Gym for little ones
October 10, 2007 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Gym for 18-month-old children? I have been hired to teach a 45 min gym class to 18 month-old children and their parents once a week. I don't like gym.

My first class I did a lot of songs that required actions (hokey pokey, ants go marching, etc) as well as an obstacle course and activites like having the parents form a bridge that the children had to go under and follow the leader. I've been told to make the class more active and cut the songs. I am not an active person (plus I am heavily pregnant) and I am having a hard time getting the 18-month-olds to follow directions or take turns (duh, they aren't even two yet). The class is followed by time in the pool and the children are clearly more focused on getting to that activity. My background is in early literacy, not gym. I have no budget and limited supplies (balls, scarves, parachute), what activites can I do with the little ones to tire them out?
posted by saucysault to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
They told you to cut the songs, but don't give you more direction? WTF? The songs are likely the only thing keeping the kids' attention.
posted by notsnot at 6:54 AM on October 10, 2007

Can you tell us what they mean by "gym" in the first place? Did they use other words like "fitness" or "aerobics"? How did they describe it in the first place? Do you have any insight into what "more active" means?

Honestly this whole scheme sounds like the product of dementia; I don't think you're not being active or not liking gym is part of the problem.
posted by creasy boy at 7:02 AM on October 10, 2007

OK, I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how this could be sane, and then it dawned on me: this is probably for the parents, not for the kids. My cousin did a thing called "baby yoga" after her pregnancy where you do yoga holding your baby. Basically the mothers wanted to get themselves back into shape. If you google "baby yoga" you'll find some stuff.
posted by creasy boy at 7:09 AM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: The parks and rec description is: Start with active play in the hall and then finish the class with swimming. Staff will lead circle time, songs and activities.

Yes, I know it is silly that the description includes songs and circle time but I have have recieved written direction to eliminate the songs. I know in the past it has become "crafty" and they do not want that. Fitness and aerobics are not expected, I just keep getting the phrases "active play" and "active games". I've been told to get the children moving around more (the only time they were sitting in the first class was when I introduced myself and asked their names). I've asked for examples of past successful practices but they haven't provided any yet. I would be okay with older children but I am finding this a difficult age group. I am supposed to have all ten class programmes written out by tomorrow and I am having to revise everything I have written to eliminate the many song-based activities I had planned. Hence, my panic.

I love the yoga idea but there is a seperate baby yoga programme and I am not qualified to teach yoga. My direction is to make the children more active, not the parents. I'm glad I am not the only one who thinks this is a Sisyphean challenge.
posted by saucysault at 7:25 AM on October 10, 2007

Seconding what creasy boy said about the class probably being for the parents. I think there are also weight-lifting routines in which parents can use their children as weights (though that might be better for infants) and things of that sort. And the baby yoga is a great idea.
posted by occhiblu at 7:26 AM on October 10, 2007

One of the things that's supposed to help kids get interested in yoga is that most of the poses have animal names, and kids like running around pretending to be animals. Can you hijack that idea, but leave the yoga out, so it's more like "Now we're going to be .... elephants! What does an elephant do? She swings her trunk! Let's walk around like an elephant!" sort of thing?

I have little experience with 18mo. so I may be being overly optimistic on that sort of thing.
posted by occhiblu at 7:29 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have an 18mo and his favorites activities are:

1. Running.
2. Climbing.
3. Putting things away (or into other things).
4. Clapping (or receiving applause).
5. Imitating others (verbally or physically).
6. Dancing.

Mix-and-match and you have "active play." For example, one activity could be run to other side of the room and drop a ball in the bucket. Return. Repeat.

N-thing the idea that dropping music is a dumb idea.
posted by probablysteve at 7:54 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having you been using the parachute? Kids looooove parachute games. There's a list of some here.

And as someone who once had to teach a drama class for two-year-olds, you have my sympathy.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:02 AM on October 10, 2007

Dear lord, no songs? I don't have suggestions for you (when my son was 18 months old, I just let him be aimlessly active, as toddlers are wont to do) other than that if you can't do songs with the kids, you might want to have music going by CD or iPod or something while you do these mysterious other activities. World music works well... or look into Dan Zanes! Good stuff.
posted by houseofdanie at 8:33 AM on October 10, 2007

This class is an idiotic idea. Particularly since they told you to axe the songs.

My recommendation is you tell them to find someone else to do this.
posted by konolia at 8:52 AM on October 10, 2007

We got this Bucket Blast for Christmas a few years ago and while we hardly ever use it, it's a pretty nifty little kit of somewhat-common stuff you can use to play games with little kids. The link page has a list of games and activities.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:42 AM on October 10, 2007

I taught preschool gymnastics for many years at several different gyms (including parks and rec), and if there was anything for 18 months, it was very much a freeform, pull out all the funnest equipment and let the parents take the kids to things while the instructors (always two, in case of emergency) actively supervised. There would be a group activity at the end (parachute time). These people who are telling you to lead a supervised group activity for the entire time are fools. Seriously. I find their lack of support for you really disturbing. Children this age are much better off with supervised discovery time. We never pushed kids this young to participate- just tried to provide fun things for them to explore with their parents. We tried to do things including gross motor skills, counting, shape/color recognition, body part naming. Animal walks are good (you can go through the alphabet with this, the kids get really good at remembering). Sometimes we'd do theme weeks, like the Zoo, or Colors. You might try digging around for "preschool lesson plan" and see what turns up. I really think that your first class sounds great... Just remember to ask parents what they would like to see, and then put them to work. Parents are great resources as well as allies.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:44 PM on October 10, 2007

I've only worked with kids as young as 3 years, so I'm not sure if these activities would be good for the under-two set, but here goes.

If you have access to pillow polo sticks (they look like giant Q-tips with squashy sponges on each end), they work well with little kids. They seemed to be standard issue in all the low-budget daycamp situations I worked in. The kids can knock big soft rubber balls around with them--we had goal nets but even at 3 years old, the kids didn't get it/care and spent a lot of time just aimlessly running with the pillow polo sticks or scoring on their own nets. My only caveat: they also liked to hit each other with the "pillows" on the ends of the sticks. This doesn't hurt them (and is probably a LOT of fun) but might look bad to any adult who's watching.

Musical chairs (I'd use mats instead, for safety reasons) is very active and involves lots of running. I don't think 18 month olds would get the rules, but who cares? They'll like running around and sitting down when the music stops.

Boy oh boy. I am puzzled by the whole "cut the songs" directive. Kids love music and they love to dance/do actions to songs. I really can't imagine what your bosses are thinking.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:45 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

My daughter took a gymnastics class at that age. The structure of her class was songs at the beginning, free-style activities with parents during the middle 85%, and then parachute time at the end.

The activities that were set up included a balance beam, a wedge and gym mats for practicing somersaults, a tunnel to crawl through, a little jogging trampoline, a Little Tykes slide, a kiddo-sized chin-up bar and a couple of bouncy balls. The parents just took the kids from activity to activity and the instructor floated around trying to spend a little time with each kid.

Games played with the parachute included the popcorn game and ring-around-the-rosy. The kids also enjoyed running underneath the parachute while the parents ran around in a circle.

Also a big hit - BUBBLES. The kids loved chasing them and stomping on them.
posted by Ostara at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2007

I wouldn't drop the songs. Heck, as a parent, I'd consider it a perk if you included early language and literacy activities in conjunction with exercise. But perhaps people want to do more than just move around. You could probably do some of those same activities while having kids go through obstacle courses and the like. But anything else (like tumbling, taking turns, organized play) is not age appropriate. You seem aware of that. Can you just refuse the course?
posted by acoutu at 5:21 PM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all for your help. I would rather not quit, but I am heavily weighing the stress vs the benefits. I think oneirodynia's description of the preschool gymnastics class is what they want, only without trained staff or equipment. I definately lost the children's attention early in my last class because I did not use songs to engage them. As I mentioned, there are basically no props and no budget to get any. I have ten years pre-school programming experience, but most of my programmes heavily incorporate songs. Apparently one of the moms complained about the songs ~ I guess she didn't like my (loud and off-key) voice! Thanks again for all your help.
posted by saucysault at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2007

Response by poster: Whoops! I meant Ostara's description of gymnastics class!
posted by saucysault at 11:26 AM on October 12, 2007

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