Gym balances fitness, fun

Kids learn life skills at The Little Gym in Rocklin
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Using bubbles, scarves and cheese at a gym may come as a surprise to some. But for fans of The Little Gym in Rocklin, it’s all part of the lesson plan. The kid’s fitness center is devoted to teaching children ages infant to 12 some of life’s most important skills from social and developmental to listening and independence. And although the cheese isn’t edible (it’s what instructors call an incline mat in the shape of a cheese wedge), it does help with adolescent growth and strength. The gym is filled with kid-friendly equipment – an air track (a blow-up track), parachutes teaching children awareness, rings, balance beams (with parents or instructors as spotters) and more. Dustin Smith of Roseville has two girls who sing The Little Gym’s praises. Six-year-old Olivia started with the center at 8-months-old and continued ever since. “It’s just amazing the leaps and bounds she’s made class by class,” Dustin said. Now his 21-month-old, Jillian, also attends The Little Gym children/parents classes. He said he sees how much his girls enjoy it when they come home and practice what they’ve learned. “Constantly doing flips at the house, showing us what she can do,” Dustin said of Olivia. Another aspect of the center that has kept both Dustin and his girls interested, is the instructors, he said. “I really like the staff. The staff are really nice people,” he said. He said the seven-person staff gets to know the kids quickly and builds up a trust with the students. Olivia also looks forward to the class and the instructors. “She (Olivia) wants to show them what she can do,” Dustin said. Each class at the gym is different, teaching students new skills, from the bubble activities that teach hand-eye coordination in the parent/child programs to infants and toddlers to learning cartwheels and gymnastic skills that build confidence. “It all begins with bubbles,” said Darci Pierce, owner of The Little Gym of Placer County. Pierce said kids are “challenged, not pushed, but encouraged and applauded.” “It just gives them that self confidence at a young age,” she said. Pierce’s children took classes at the center and she said she’s seen the results not only in her own children, but others she teaches. Some kids cling to their mothers like monkeys and grow to look forward to the class, she said. “It’s just very exciting to see.” Coming from a corporate background, Pierce didn’t have much experience in children’s fitness, except that she always stayed active. When Sept. 11, 2001 hit, Pierce said she wanted to make a lifestyle change. “I wanted to do something more meaningful,” she said. Once she saw the concept of The Little Gym, she believed in it and in October 2003, the Rocklin location opened. It now provides classes and attracts families from as close as Rocklin and Roseville to as far as Marysville and Sacramento, Pierce said. Much of what the gym incorporates is gymnastics, which can assist in other sports. “Gymnastics is one of those sports that can transfer into other sports,” Pierce said. “Beyond the gym, they’re learning a life skill.” The 45-minute to hour-long classes teach students balance, social skills by playing with other children their age, coordination with children using sight to catch a bubble on their finger, self discipline with repetition and much more. Each instructor is professionally trained in what they teach and not only teach the child, but the parent as well, Pierce said. “We know what we’re teaching, we know the benefits,” she said. “And we’re very much on educating the parent as much as the child.” Classes at The Little Gym vary by age level and include parent/child, pre-school/kindergarten and grade school programs as well as karate, dance, cheerleading and sports skills. The facility also holds birthday bashes and Parents’ Survival Night with a class on weekend evenings. What: The Little Gym Where: 6015 Fairway Drive, Ste 200, Rocklin Info: 625-0185 Contact Lauren Weber at