A new preschool development program based in St. Clairsville encourages youngsters to have "happy feet," with the goal of promoting physical and social well-being.
Happy Feet is an indoor "mobile soccer clinic" for ages 2-6 directed by Johann Marin of Wheeling, former Wheeling Jesuit University player and head soccer coach at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Its home base is Creative Learning Daycare & Preschool in St. Clairsville.
During the once-a-week, half-hour clinic, each child has his or her own soccer ball mascot, Bob the Bobcat.
Children at Creative Learning Prechool in St. Clairsville participate in the Happy Feet soccer program.
"It's like story time with a soccer ball. We use nursery rhymes, fun stories, songs and games to take children on a creative adventure with Bob the Bobcat," Marin said. The children also develop gross motor skills by working on the two "most attractive attributes" of soccer: deceptive dribbling and goal scoring, Marin said.
Marin opened his Happy Feet franchise - the Happy Feet headquarters is in Kansas City, Mo. - in Wheeling in February 2011. He has taken it to various preschools and daycares in the Ohio Valley and hopes to expand. After children reach age 6, they can opt to become part of the Legends Soccer program, also run by Marin.
The Creative Learning site has Happy Feet classes for 2- to 3-year-olds and 4- to 5-year-olds on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week. The classes are taught by coach Sarah Caldwell and are open to the public.
"I've seen a lot of the kids that are shy and backward come out of their shells in there. ... They go in with smiles and they come out with smiles," Caldwell said.
For information, call Creative Learning owner/operator Shayna Parsons, 740-695-0161, or www.happyfeetsoccer.com.