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Most recent posting below. See other articles in the column to the right.

"How to Choose a Children’s Exercise Program"

Objectives and Expectations – Like any other important decision, it makes sense to identify your objectives and expectations when considering which children’s exercise program would be best for your child. Which are most important to you? Examples of goals include improving self confidence, gross motor skills, strength, cardio vascular health, coordination, strength, weight control, social skills, emotional development and for some might also include obtaining a college scholarship or being a professional athlete. Once you identify your goals and decide which are most important to you, you will be better able to determine which of the available programs will most likely help you achieve your goals for your child. Every parent has the right to expect that the program will be safe and the facility clean. Don’t accept less.

Competitive vs. Non-competitive programs – There is a very significant difference between these two types of children’s programs. Consider your child’s age, personality and which is most likely to achieve your goals. Keep in mind that a competitive program will often involve a significantly greater time commitment for you and your child (and be more costly) than a non-competitive program. Competitive children’s programs often have a non-competitive (otherwise known as recreational) program also. Enrolling your child in a program that has both competitive and non-competitive programs in the same sport has risks because the more talented and experienced kids will be the ones to invited to join the competitive program. Those children not “chosen” will probably be aware of the distinction that is being drawn and their self-esteem can suffer as a result. In addition, in facilities that have both competitive and non-competitive programs, the most experienced instructors often prefer to work with the competitive teams so if you enroll your child in the a non-competitive program in a facility that has both, or your child is not chosen for the competitive team the quality of instruction may suffer.

The Instructors – Most would agree that the quality of the instructors is the single most important factor in choosing a children’s program. Do you get a warm feeling when you enter the facility? Do they seem knowledgeable? Are the instructors friendly, nurturing and compassionate? Do they exhibit a genuine concern for the children in the program including your child? Do they make an active effort to communicate with you to let you know what to expect when you join the program and periodically how your child is doing in the program.

Lesson Plans – Very rarely do parents ask about them. Do they exist? What do they include? Who is responsible for insuring that they are developmentally correct, age appropriate and fun? Ask to see a lesson plan? If they don’t exist you should be wary. Teachers often say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A well thought out lesson plan indicates a commitment to insure that your child receives quality instruction. To insure that your child grows skills in whatever program you enroll him or her, it is crucial that effective lesson plans are utilized. Through the growth of new skills and the mastery of old skills, children remain excited about learning and continue to have fun. If the program you are considering is not fun, why bother?

The benefits of non-competitive programs - asking every child to do his or her best and praising every child for his or her ability and effort are the hallmarks of non-competitive children’s programs. Instructors that make every child feel good about him or herself by consistently using positive specific reinforcement as the sole motivator can have a dramatically positive influence on your child. By making sure that every child is successful in achieving his or her potential (rather than comparing one child with another thereby creating winners and losers) a quality children’s program can tremendously enhance your child’s self-confidence, physical abilities including strength and coordination, as well as social and emotional skills. When a child’s self confidence and physical abilities are developed early on in life, the child becomes significantly more likely to enjoy and have an active and healthy lifestyle. No one wants to be the slowest runner in the playground or the worst player on the team. The earlier you begin to build your child’s confidence and ability to succeed in physical and social settings the better. These skills, once learned, will serve your child well for a lifetime.

After practicing law for 12 years, Bob opened his first The Little Gym franchise in 1994. He currently owns and operates The Little Gyms in West Windsor, NJ, Cranford, NJ, Hatfield, PA and Newtown, PA. For more information call (609) 799-7776 or see

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