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From Separation Anxiety to Social Butterfly

I walked into the brightly-colored gym full of mats, obstacles, slides, tubes, logs, balls and ladders and saw smiling faces from one end to the other. The Gymbo clown greeted us on the equipment, at the store and toy area, and even popping out of a storage area for the class props. The gym owner eagerly gave us a tour and showed us the myriad of classes and open gym times on a huge schedule sheet. I was like a kid in a candy store, eager to begin this new adventure in play and recreation with my young son.

My son, Noah (my first born and only child) was clinging to me like a koala bear and was anxious about new settings and any environment that was vaguely unfamiliar. I had made the mistake of leaving him in a few church nurseries and those memories were seared in his 16 month old brain. We definitely had our work cut out for us.

I knew he needed socialization because he was an only child and had already moved and been uprooted in his young life, so it was important for me to get him into environments with other kids pronto. He had never been in daycare or a regular institutional setting with other kids and only on the most rare occasions even with a sitter. I also wanted to work on his listening and ability to focus and pay attention. I perceived we were entering the "terrible twos" a little ahead of schedule, as well, so I wanted to combat that chaos in any way that I possibly could.

We hit the mats with our socks right away and tried open gym, music class, and a play and learn session before we settled into a comfortable routine of two open gym sessions a week for about an hour a pop and a play and learn class at the end of the week in Level 4 with kids my son's age up to 2 years old. This meant that Noah was one of the youngest in his class and probably not as steady on his feet or vocal with his words, colors, shapes, and the like, but I knew he would be a quick study. We went from saying only "uh-oh" when we arrived to a vocabulary that grows by handfuls of words each day and I can barely update my journal with all of his vocabulary milestones. Our music class success was limited because he clung to the instruments and had no intention of changing them with the various activities. He was a little young to attempt that one at this point, but there is always time later for music and/or art.

Noah has surpassed all of my expectations at Gymboree. He hugs Gymbo during the class, he interacts with the girls and boys and their siblings, he speaks to the teacher and other parents at the gym, he hugs classmates, he participates in the classes and rarely wanders off or disengages, and he smiles and laughs nearly the entire visit. Granted, he may be asleep on the way to the gym and on the trip home, but even if the open gym times are during nap time or dinner and bath time and might not be the perfect windows of time for our daily routines, Noah has adapted and excelled in the environment with others and in the setting of Gymboree. He attentively, expectantly, and anxiously sits on my lap and responds to the sounds or songs that beckon him to the class and each new activity during his play and learn class.

Our milestones are many. He races to the ball pits. He climbs the slides and applauds his own dissents. He says his colors. He points to shapes. He finds his image in the mirror and says his name. I no longer have a social wallflower glued to my hips like a Mammy Koala Bear. Now, I have a social butterfly eager to see his familiar friends and to make new acquaintances at open gym or in his weekly classes.

And, as a first-time, over-achieving, perfectionist parent who worries about targets, milestones, doing enough, meeting enough benchmarks, and all of the studies, research, and information from the pediatrician's office, I can say that Gymboree is just a great place for Mom and/or Dad and baby to relax, enjoy, smile, let loose, recreate, and just have fun. You accomplish all of the healthy development goals with your child while still having fun and getting valuable exercise and bonding time accomplished all the while. I would venture to say that I enjoy the time we devote to the gym each week as much as my son, if not more so! And, I also cannot help but smile when the gym owner says at the beginning or end of each visit we make, "I'm so glad that you found us and that you are here." I can honestly say the very same thing.

Class Type: Play & Learn 4 (16-22 months)
City: Virginia Beach
State: Virginia

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