At Yelm Gymnastics, kids ages 3 to 5 get a taste of gymnastics while keeping up with their studies.
“We have an academic preschool, and they also get to go to a gymnastics class every day, so rain or shine they get to play,” said Dawn Faber, preschool manager. “We work on their numbers, their letters. A lot of them are only children or are the oldest so they are still learning how to share.”
The kids start a typical day by showing up and writing (tracing) their names before they choose to play in the preschool’s private gym or in the classroom. Next, the kids all circle up and attendance is called. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the kids get to read a book, sing some songs, do their alphabet and enjoy the color of the week. Snack or lunch comes next, depending on the age group and class.
The preschool group, ages 3 and 4, eat snacks together and the pre-kindergarten group, ages 4 and 5, eat lunch.
“Kindergarten teachers have said that that’s a big thing,” Faber said. “They aren’t used to eating lunch away from home. So we help them get prepared for that.”
When eating time is done, Faber takes some of the students out the the gym for some structured play. This happens every day, but at least two of the days hold formal gymnastics lessons and one of the days offers open gym in the center’s larger facility.
“We teach the basics of gymnastics, but we make it fun because they are still little … Like this week our theme is ocean week,” Faber said. “We would do something about the ocean, or walking the (plank), things like that.”
During the daily gym time, the students must first warm up.
“They learn to walk on a straight line, learn to kick, to walk backwards, some skills like that that they will need,” Faber said. “Then we stretch and they have certain stations we go to. We demonstrate the stations and they learn to rotate.”
At any given time after lunch, half of the kids are in the classroom learning shapes, letters and numbers. They also play memory games, glue crafts together, learn to cut paper and other activities. Once the kids in the gym are finished, the two groups switch.
Faber said most of these activities teach the students how to work in a group and how to wait their turn, both essential skills to the order of society.
Sarah Endsley — coach, teacher and parent of a student in the school — said she loves her duties as a coach and working with the other teachers, but she really sees the program shine when it comes to her child.
“As a parent, I feel that it is really good for her because she can come in and she can get her energy out and then still be able to focus and concentrate on her work, because she’s been out playing and getting that attention,” she said. “They get a lot of one-on-one time here because there is usually pretty small groups, like four to six kids at a time per teacher.”
The 3- and 4-year-old class meets from 9-11 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, while the 4- and 5-year-old class meets from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Preschool costs $210 and month, while pre-kindergarten costs $250 a month. Call 360-400-1988 to learn about registering a child for next fall’s classes. There is also a registration fee of $65.
“I love being around the kids and teaching them skills that they are going to use,” Faber said. “Not just in kindergarten but skills they are going to use afterwards … Actually being here with the kids, they come in and give us a hug and actually tell us about their day, the things they are doing, so it’s really fun.”