out about what skill we’d like them to focus on, makes me as a parent feel like they really want to ensure Sam gets the most out of the program.
My only complaint is that outside the class we attend, there is no opportunity to use the equipment as a form of “free play”. This makes it difficult to reinforce the skills Sam learns in class because when we come home, there’s no high bar for her to swing on. So it’s taking a while for her to appreciate what she learns and become comfortable with it.
Over-all I would say that I would still use Gymboree for younger children (maybe until age 3 when they start exhibiting certain specific interests). Starting out at Gymboree worked well for us because it was a friendly, baby-safe environment where Sam could build her muscular strength and social skills. We moved onto Little Gym because I noticed she would rather climb and jump and roll on the Gymboree equipment, instead of participate in the actual class activities. Plus, she started pre-school where some of their activities overlap. Now at the Little Gym, she happily tries to copy the teacher when the skills are introduced. As a younger member of the class though (their bracketing differs from Gymboree where she would always end up as one of the older ones), she still needs my help in trying things out. I’m not too worried because I feel later on the independence will come. We’ve noticed she’s gotten good at jumping (or bouncing), balancing, climbing and doing all sorts of physical activities without any fear. In a way, The Little Gym develops a different aspect of skills but at the same time, still compliments the things she can get from school.
Going to Gymboree with Sam for a time was (and still is) fun because it was also all about bonding and strengthening our relationship. Now at the Little Gym, where (slowly but surely) she is learning to do things on her own, I realize what a little big girl she’s turning out to be (sniff!).
April 3, 2011 at 11:58 pm
I’d have to agree on Gymboree teacher quality. M was doing sports classes in Shangrila and because it was sports, she accidentally bumped into another student — by accident! Yaya said the teacher kept on making her apologize and after that M didn’t want to join in anymore. I guess it was pride on her part that she didn’t do anything wrong and it was an accident. And I guess they way the teacher spoke to her.
We paid for 4 classes but didn’t get to attend 2 because of that incident. Although M is quite sensitive, the teacher should have been sensitive to the her feelings too and the nature of their activities. She’s gotten into situations in My Masterpiece before but she’s never refused to go back. Teacher Eli is back in Gymboree though and says I should bring M back but M really doesn’t want to anymore. Oh well. So much for my annual membership!!
April 5, 2011 at 8:02 am
Oh gosh! Kawawa naman si M! Well yes, kids can tell too if their teacher is worth it or not, hahaha
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March 13, 2012 at 11:21 am
Very good post! I was searching for a comparative review between Gymboree and Little Gym for my twins and found this post! Thanks for this!
I have to somehow agree with how you said about some instructors at Gymboree in Manila. Even wathching some youtube videos, I can see how well-trained the instructors are in handling kids doing baby sommersaults and stuff. I have tried gymboree with 3 of my kids, but have really been turned off about some instructors who somehow yell so loud when they conduct activities. Or probably, that is how they grab the kids’ attention, though? But, apparently, they did grabbed the kids attention but unfortunately, scared them and would just rather not stay in the class! Some instructors feels like they memorize each line w/o actually connecting with the kids. 🙂
March 13, 2012 at 11:22 am
I meant, The Little Gym had more experienced instructors than in Gymboree as per our experience. 🙂
March 13, 2012 at 11:29 am
Thanks for reading! I really think it’s because Little Gym teaches real gymnastic skills, while Gymboree is founded on play. There are some instructors in Gymboree who are really great and good with the kids, but there are others who could be a little shout-y at times. It’s really difficult to find a good balance between being heard above the noise and keeping the kids’ attention, but yes, I agree, a great teacher makes it look so effortless and makes a lasting connection with the kids. 🙂
June 3, 2013 at 10:37 am
Just out of curiousity, have you tried Kindermusik? I’d like to see what your perspective is on a similar program that’s focused more on music and developmentally appropriate movement activities than on specific pre-gymnastics or early gymnastics training. From what you wrote here, it sounds like Gymboree is kind of in the middle of Little Gym and Kindermusik as far as programming activities, but Kindermusik teachers are required to do a lot of training in child development, so if you end up trying a kindermusik class, I’d love to hear your insights.
June 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm
Hi Tabby, both my girls have been in the Kindermusik program since they were 11 months and 6 months respectively. We love it and I see the benefits. The teachers we’ve had are great, and even I’ve learned so much as a parent. I have a few posts about Kindermusik if you’d like to check it out:
Enjoy, and thanks for dropping by!
December 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm
thank you for this. I too, agree with your opinion on the gymboree teachers. I enrolled my daughter in their music class (1-month session) and I was not really impressed with her teacher. When we missed a class, we had to go attend a session taught by a different instructor and we loved her! Unfortunately though we had to go back to our original schedule. My point is, although gymboree is a good place to go, I think they lack consistency in the training of their instructors. So again, thank you for this blog. Have a nice day!
December 16, 2013 at 4:00 pm
Thank you for reading this post! 🙂
May 21, 2014 at 1:38 am
I am not sure if you will get this since this post was made a while ago. I would love your opinion on something since you have been to both The Little Gym and Gymboree. My daughter is 2.5 and we have been going to The Little Gym for about a year. We all love it but recently my daughter has developed a major fear of heights and will no longer do the balance beam or swing from the high bar. She is also not ready to be as independent as they would like since she is very attached to me and her daddy. She goes to daycare everyday so I wonder if it isn’t because she misses us and needs that time with us on the weekends. We were thinking of making a change and taking her to Gymboree since the “play” portion of the class is where what she seems to enjoy the most. Do you think it would be a good switch? We love the teachers at the TLG but I also want her to get the most she can out of these classes.
May 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm
Hi Jeanette! I still get the notice for comments, sorry it took me a few days to get to it.
I honestly wouldn’t know if it’s a genuine fear of heights or possibly an age / preference / attachment; maybe more time observing her and letting her try new things (Like Gymboree) might help you determine what she needs at this stage in her life. At this age, I’ve learned that it’s important to let them try out different things and explore. Good luck! 🙂
June 4, 2014 at 1:48 am
Thanks…we are going to give it through the summer and if we don’t see a change we may try something new. Thanks for your input!
June 4, 2014 at 1:54 am
You’re most welcome! Good luck!
May 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm
Nice post! Really helpful (:
May 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm
June 5, 2014 at 7:57 am
Hi. My baby boy is 13 months. We enrolled him last may at the little gym. He seems to enjoy every minute of it. I’m thinking of enrolling him again next week. I would have to pay around 21,000 for classes December. I’m wondering if it’s really worth it. I can’t seem to decide if we should spend this much. I’ve ask teachers on benefits and all they say is motor skills speed and strength. Will this help him learn how to walk Independently?
June 5, 2014 at 10:30 am
Hi Grace! Thank you for reading the post and visiting the blog. I feel that the first thing for you to decide is what it is your baby boy needs developmentally and socially. You might want to consult your trusted pedia too if you’re worried about him walking independently (Although I will say based on my experience, that at 13 months, it’s still normal to toddle and need support when walking. You’re still within normal range). Walking independently, as with any other skill just takes time, practice and support. The learning can happen in any setting. Once you’ve identified his need, then you can consider your options for where to invest your funds. It’s important to feel comfortable where to spend your money on too. Good luck with the choice and I hope this was helpful somehow!