Looking for a new activity for your little one? Little Star Fitness offers multi-sport and dance classes in Amsterdam. Deborah Nicholls-Lee brought her daughter to one of their outdoor sessions to scope it out for the Mamas!
A Happening in the Park
As I cruise through the Vondelpark one sunny Saturday morning with my three-year-old in the bakfiets, the birdsong, whirring of bike wheels, and tourist chatter is suddenly interrupted by the sound of cheering. I sense that I have arrived at a ‘happening’ and know that I have found the right place.
The shouts are the enthusiastic voices of the Little Star Fitness instructors, carried across the park as they train their young athletes, and the cheers are from the parents.
As I turn the corner, the green expanse of the park is broken up by cones, hoops and goals in primary colours, and around fifteen 2-7-year-olds are darting about under the instruction of their coach with a variety of intriguing sports equipment.
Today it is rugby-themed and the kids are smuggling a ‘dinosaur egg’ as they learn to score a try. My daughter is keen to get stuck in straight away, but we are the second lesson of the day and will have to wait our turn.
And We’re Off!
The music starts and our session begins. The children, led by the three coaches, do a fun warm up. Now a rocket, now a soldier: they follow the instructions; stretching, twisting, and jumping in unison. Some parents join in with the activities, at their child’s behest, but there’s no obligation.
This is the second – and last - week for rugby, as the innovative themes are changed regularly. Each term, they will do four or five different sports, giving the parents a feel for what their kids enjoy and giving the kids the self-confidence that comes from trying new things and developing new skills.
My daughter opts to join the older group and is taught how to hold the ball correctly as she passes it through a hoop to another child. This task develops her hand-eye coordination, as well as her teamwork and listening skills. It’s educational as well as fun.
“I think skills are really important in sports,” says Michelle, a former Physical Education teacher and head of department, who founded Little Star Fitness in 2014. “The first half of my sport class is always skill-based and the second half is just games and fun for the kids.”
Fresh Air and Fruit
A whistle signals half-time and the kids make their way to a picnic blanket under a tree where some fruit is waiting for them. It’s all pretty bucolic considering we’re just a mile or so from the city centre.
And it’s a refreshing change to do a club with small children that is open-air. “That’s my Australian background,” says Michelle. “I think it’s important for the kids to be outdoors, to be soaking up the sun and getting that fresh oxygen into their lungs! We came here [to Amsterdam] and there was nothing like this. Back home we’re outside, we’re soaking up the sun, we’re active.”
But this is the Netherlands. Our weather is variable. “If it’s really bad weather we do move indoors [usually to the St.Ignatius Gymnasium in Oud Zuid],” explains Michelle. “If I can’t secure a venue then that lesson will be made as a ‘make-up’ or, if it’s the last week, I refund the money.”
Michelle also offers make-up sessions if you have to miss a class. You can even swap between sports and dance classes if it suits you better. And if the Vondelpark is too far, you can attend a class in the Rembrandt Park (West) or the Amsterdamse Bos (Buitenveldert/Amstelveen).
The Second Half
After the snack break, the games begin.
First, it’s the grab-a-toy game, where the kids run a course, collecting ‘treasure’ when they reach the end. My daughter’s collection of dinosaurs and sharks makes her very happy. A tantrum about giving them up is averted with the reframing of the teacher’s kit bag as a ‘treasure chest’ and we move fluidly to the next activity: Crocs and Fishies. The kids must cross the lily pond without being snapped up by the teacher-crocodiles. It’s another big hit with Little Miss Active.
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" is piped into the fresh park air as the happy children run around chasing bubbles – a great way to keep fit. The session closes with them gathering in small groups to choose a sticker.
Structure and Expertise
What strikes me about Little Star is the attention to detail. Michelle is incredibly professional and you can see the influence of her teaching background. “I always do a lesson plan with each skill having an objective, which might be kicking, listening, catching, throwing, or hand-eye coordination. It’s not a thrown-together programme. All my coaches get the lesson plan in advance so they know what’s going on, what my objectives are for each session, and how I want the area to be set up.” She shows me her lesson plans; they are all neat little diagrams, objectives and timings.
The expertise and varied content you get with Little Star really offers value for money. “I looked at other similar activities around and I couldn’t afford that for my daughter,” says Michelle, when I ask her about the early days. “And I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this. I can apply my skills and I can do it a whole lot better and educate at the same time - and keep my child with me.”
Michelle has built on the success of the sports classes, recently adding the Mini Groovers (2.5-4 years) and Kinder Groovers (4-6 years) dance classes to Little Star’s repertoire.
She is also developing a BSO (after-school child care) programme and is excited to offer a new Summer Camp (4-11 years) which includes, sport, yoga, dance, and arts and crafts.
This eclectic mix could well meet the needs of my daughter. Asked which bit she liked best in our session at Little Star, she paused for a while, lost in thought.
“I loved all of it,” she replied.
Little Star Fitness is the winner of the award for 'Best Class for Toddlers' and 'Best Class for Older Children' as well as receiving an Honourable Mention for "Best Class for Younger Children' in the Amsterdam Mamas Recommends Awards 2016. For more information about Little Star Fitness visit their website or Facebook page.
Disclaimer: Little Star Fitness has paid to be featured on Amsterdam Mamas because they believe that their services would be of interest and benefit to our readers, and we think so too. For more information on sponsored posts and advertising on Amsterdam Mamas, please see our Advertising and Disclosure policy.
Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a British national who moved to the Netherlands in 2009. A former French and English teacher, she now works as a freelance writer and editor while raising her two children. See her website to find out more about her work.