Start ‘em early

WESLEY CHAPEL – Thanks to a new program at the Wesley Chapel YMCA’s Experience Center, toddlers and preschoolers are learning how to lead healthy, active lives from an early age.

Designed for kids ages 2 to 5, Kid Motion is a program where kids can run, jump and play in a staff-led environment. But the program isn’t just free play; it’s a structured class where staff members guide the kids through a series of stretches, obstacles, games and movement activities that will help develop and improve their fine motor skills, balance and flexibility. At the conclusion of each session, class leaders will provide the children with character-building quotes and lessons.

“We’re trying to teach (the kids) from an early age and make it habit to stay healthy and make exercise a part of their day,” Eve Bailey, YMCA marketing and communication specialist, said.

The YMCA is inviting families to come out to the Experience Center to try the program out for free through trial sessions. These demo classes are planned for Wednesday, Aug. 15, at 10 a.m., and Sept. 6 and 19, a Thursday and a Wednesday, at 9 a.m. Demo sessions take place at the Experience Center, located at 5924 Weddington-Monroe Road in Wesley Chapel.

The YMCA’s Fitness Center relocated from Weddington to Wesley Chapel in 2011. In May, the YMCA opened its Experience Center, a separate storefront designed for holding classes like Zumba, yoga, Pilates and more. But another main goal for the Experience Center was to offer programs for children and youth as well.

“The community was vocal on (wanting) exercise programs, especially programs for children,” Bailey said. “There’s a high population of preschool kids in the (Wesley Chapel) area, but there’s a void for (exercise programs) for that age in that area. There are schools that offer things for school-aged kids, but not as much for the preschool age.”

The program incorporates preschool gymnastics equipment, trampolines and other movement equipment. YMCA staff members set up and tear down the equipment for each session. During the classes, the children get the chance to run, jump and play using the equipment while staff guide them through a structured agenda of activities.

“We’re not treating it as a boot camp,” Bailey said. “Parents see it as a way to expend energy in a positive way and be more social with other children their age, and the children see it as making new friends and doing something fun.”

A series of Kid Motion classes was planned for the summer, but the response was low due to families planning vacations and not wanting to commit to the program when they knew they’d be out of town. As fall approaches, YMCA representatives are excited about launching a new series of classes and are eager to see community involvement.

“When we launched it over the summer, we were more excited about getting to use the space, but people’s vacations played into it, not wanting to have that long-term commitment over the summer,” Bailey said. “We definitely feel like we will have the community support (in the fall). People are excited about having the Y in the area.”

Bailey said she hopes to see the Experience Center eventually offer more programs for children and youth, but right now the main focus is getting Kid Motion off the ground. “Getting preschool-age kids started from an early age with health and wellness is something the Y can be proud of,” Bailey said. “We’re excited to offer the program and hope it can spawn others in the area.”

The Experience Center plans to launch a Kid Motion class that will run Oct. 15 to Dec. 3. The classes will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Mondays for kids ages 2 and 3 and on Thursdays for kids ages 4 and 5. The cost for the class is $48 for YMCA members and $60 for nonmembers.

Bailey said, depending on the community’s response during the August demo sessions, the Experience Center may launch another series of classes starting in late August or early September. “If enough people are wanting it at the August (demo) sessions, we’re not going to ask them to wait,” she said.

For more information on Kid Motion or other Wesley Chapel YMCA programs and events, call 704-716-8315 or visit www.ymcacharlotte.org/branches/wesleychapel/wc.aspx.

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