In the old days Mum used to pump the iron while Dad worked late. Now, mum works out and dad pumps iron, but the bullworker and weights have given way to high-tech gyms. And where there are adult gyms, there are . . . .
Mini-gyms for young children offer a variety of activities to develop both skills and muscle groups. There are many choices on the market, from lightweight, modular units designed for easy storage where space is at a premium to permanent fixtures.
For younger children, exercise is often disguised as active play which resembles circuit training for adults. Many indoor equipment systems encourage a variety of skills, such as crawling, balancing, stretching and clambering.
Not to be underestimated is the basic value and versatility of Quadro, a giant tubular construction kit with clip-on panels and slide components supplied by Heron Educational. This DIY gymnasium obviously needs careful supervision while it is being built and used. Every kit includes an ideas and instruction manual and a mini design kit comes with the larger packages.
For a touch over Pounds 200, NES Arnold offer a starter set of interlocking plastic panels, which combine into a compact frame with climbing bars, platform area, slide and tunnel holes. The wide rungs on the climbing section and the chunky slide provide a firm grip which boosts novices' confidence. The Activity Gym is designed for indoor and outdoor use, but should not be regularly dismantled. NES Arnold also offers the Gymkit - simple coloured posts, hoops and beams which are connected with snap-fit plastic assembly joints. This outfit is particularly good for developing balancing skills and relatively small controlled movements.
The NES Arnold Children's Gym is for climbing, walking and sliding and a sensible combination can be put together for around Pounds 650. In this system, the components link together with simple hooks and are finished in traditional timber stained with bright primary colours.
Community Playthings also uses traditional materials and craftmanship for its delightful Nursery Gym. This is designed for children from nine months to four years of age and incorporates ramps, stairways and tunnels, all beautifully made with the attention to detail and safety which have made Community Playthings a byword for quality.
Moving up the scale in terms of cost and requiring a fixed location, wall-bars - once the preserve of secondary-school gyms - have been modified for the younger generation. A pick 'n' mix approach is possible with many systems of tubular and square-section steel frames, offering mini climbing walls, straight ladder sections and "wiggle-while-you-work" bars. Choose two or more sections which are then anchored to a wall and unfold into sturdy frames. Carr Gymnasium Equipment of Nottingham offer friendly advice and a fitting service.
At the top end of the range, Eibe-Play offers a Scandinavian-style Play Paradise. This is a compact centre with play house, slides, sloping stairways, ball-pond area and platforms. Equipped with this, the ultimate combination of role-play and exercise opportunities, there is no excuse for any member of the next generation not to have a healthy mind and a healthy body.
Carr Gymnasium Equipment, Ronald Street, Radford, Nottingham, NG7 3GY.
Tel: 0115 942 2252.
Continental Sports Ltd, Paddock, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD1 4SD.
Tel: 01484 542 051.
Community Playthings, Darvell, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5DR.
Tel: 0800 387 457.
Curriculum Supplies, Bridge Mills, Mills Street West, Dewsbury, W Yorks, WF12 9AF.
Tel: 01924 466684.
Eibe Play Ltd, Forest House, 8 Baxter Road, Sale, Cheshire, M33 3A.
Tel: 0161 962 8295.
Galt Educational, Culvert Street, Oldham, Lancs OL4 2ST.
Tel: 0161 627 0795.
Heron Educational, Carrwood House, Carrwood Road, Chesterfield, S41 9QB.
Tel: 01246 453 354.
Hope Education, Orb Mill, Huddersfield Road, Oldham, Lancs OL4 2ST.
Tel: 0161 633 6611.
NES Arnold Ltd, Ludlow Hill Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 6HD.
Tel: 0115 945 2200.
Lifetime Company, 5 Moorbridge Court, Moorbridge Road East, Bingham, Nottingham, NG13 8QE. Tel: 01949 836 360.
Timberline, Foxwood Industrial Park, Foxwood Road, Sheepbridge, Chesterfield S419RN.
Tel: 01246 454 484.
Sutcliffe Play, Sandbeds Trading Est, Dewsbury Rd, Ossett, W Yorks, WF5 9ND.
Tel: 01924 280 028.
WESCO, 3 Brown's Lane, Allesley, Coventry, W Midlands CV5 9DT Tel: 01203 402 626.
YPO, 41 Industrial Park, Wakefield WF2 0XE.
Tel: 01924 824 477.