A Resource for Athens Area Families

Parent & Child Movement Classes
Getting Fit ... Together!

By Christy Fricks
Nov/Dec 2006

It's 10:00 a.m. and yoga instructor Cal Clements has just struck a bell signaling the beginning of class.   A small group of parents center themselves serenely in lotus position, as half a dozen happy children crawl, dance, stretch, wiggle and chatter about the room. Occasionally they even sit quietly on their own mats.

Cal surveys the scene with a smile and instructs all the participants to take a few deep breaths.  Periodically during the course of the class the soft cries of a baby or small giggles will erupt around the room breaking through the focused quiet of adults in yoga poses.

This is the "Mom, Dad and Kids Yoga" class at Rubber Soul Yoga.  The class may be a bit more distracting than your usual yoga session, but for the participants of the class it's worth it.

"Overall, I had been looking for something like this to do with my son," said Ansley Beacham.
Beacham explained that she used to do yoga at home by herself.  She began bringing her 14‑month‑old son Oscar to this class as soon as she felt he was able.

Like Beacham, many Athens parents are seeking ways to stay active and have fun that include their children.  They want fitness classes that are convenient, educational, fun and they want a workout.
The MomDance class offered at DanceFX studio here in Athens provides all these things. The convenient MomDance class consists mainly of mothers with pre‑kindergarten aged kids.  Most of them have older children attending a concurrent class in the adjoining studio.  So while the kids are having fun, the parents and their younger siblings are able to as well.

Athens Area Classes & Clubs

Dance & Yoga Classes

East Athens Educational Dance Center
Mommy & Me Dance Class
Next Session Begins January 2007
Mothers of 2‑  to 4‑year‑olds

Dance FX studio
Mom Dance
All ages welcome

Rubber Soul Yoga Studio
Mom, Dad & Kids Yoga
All ages welcome

Martial Arts Classes

Classic Martial Arts Club
Youth/Adult Aikido
Ages 11 and up

Live Oak Martial Arts
Adult & Family Class
Ages 6 and Up

Family Friendly Fitness Clubs

Athens YMCA
Adult must accompany children www.athensymca.org

Adult must accompany children

Ramsey Center at UGA
Children may use the facilities on weekends and daily during the
summer while accompanied by an adult with membership

Kidz Fit Classes

DanceFX studio director Danielle Mason described the MomDance class as a "sampler platter" of dance.  She said the class gives the moms a chance to learn or relearn the dance steps their children are being exposed to in their ballet class. It's also an opportunity for them to get a workout and have fun with some new steps.

"We're trying to get a good aerobic workout but also teach the basics of jazz, ballet, tap, yoga and Pilates," explained MomDance instructor Kym Rosser.

The class is open to moms with children of all ages and levels of experience.

"People who have no dance background are loving it," said Rachel Julian one of the mothers taking the class.  She said one of the other moms saw how much fun they were having and decided to join in.  "She came and watched us and was like oh, I've got to do this," said Julian.

Part of the fun is the "go with the flow" attitude of both parents and teachers. Depending on the age level, ability and interest the children may actively participate in the exercise or they might not. Sometimes they participate in playful and unexpected ways. Flexibility is key with parent and child movement classes.

"Sometimes they'll dance with us and try to follow along and sometimes they just run around," said Rosser.

Julian said she typically dances with her son in her arms; something she said is contagious.  "The other kids by the end of the class all want to be held too," she said laughing.  "I felt like I was getting way more of a workout than everyone else, because he's 30 pounds!"

Rachel said she enjoys the class so much she even goes home and practices the dance moves afterwards.   It also brings back memories of the years she herself spent studying ballet.  "It's clearly something you do to get in touch with a part of yourself from before you had kids," she said.

But being able to dance with her son is the main incentive for taking the class.  "I would never have done it if I couldn't have brought him," said Julian.

In parent and child movement classes, not only do parents get a chance to share in activities with their children, but there is also a unique added playfulness.  Classes sometimes begin to resemble a playgroup for kids and adults.

"We would do a backbend and the kids would crawl under us or we would do a pose and the kids would crawl on our backs," said Beacham about the yoga class.  "Sometimes, we would hide under the mats to meditate and the kids would lie underneath with us because they thought it was a game," Beacham said.

The yoga class particularly enjoyed a special laughing meditation. Students were instructed to laugh however they felt moved for a given period of time.  "Once the parents started laughing it was contagious," she said.

"Now we practice at home and he does downward dog and other poses.  I think it's important for him to get involved early," said Beacham.

Modeling healthy physical activity is one of the most common reasons that parents seek out fitness opportunities that they can participate in with their children.

Childhood obesity is at an all‑time high in the U.S.  Sixteen percent of children and teens are considered overweight by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Surgeon General recommends "families plan activities that provide exercise and enjoyment for the whole family as a way of preventing excessive weight gain."  If children observe their parents being physically active and having fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.
There are also fitness classes available for parents of older children and teens.

Non‑profit clubs like the Athens YWCO (Young Women's Christian Organization) and YMCA (Young Mens Christian Association) have long encouraged "youth health and family interaction."

While many local fitness clubs discourage or prohibit children from attending, both the YMCA and YWCO facilities encourage children and teens to participate in a range of fitness classes and sports while accompanied by an adult.  Family memberships are encouraged through discounts.

Multi‑age classes are also commonplace amongst martial arts enthusiasts also.  At Athens' Live Oak Martial Arts studio, instructor Jason Hughes offers an adult & family class.  Jason said that he has several whole families that participate in the Tae Kwon Do class: mom, dad, and kids.

"In a lot of cases the kids start the classes and then the parents want to join.  Then the child will outrank their parent," said Hughes.  Hughes witnessed similar classes at a former studio where he taught.  "It was a way that the parents could do something active with their kids," said Hughes.  "The parents love it and the kids love it."

Longtime Athens resident Christy Fricks juggles jobs as a freelance writer, Middle Eastern dancer, and full time single mother of a 4‑year‑old boy.


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