CEDAR RAPIDS — Blake Kittrell believes there’s more to learn at Kids First Gymnastics than gymnastics.
“We are building kids for the future,” he said. “Gymnastics is just our medium.”
Positive coaching is the foundation for all of the classes at Kids First, he said.
“We focus on what students are doing right, and we also look for things for them to work on for next time,” he said.
The gyms’ “celebration gong” helps students acknowledge large and small victories — from learning a new skill to becoming a better listener.
“Our teachers spend more time focused on what we want students to do rather than what we don’t want them to do,” he added.
Students also devote time during each session talking about different character-building concepts.
“We have a character development curriculum we go over with the kids at the end of each class, talking about concepts like honesty, courage, dependability and focus,” Kittrell said. “We want them to leave excited about the sport of gymnastics, but also take life lessons with them.”
Kittrell opened Kids First Gymnastics in 2012 in a space near Hawkeye Downs, on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids. It quickly outgrew the facility and was in need of a space that also included air-conditioning.
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About a year ago, Kids First moved to a new location on Bowling Street SW. Kittrell said it doubled its square footage, added a padded playground area for younger children — and had air-conditioning.
Today, it offers gymnastics lessons — beginner through competitive levels — for children ages 15 months through 18 years old. It also has warrior classes, a session that helps prepare children physically for other sports or just helps them burn off energy.
“We like to keep them moving,” Kittrell said.
Kids First hosts camps during winter break, spring break and summer break, as well as holiday-themed parties, a preschool open gym on Saturdays and story time.
Kids First, which is licensed as a day care and preschool, also runs a before- and after-school care program that allows kids to enjoy activities and get homework done before their gymnastics lessons start.
“We are always looking to do things that aren’t being offered in the market already,” Kittrell said.
All employees must pass a criminal-background check, complete first aid and CPR training and go through online training he developed before they even set foot on the floor to work with students.
“To be professional in this business requires a lot of planning,” he said, noting that he creates lesson plans for all classes.
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At a glance
l Owner: Blake Kittrell
l Business: Kids First Gymnastics
l Address: 4900 Bowling St. SW, Cedar Rapids
l Phone: (319) 365-1454
l Website: kids1stgym.com