It takes a village to raise a child: Two kid-centered businesses serve Pacific Beach families

Editor's Note: This feature is the first in a series of reports on family-friendly entities in Pacific Beach . In the upcoming issues, we plan features on the Beach & Bay YMCA, PB and Santa Clara Recreation Centers, preschools and sports leagues.

In today's hectic and harried world, many families feel pressured to keep up with the fast pace and high expectations, so two Pacific Beach women have made it their mission to help parents and children learn and grow while still having fun.

While their approaches and businesses are separate (one emphasizes gymnastics, the other arts and yoga), their underlying philosophy is similar — put more emphasis on enjoyment and natural learning and less on competitive comparisons.

The gymnast and coach

Nicole Harris Britvar opened G3Kids Gym three years ago on Garnet Avenue. For children as young as 6 months, the gym offers a full range and several levels of gymnastics classes, including tumbling, balance, flipping and Ninja Warrior. The gym also offers open play times when parents can drop off children, and a preschool daycare program that combines arts & crafts and physical play.

As Britvar explains, gymnastics training teaches children to be aware of their bodies and those around them, coordination and concentration, being a part of a team, enjoying friends, and even cleaning up and caring for the gym space. "The Ninja classes teach children how to roll and fall properly, look out for others — and all with an emphasis on safety," Britvar added.

Just as important to Britvar is that kids not feel pressured. She told PB Monthly that when she was planning her business, she realized that children love camp ("they see it as an extra-special treat") and that afterschool programs can offer the same opportunity to share and enjoy friends in a safe, inspiring place.

"Kids today are stuck inside," she said. "Here we are not judgmental, we try to make it more fun, where we can be allowed to be in such a restless world. It's harder now to be a mother. We're expected to do so much, keep up with other parents, schools, healthcare. Here, we can lean on each other. Everyone can relax."

Britvar speaks from experience, not just as an athlete, but as a mother. She has four sons, ages 4, 3, 2 and 1. The gym is a natural space and outlet for them. "I can't take them to anyone's home, they break everything," she teased.

She credits her great support staff (a director, manager, assistant manager and several coaches and counselors) with helping her balance it all and provide a sense of community for herself and others.

Britvar, who grew up on Long Island, New York, said she was homeschooled while she trained as a gymnast. She came close to qualifying for the 2004 Olympics when an injury sidelined her. She then went on to a gymnastics scholarship at Arizona State College, majoring in Spanish, and traveling to Mexico and Spain. Landing in La Jolla and Pacific Beach, she fell in love with the active, coastal lifestyle and taught gymnastics at Victory Gym before opening G3Kids (G = Gymnastics, 3 = flipped E for Education).

Aiming for July 4, she plans to open a second G3Kids Gym at UTC's Westfield Mall, in the southwest corner of the parking structure next to Macy's, on the second floor. "An easy drop off," she added. Future plans also include franchising the G3Gym concept.

The artist and teacher

Jennifer Takahashi opened The Grateful Dandelion Atelier on Jewell Street last August. She told PB Monthly it's named after her favorite human quality and flower, and the Reggio Teaching Method's emphasis on atelier (studio) as the heart of the school. Tucked into the back of the building at the top of a staircase, Takahashi's colorful spaces host workshops in arts & crafts, yoga and mindfulness training. While she focuses on working with preschool-age children, she also teaches adults, including classes in crocheting and designing mandalas.

The offerings also include drawing, painting, mixed media, fiber arts, story-telling and art journaling.

Takahashi said she's been a school teacher for more than 25 years, with a bachelor's degree in child and adolescent behavior from San Francisco State University. She explained that after working for a public school in Los Angeles — where she saw how the lack of resources adversely affected both teachers and students — she realized she wanted to focus on younger children and be able to help all students. She also worked her way through college as a preschool teacher.

She explained that she found herself drawn to a more creative learning philosophy — the Reggio Teaching Method — and a preschool in Santa Monica that embraced it. It was developed by teacher Loris Malaguzzi in Reggio Emilia, Italy after World War II. "It's a more intuitive approach," explained Takahashi. "The teacher is also learning, going back and forth, on the ride with students."

The method's emphasis on nature and environment also resonated with Takahashi, who grew up in Goleta, playing outdoors and visiting her grandmother, an exotic fruit grower.

She arrived in PB about 10 years ago, she said, when she started visiting a friend and was drawn to her friend's roommate, Jason (now her husband). The two shared similar backgrounds, as teachers and lovers of nature. Takahashi is fluent in Spanish and French, and her husband teaches both languages at Helix Charter High School. He grew up in Spring Valley, working on his family's Takahashi Farms.

After marrying and moving to PB, Takahashi worked as a nanny, and then at a preschool in Scripps Ranch for several years. "But I was running myself ragged with a long commute and I found it hard to be connected," she said, so she decided to take a sabbatical. "I didn't want to be a stale teacher. I was questioning, 'Am I getting further from what I really want to do?' "

She discovered that what she really wanted to do related to her love of nature and creativity, and so The Grateful Dandelion Atelier was born. Her studio is open for Saturday daytime and Thursday evening classes. She also offers a Parents' Night Out twice a month on Saturday evenings and is a vendor for Inspire, a home-schooling organization.

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Want to know more?

• G3Kids: Gymnastics, daycare, open gym, camps at 929 Garnet Ave. (858) 333-9009. g3kids.com

• Grateful Dandelion Atelier: Art and yoga classes, storytelling, games at 4640 Jewell St. Suite 220. (805) 452-4595. Thegratefuldandelionatelier.blogspot.com

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