Get active (and stay warm) at these open gyms.
As a recovering east coaster, I am not fazed by the Portland winters. I will take 44 degrees and rainy over 12 degrees and driving snow any day. So when my kids’ energy level reaches the destructo-zone, I have been known to drag them to the playground, rainy February day or no.
But there are times when I prefer to be — what’s the word? Ah yes. Warm.
And thus the dilemma — how to get the kids active without losing feeling in my fingers and/or destroying the house?
Enter open gyms. Unsurprisingly for a city that has roughly eight months of rain, there are a lot of them in Portland. My kids (ages 1, 3 and 5) and I checked out four open gyms over the past few months, but there are many more around town.
The Children’s Gym
The Children’s Gym occupies a large space — the facility is 12,000 square feet — but it felt smaller due to the sheer volume of equipment. It has long beams, short beams, rings, parallel bars, uneven bars and pretty much any other type of equipment you may have seen while watching the Olympics on television (which generally sums up my level of gymnastics expertise). We went on a Saturday, and the gym was quite crowded and fairly noisy. There were arrows directing children which way to go, but there was occasional confusion, especially at the beginning as kids got used to the flow of the space. For kids with some gymnastics experience, this would be an amazing open gym. There is plenty of opportunity to explore the equipment and show off burgeoning skills. For the less indoctrinated, the amount of technical equipment could feel a bit daunting. And while there are many employees on hand, they are mostly devoted to traffic control rather than to showing children how the equipment works. However, even for the gymnastics newbie, there are still plenty of opportunities to have fun. My kids most enjoyed running down the floor-length trampoline, climbing on piled mats, practicing somersaults and hanging from the uneven bars. No prior experience needed.
Westside Dance and Gymnastics Academy
Westside Dance and Gymnastics Academy offers a twice-weekly open gym for kids ages 6 and younger. Because the gym is used mainly for gymnastics classes, it has all the equipment you would expect, from balance beams to parallel bars. But it was the unexpected that had my kids dragging their feet when the open gym period ended. They have a bounce house! They have a trampoline! They even have a zip-line, for crying out loud! But by far, the biggest hit — for me and the kids — was the ball pit, loaded with pillow-sized, squishable blue “marshmallows,” as my son called them. Kids are light enough to crawl along the top. Parents: Not so much. It took quite a bit of giggly effort to extract myself from the quicksand-like pit. There are a few instructors on hand to help guide your child if he or she is feeling overwhelmed, although kids are generally left to explore the gym on their own. Each open gym ends with a group dance and song, which helped to mark the end of the session and limit the transition tears.
The Playground Gym
Compared to the Children’s Gym, the Playground Gym is small. But it has everything your kids might need to be active, explore and play. This gym does not have much by way of traditional gymnastics equipment, but it does have large bouncy balls, squishable tubes to roll around in, a rock wall, ropes to swing on, a “treehouse” to climb and obstacles to navigate. Although the open gym welcomes children up to age 12, most of the clientele are in the 5 and younger category, and probably veering closer to the age 2 to 3 demographic — at least during the week when school is in session. Staff is generally pretty hands-off during the open gym, but the equipment is self-explanatory and the kids are more than happy to figure out what type of play works best for them.
Sellwood Community Center
Many community centers offer an open gym of some sort. Although the specifics vary, most have kid- sized cars, balls, hula hoops and plenty of room to run around in. We made an emergency trip to the Sellwood Community Center open gym on the day before Thanksgiving because, apparently, my kids were experiencing some sort of rare, anticipatory, pumpkin-pie sugar rush. They ran around the basketball court making and executing obstacle courses, playing a game of (good-spirited) sibling bumper cars and working out 101 ways to use a hula hoop. At a less than five-minute drive and for a grand total of $3 for the four of us, it was an overall massive success.
If you go:
Westside Dance and Gymnastics Academy
Open gym is most Tuesdays and Fridays from 11:30 am-12:30 pm; see website for changes to schedule and cancellations. $7 per child or $11 per family for non-members. westsideacademy.com
The Children’s Gym
Open gym occurs most Mondays-Friday from 12:30 pm-1:30 pm and Saturdays from 1:15 pm-2:15 pm (except the first Saturday of the month); see website for changes to schedule and cancellations. $10 per child and $5 for each additional child for non-members. childrensgym.com
The Playground Gym:
Open play times change seasonally. $8 for one child, $12 for two. $3 each additional child. theplaygroundgym.com
Your local community center:
See your local community center’s website and/or catalog for details on your open gym. portlandoregon.gov/parks/39839
Check out our comprehensive list of active indoor fun on Metro Parent’s Open Gyms guide. metro-parent.com/pdx-indoor-gyms-and-pools/
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