I was a geography teacher before I opened The Little Gym Cambridge. While I love teaching, I made a decision that teaching children in a seated classroom wasn’t for me. I felt restrained, wanting to give my students a richer out-of-classroom learning experience than the curriculum allowed.
I was heavily involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award through my school, and I had seen first-hand the positive impact that out of classroom learning has on children. I was at a crossroads in life, and wanted to go in one of two directions. Either find a way to bring a new kind of learning to children, or start up a cycling business (my other passion) – which ever I could make happen first!
My sister lives in London, and my nieces attend The Little Gym Westfield. One day I joined them, sat in the foyer with a cup of coffee and watched my nieces in the gym. The girls were grinning from ear to ear – they loved it! And I could see why. They were given individual attention by enthusiastic instructors, there was a clear learning path, and – something that I’d never seen before – they were given the freedom to be themselves.
I was hooked. I thought it was a fantastic way to teach any child, whatever their stage of development and ability, to love sport and movement, work together in teams, embrace their creativity, develop life skills, and build their confidence as individuals.
I went home to Cambridge, spoke with my wife, and teaching children won out over cycling. We opened The Little Gym Cambridge in 2013 and today nearly 800 children visit our gym each week.
It has been an exciting ride, from the moment our gym equipment arrived and we ripped open the packaging, to the first day we opened our doors. Our first week was amazing. I’ll never forget the looks of excitement on the children’s faces as they saw our equipment for the first time, the grins on my team as they greeted our first visitors, and the looks of combined delight and nervous excitement on the faces of the parents.
The parents told us we lived up to their high expectations, thank goodness! Many of the families that joined us in those first months are still members. They say that the gym is their ‘other’ family space. The warm, friendly place they come to each week to have a break, enjoy a cup of coffee, chat with friends, or just relax knowing that their children are safe and happy.
We have seen so many children grow over the last three years – not just in height, but in confidence. They have blossomed in front of our eyes. And their parents tell us that they can see a difference. We’re very proud to have played even the smallest of roles in boosting the confidence and life skills of so many children. And to be honest, the team and I can’t really call it work. We have so much fun laughing with the children and each other.
If you ever hear us say ‘I’ve found a button’ in the gym, watch out. It’s our code word for spider. Sometimes our team gets so distracted taking care of the children that they forget the code word. Like Megan, who when I said ‘I’ve just found a big button’ replied, ‘oh, give it to me’. She got quite a shock when I did! The children thought it was hilarious, and my team still laughs about it today.
Ned BaringOwner – The Little Gym Cambridge