“Oooooh, this looks FUUUUN!” squealed one of the gym moms as I threw three purple snakes under the beam station.
I smiled to myself, knowing what she really meant:
“Wow! Are those purple snakes under that beam? This class is expensive and I wasn’t sure about spending the money. Now that I see how creative & engaging it is for my child, I feel comfortable that I’m getting the value I was promised. Money well spent!”
Okay, maybe she wasn’t thinking that exact thing, but I’m sure it was something like that. :)
Let me be clear: my mobile program has roughly seven pieces of gymnastics equipment. After that, it’s all props, baby.
If you have a very small preschool space, props are your best friend. You don’t need a ton of equipment to provide high-value classes to your gymnasts and their paying parents. You just need a good prop supply and a lot of imagination.
What Are Props, Exactly?
I’m sure we’ve all got our version of props, so let’s clarify what I mean to make sure we’re working from the same idea.
Props are the little ‘doo- dads’ that jazz up your lessons. They’re the snakes, the sharks, the pieces of ‘what-do-large-spoons-have-to-do-with-gymnastics-equipment’ that compliment your (awesome and well planned) preschool gymnastics stations.
Most importantly, they are age appropriate and helpful, aiding gymnasts in learning the skills of a particular station.
In short, props are the tools that enhance learning in preschool.
Let Parents See Your Value
The condition, brand, and type of props you have in your gym communicate value in much the same way your logo does. They’re an extension of your brand, like customer service or coaching quality.
Remember when we talked about first impressions? Props fall into that same category.
When you charge premium prices for preschool classes, parents need to see and feel the value they expect. To do that, consider the aesthetics of your setup. After all, parents and gymnasts will see it before they try it, so give subtle clues you’re bringing your A game.
Props are a vital part of communicating that message. When that mom noticed how ‘fun’ my purple snakes made the circuit, she was seeing and feeling value.
Think of this like going into a nice restaurant for dinner. Part of high-end dining is how the plate looks when it comes out of the kitchen. It has to look as good as it tastes. You have to be as excited about how it looks as you are when you take that first bite. And when it’s great? That’s because there’s consistency between your expectations, what’s in front of you, and the delivery (or in this example, taste).
Your setup and props have to look engaging & exciting when kids and parents see it for the first time. It’s what gets them excited about the experience they’re about to have. Anticipation of what’s to come is as powerful as the class itself!
Check out this set up, one with props, one without props and notice what a difference props make, visually:
Use your gymnast’s natural curiosity and energy to get them excited about new skills each week, using whatever props are appropriate (hello, retention pillar!)
Meaningful Coaching First, Props Second
While props are an essential pillar of a great, high-value preschool gymnastics program, it’s also important to remember they’re just a tool. Without solid teaching to lead the way, props are useless. Props should exist for the sole purpose of enhancing your already engaging curriculum.
So, focus on the quality of your coaching first and your use of props second. When used effectively, props help guide gymnasts from one station to another and inform what they do there. This helps with one of the cornerstones of any successful preschool program: independence. Outside of the spotting station, gymnasts need to be as independent as possible. Supportive props help them with this. When used incorrectly, however, props will become a distraction for gymnasts and coaches.
If props become a distraction, it’s time to modify the station with something else. Your gymnasts are giving your valuable feedback: your plan isn’t working and it is time to change it.
Be sure any use of props is focused on enhancing learning. Anything else is a waste.
Purple Snake It Up!
Grab some interesting props and make them part of your program. Start small with familiar things, then let your imagination go wild (your gymnasts will be super engaged with whatever you come up with). New to the props world? Try the Dollar Store, Target Dollar Bin and Lakeshore learning for some cool ideas.