2018 Orientation: Kristin Lam

Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., in May, scholars are required to complete a multimedia reporting assignment. Their work is displayed here.

Video: Gymboree Play & Music, Nashville

Kristin Lam

Infant class designed to support healthy development
by Kristin Lam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It was 7-month-old Ruth Schottingre’s first visit to Gymboree Play & Music, and her mother, Katie Schottingre, hoped the activities, music and toys would help her baby sleep and develop her physical, cognitive and social skills.

“Developmentally, I’d love for her to not only interact with other babies on a regular basis, but be able to crawl in a safe place,” Schottingre said. “At home she’s crawling and pulling up on the furniture and things. She’s falling down and hurting herself.”

Fun, education and social interaction are the goals of daily classes offered by the Gymboree franchise for infants, toddlers and kids up to age 5. The Baby Lab where Ruth played is designed to stimulate the minds and reflexes of infants 10 months and younger.

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Ruth Schottingre, 7 months, examines a carpet square during a Baby Lab class at Nashville Gymboree Play & Music. (Photo: Kristin Lam)

The soft, bright colored padding covering the play area provided a safe foundation for Ruth. Schottingre said she also enjoyed the class’s pacing. Activities designed by child psychologists include playing with parachutes, crawling through tunnels and spinning on “rock-arounds.”

Every component of the class has an educational or developmental goal, according to teacher Jenny Kline, 25, who has worked at Gymboree for three years. Bright, alternating colors on the parachute visually stimulate infants’ eyes, for example. Playing peek-a-boo with the parachute also helps children develop their perception of object permanence, the understanding that things exist even if they’re hidden.

Crawling through a dark tunnel builds trust with a parent or teacher at the other end, staff said. Navigating through the confined play structure further develops a child’s sense of space. Spinning on a rock-around strengthens babies’ core muscles, which are crucial to the developmental achievement of sitting up for the first time.

“The parents get connected to us, we get connected to the kids, and we love to celebrate those milestones,” Kline said. “We’ve had a few where we’ve had them for a long time and then they graduate to daycare and preschool or they move. Sometimes it’s a little heartbreaking.”

Kline recognizes how the kids grow up as they play, have fun, and develop at different rates while at Gymboree. Doctors sometimes refer children with physical and cognitive disabilities to the classes because the facility’s environment is more structured than a playground.

She added that the venue has become a source of community and support for some of the 250 families who regularly participate in activities.

At the end of the typically 45-minute-long classes, Nicole Khalaf, 36, owner of Nashville Gymboree, appreciates it when mothers express gratitude and children don’t want to stop playing.

“They have meltdowns at the door, Khalaf said. “So that’s how you know you’re doing what you should be doing.”

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