Kiddie gym: A western concept
In generations past, when people became parents, and when parenthood was experienced more and discussed and analysed lesser, kids were just let loose…quite literally. In those days, parents were okay with their kids climbing trees and falling off some, cycling on narrow streets or running behind old cycle tyres with a stick in hand. Now of course, it's a whole different world; one that's a little less brave, perhaps. At a time when parents are scared to let children explore their own means to play (with reason of course, as there is lack of access to child-friendly parks, play material, etc.), come areas where children can play, exercise and have a fun time-kids' gyms. They're an accepted reality in places like Singapore, UK, US and Europe. They are dedicated areas meant for kids to play in and engage in energetic activities, all under qualified instructors' supervision. A typical western concept that has caught the imagination of many parents, who were worried about the very real possibility of their kids growing up to be obese adults; where physical education and gymnastics are combined and different programs are made for kids of all ages-right from babies and toddlers to pre-teens and teens!
Why go to a kiddie gym?
Anjali Nair, a mother of two, living in The Netherlands, says, "At the kiddie gym, parents are also involved in the activities. Both my son and daughter were 1.5 years old when they started attending. The session, starts with a 'hello' nursery rhyme followed by an activity for about 15 minutes, which they call 'warm up', and then it's free time where the kids can use whichever equipment they like or just run around wild. Post that they have a scheduled activity which involves balloons, ball or ribbons and the final 'good bye' song."
An urban necessity or a passing fad?
But what about parents in India? Are they as enthusiastic about sending their little ones to these gyms? Merlin Francis, entrepreneur and mommy of a 5-year-old, believes that such gyms will eventually fade away. She says, "It's a fad! Just allow children to play with their peers, run around, play games, etc. That would teach them more life skills than a kid's gym could!" An opinion echoed by mommy, Teena Mukherjee, who feels that kids between 3 and 6 years of age are anyway involved in playing games, both indoor and outdoor. "I would prefer my child to indulge in one sport at least like badminton, tennis, cycling, basketball to keep her fit, or involve them in a daily chore," she says.
Menaga Maniyan, a stay-at-home mom from Bangalore believes that kiddie gyms could be good places to take kids once a while. She says, "Jumpbunch in Bangalore was where I took my 3-year-old daughter and she had a really good time there. I live in the middle of the city and do not have immediate access to parks, so the kiddie gym seems like a good idea!"
As per moi!
As a little kid, I had no toys as such to play with. I had a hand-me-down bicycle that I loved dearly and learnt to pedal by the time I was 8. My childhood games and exercises, I think, started with that humble bicycle. Although I do not mind taking my daughter to a kiddie gym, I wonder if she will really have as much fun in a controlled environment like a kiddie gym. Though, I reckon I will be happy because she would be safe and under constant supervision.