Free kids gymnastics full first day

Keely Dakin
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Rising rates of obesity in children, combined with few places for children to get active during the winter, are the impetus for a free drop-in gymnastics program, said Debbie Schutte.

The first class of Fun to Learn about Interactive Play (FLIP) was on Friday morning. It filled up, with more than 40 children showing up to play.

Schutte is a public health nurse with both the Prince Albert Public Health Region (PAPHR) and the First Nation’s University of Canada (FNUC). She worked to bring the free gymnastics program into being.

More than one in four children or youth in Canada is overweight or obese, according to the 2012 A National Crisis, A National Response, The Public Health Agency of Canada.

A five-year research project identified a lack of venues for children six and under to play as part of the reason for rising obesity. 

As part of the study, parents were asked where they took their little ones to blow off some steam during the winter.

“They said ‘we go to the malls, to run up and down the halls’,” Schutte said.

“We see that childhood obesity is starting right at the start, right with the young ones. So we need them to be physically active too. And our city is just lacking in that,” Schutte said.

“We saw the gap and this is how we tried to fill the gap. A space for people to be physically active without the barriers of cost or equipment.”

Kara Thorpe supervises the new drop-in gymnastics program at, Prince Albert Aerials Gymnastics Club.

“We were approached by one of our current parents… she had some funding and some research about obesity in children and what there was in Prince Albert for kids to do. And they discovered there wasn’t really much,” Thorpe said.

More than one in four children or youth in Canada is overweight or obese, according to the 2012 A National Crisis — Public Health Agency of Canada.

“The nice thing about the gymnastics centre is we have a lot of apparatus … we don’t typically have balance beams at home, we don’t typically have hanging rings.”

The program is designed for parent participation, with parents also learning from the experience.

“What we try to do here is help parents to discover ways to play with their children.  We talk to parents … about (developmental) landmarks … making it safe, a place for kids to learn how to fall, how to roll, that are important as the kids progress. “

There are staff, such as Thorpe, in attendance during the two-hour program to share information and discuss funding options for parents who do not have the money to pay for regular programs or even transportation to class.

“We did make it free so that there wasn’t a barrier of costs,” Thorpe said.

The program will run for free during winter for two years with the current funding. Class begins at 9:30 and runs till 11:30 a.m. on Fridays.  Class attendance is capped at 40, so show up early to get them in. There are also paid drop-in sessions two days a week for $7.

FLIP was designed with collaboration with the City of Prince Albert, PAPHR, FNUC, Improving Health for Children and the Lakeland District for Sport Culture and Recreation.

Organizations: First Nation, University of Canada, The Public Health Agency of Canada Prince Albert Aerials Gymnastics Club Improving Health for Children Lakeland District for Sport Culture

Geographic location: Canada, Prince Albert

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