Program Spotlight: GiGiFIT Toddler

Do you remember when you learned to walk? Maybe you can picture your child taking their first steps…

There are a lot of muscles to strengthen and skills to master before taking steps without falling over. First, toddlers learn to pull themselves up, then balance without holding onto anything, then shift their weight from one foot to the other while propelling themselves forward. The techniques in GiGiFIT Toddler are broken down in a similar way. For example, going from sitting in a chair to standing requires the strength and coordination of tons of micro-muscles most of us take for granted. Our participants go through three levels of difficulty before they master this: 1) ‘Pull to stand’ – where the child holds the hands of their family member and pulls themselves up, 2) ‘Push to stand’ – where the child pushes off the chair to stand up, then 3) ‘Stand up and reach’ – where the child’s hands are not touching anything and they lean forward and stand up. In the photos below, Joseph, Maevis, and Gabe are practicing their sit-to-stand skill once they reach the bottom of the slide!

Joseph (top), Maevis (middle), Gabe (bottom)

GiGiFIT Toddler follows a curriculum designed to focus on the strength, endurance, balance, and coordination of our friends who need a little more support in these areas. Denise, the Physical Therapist who leads this program, helps families identify the steps that are developmentally appropriate for their child to work on, and provides fun and challenging ways to build that skill. Then, when ready, she takes them to the next level.

Front to Back: Maevis, Oliver, Zeke, Gabe, and Joseph conquering the obstacle course

For example, while working on the progression, “Navigating Obstacles and Curbs”, Denise creates various obstacles around the Playhouse so participants can practice in a way that seems more like an adventure than a workout.

Langston had a huge Best of All moment while working on this progression. One station along an obstacle course included a rocket launcher, and he stomped on the air pump and shot a foam rocket high up in the air, all by himself! For those who aren’t familiar with low muscle tone (something most people with Down syndrome experience), the balance, strength and coordination required to lift one foot up and bring it down right where you want it to go, with enough strength to launch a rocket is not to be taken for granted. Three big cheers for Langston!

Langston using Stomp Rocket

We never tire of hearing about the amazing skills our participants achieve in this program, such as, “When we started this program almost a year ago she was barely standing independently, now she’s RUNNING!” and “He stood independently for over 30 seconds! That’s the longest he’s balanced yet!”

GiGiFIT Toddler is one of the more popular programs to attend by volunteers, because everyone gets so excited when participants make progress by leaps and bounds! If you would like to join in the fun as a volunteer, please register for our next Volunteer Orientation on March 18.

Feel free to email Kathleen Tynes at if you would like more information about participating in GiGiFIT Toddler during our Summer Session.

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