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Raising kids in the Instagram era is terrifying. As an only-just Millennial I grew up with mere magazines and a non-HD TV as my insight into what ‘the norm’ for other women’s appearances were (to be honest, who can tell what they look like when the telly picture is that fuzzy?), and somehow seemed to emerge unscathed.
Nothing much seemed to change with the arrival of the internet when I was 14. I vaguely remember uploading my photograph to a ‘rating’ website called Hot Or Not (good god, it still seems to be alive as some kind of Tinder connections site), and really not caring at whatever my score was.
“Even I – an otherwise sensible person – have fleetingly wondered how good it would be to lose 6lbs in a week just by drinking a bag of $30 coffee”
These days in the Instagram era the body confidence horizon is much scarier. We have skinny teas, the Kardashians and their weight-loss lollies, pro-anorexic Instagram accounts… as a sensible 33 year old who has never bothered much about comparing my own body to other peoples’, even I have fleetingly wondered how good it would be to lose 6lbs in a week just by drinking a bag of $30 coffee.
And with the children’s interest in the internet slowly growing – we’re still avid Toys and Me fans but Elfie’s starting to have an increasing regard in Ariana Grande and Little Mix – I spend hours worrying over how our society’s obsession with appearances will affect them.
Not just limited to the confidence and body image of the little girl in my life, I consider greatly the affect that the online world will have on Hux. He’s not naturally a bolshy or bold character: growing up in the shadow of a confident and clever big sister I worry about his own confidence and self-esteem. I can give him as many cuddles as he likes (and trust me, we cuddle a LOT :), but true confidence has to come from the inside, he has to create it himself. And I’ve been desperate for him to tap into that source somehow.
Which is why our latest extra-curricular activity of Ninja Knights at Gymfinity has come to mean so much.
My Hux is a homebird, a mummy’s boy. If you let him he’d spend as much time as he could at my side: making cakes, watching movies, talking about cars. He has his school friends but he’s never been particularly interested in sports or clubs, attending his mum-enforced one school club a week with a sigh and an eye-roll.
But with all the evidence and anecdotes about how these clubs are so good for children – they only have positive affects on their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development – I knew I had to get him interested in something else, an activity that would set his insides on fire and spark that self-confidence, no matter how much he protested.
And what six year old doesn’t want to be a Ninja when they grow up?
Gymfinity Kids is a Gymnastics club for kids with 6 locations in the UK (and 4 more coming soon!), one of them being in my home town of Milton Keynes. Eschewing the pushiness of traditional gymnastics, Gymfinity Kids are fanatical about promoting fun and fitness, as well as putting what I believe is a really healthy focus on mental health and the all-round well-being of their kids.
Their Operations Manager Matt Tomlinson told me: “Our Milton Keynes club recognises that in order to be healthy inside and out it’s important to take steps to look after your body and mind together. Sports activities like Gymnastics and Ninja at Gymfinity Kids are a great way for children to get active in a safe and nurturing environment with a positive coaching approach.”
Gymfinity Kids Milton Keynes invited us to their MK1 location for a free session (they wanted us to review them on the blog, but every child is entitled to a one-hour taster), and we happily accepted.
For starters, I was really impressed with the location. With loads of stress free parking, this club is located above the DW Gym at the MK1 stadium and comprises of a massive hall with different types of state-of-the-art gymnastics and ninja equipment. There’s a cafe for parents as well as free wifi and plenty of places for you to observe your little ninjas and gymnasts at play.
The Ninja Knights programme – one I knew would get Hux excited about exercising – is a finely-tuned combination of gymnastics, martial arts and parkour. And with a little boy who obsessively watches the parkour chase in Casino Royale, I knew we’d be on to a winner.
This class includes warm-ups, games and rotations as well as fun obstacle courses, and each child advances through the different lessons as they learn and grow. The programme is designed not just for the kids to have fun (though they will be enjoying loads of that!) but to also foster life lessons such as respecting others, taking responsibility for themselves and the importance of a work ethic.
Hux was a little unsure of joining in at first but by twenty minutes in he was bounding around the floor, swinging on hoops and leaping over obstacles. He cannon-balled into the foam pit with abandon and chuckled his way around the course with a new friend he quickly made. He patiently listened to the teacher and waited his turn with all the other children.
In short he loved it. The hour sped along for us both and we came home that evening full of beans and excitement.
Not stopping at training the next generation of Ninjas, Gymfinity Kids also runs more traditional gymnastics classes, teaching techniques and skills to school-aged children. Much like the Ninja programme, kids taking part in gymnastics will focus on not just their physical health but their all-round well-being, with confidence and independence instilled into them as they learn their new skills.
I review and experience many things with the kids for the blog and this has been one of the best. We’re so lucky to have this kind of facility on our doorstep and seeing the effect just one session had on Hux (the endorphins! The Ninja skills!) was so heart-warming. The ethos behind the Gymfinity, that it’s about the child’s own learning journey rather than the eliteness of the sport, is something I think is so important and works perfectly for my own family and our outlook: the perfect antidote to the Instagram era.
I tell the truth when I say I signed up immediately: Hux for Ninja Knights and Elfie for Gymnastics, which we’ll attend once a week at the same time. Gymfinity Kids make every effort to run classes concurrently so parents aren’t waiting around for hours on end – the Ninja class runs at the same time as Gymnastics – and to be honest, drinking a coffee for an hour while watching my kids have so much formative fun is quite the pleasure.
Gymfinity Kids currently operate in Milton Keynes, Colchester, Leeds, Reading, Farnborough and Cambridge, and are coming soon to Bracknell, Maidstone, Chatham and Wandsworth. You can book your child’s free trial here.
This is a sponsored post in partnership with Gymfinity Kids. We loved our experience so much we have signed up for a membership at our local club of Milton Keynes.