The winter months can be rough for small children and their caregivers. The colder weather makes it hard to get outside and burn off that famous toddler energy. And being stuck at home can lead to caregivers feeling isolated, lacking connection with other adults.
Toddler Gym founder Audrey Graham knows that firsthand. When her children were very young, she spent her days caring for them.
“I struggled with loneliness, isolation and boredom,” Graham said.
As an early intervention specialist who works with young children and their families, she sees other caregivers with similar experiences.
“I consider (Toddler Gym) a social and emotional safety net for parents and kids,” she said. “It’s important to have a reason to get out of the house.”
Toddler Gym is happening now through the winter months from 10 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Center Street Gym, 203 E. Center St.
Graham approached the City of Moab in 2009 about using the gym to host a regular gathering in the winter for children ages five and under and their caregivers, so little ones would have a place to be physically active and socialize and parents could have a welcome change of pace.
“After 16 months, kids really need to start interacting with other kids, get used to new places,” Graham said, adding that it might take two or three visits to Toddler Gym for a youngster to get comfortable in a new setting and begin to have fun.
She advised parents and caregivers to come at least a few times and not assume that if their child doesn’t like it the first time that they won’t grow to enjoy it as a playful activity.
Graham pointed out that Toddler Gym is also an opportunity for children to learn social skills, such as taking turns, and to “get away from screen time” with some physical activity.
“Makes for good nap time,” she said.
Patrick Trim, Moab City’s recreation manager, said Toddler Gym is now primarily set up, advertised and run by the Moab City Recreation Department, though Graham still comes by on occasion to work with children and their guardians.
Trim added that sick children should not attend Toddler Gym in order to prevent illness from spreading.
“It is a nice place to go where it’s warm and you can play with the little kids,” said local dad Ryan Lowe.
Lowe said he took his son, Lucas, to Toddler Gym last year when Lucas was an 18-month-old and plans to attend this year as well.
“You go meet new faces,” he said, “and see some of the same old awesome people.”
Lowe said a highlight of last year was when Graham attended Toddler Gym.
“She does a really fun closing (activity) that the kids love,” he said. “It kinda helps segue them. They’re not super-sad that they’re leaving because they got to do this super-fun thing.”
For more information, the Moab City Recreation and Sports Department may be contacted at 435-259-2255.