When the pandemic first hit in 2020 and things locked down, I saw a lot of parents wandering around Culver City with slightly terrified looks on their faces. Raising kids is hard enough as it is, but being forced to do it without a support network of teachers, other parents or even a babysitter? My children are in their teens; I can only imagine the challenges when your child is younger and less self-reliant.
Then one day, at a park near my house, I saw what looked like a colorful day-camp. A group of five-to-seven-year-olds were running around, enthusiastically climbing an inflatable obstacle course, having the time of their lives while their equally enthusiastic counselor cheered them on. I was immediately intrigued. Getting your kids away from electronic devices is one of the biggest challenges of modern-day parenting – not to mention during COVID times. Where did this camp come from? And more importantly: Why wasn’t it around when my children were toddlers?
Everything Counts for Kids (or EC Kids) is run by the husband-and-wife team of J.T. and Debbie Moyé. I had actually met J.T. years ago when I was renting office space above The Broadway Gym in Mar Vista, a neighborhood in west Los Angeles. Though we only spoke in passing, J.T. was always smiling, upbeat and enthusiastic – just a very positive presence.
J.T.‘s background is in acting, dance and movement. He has a BFA from the University of Connecticut, and has performed in “Miss Saigon” on Broadway, played a pirate in the movie “Hook,” as well as playing the role of Grover in “Sesame Street Live” (his clients’ favorite credit.) He has also taught gymnastics, dance and musical theater for over thirty-five years. Debbie is a mother of three who has spent much of her life organizing community events for children focusing on self-expression, inclusion, and teamwork. The couple met in 2010 and formed an immediate bond over their shared interest in child development and education
In between acting gigs, J.T. taught gymnastics and movement around the Los Angeles area – including a twenty-five-year stint at Broadway Gymnastics School. It was during this time that he and Debbie met a young man named Edwin who was struggling with weight issues. As they worked with Edwin to modify his exercise routine and diet (helping him lose 140 pounds over a seven-month period) they realized the need for a children's program that taught not only movement, but also nutrition and other developmentally-appropriate topics, like how overcome obstacles, respecting yourself and others, as well as cooperation and teamwork. Thus, “Everything Counts for Kids” was born – a program that strives to combine all the tentpoles of child development under one roof.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is an essential element of child development because it “contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth.” It is important for proper brain development as it “allows children to conquer their fears” as well as “helps them develop new competencies that lead to the enhanced confidence and the resiliency they need to face future challenges.” (https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182)
At EC Kids, Debbie and J.T. take a holistic approach towards child development. Their lessons combine both physical and psychological elements that reinforce one another. Coaxing your child into doing jumping jacks? Why not sneak in a song about telling your left hand from your right, or about believing in yourself and respecting others?
To that end, EC Kids offers classes which incorporate movement, music, dance and nutrition combined with positive reinforcement and motivational self-talk. The goal is to help their students turn these positive mindsets into habits, so they can utilize them throughout their everyday life. When trying to define the focus of their program, J.T. and Debbie kept stumbling upon the phrase “everything counts for kids,” and decided that was the perfect name for their company.
And their approach seems to work! In talking to parents about their children’s experience at EC Kids, I repeatedly heard the words “positive,” “enthusiastic,” and “love,” as in, “my child loves these classes - and so do I.”
J.T. even told me the story of one of their students – a girl with Autism - who was extremely shy when she first started out, but now works as an assistant counselor at the camp. In another example, they took a student who was afraid of flying on a field trip with his classmates where they all flew in a helicopter – and he loved it! (You can see a video of this field trip on their website.)
Debbie and J.T. have seen the children who participate in their classes come out of their shells, learn to push themselves and take chances.
Which brings up another point. EC Kids is fully equipped to help children with special needs. These children are not segregated from the others, the thought being that it is beneficial for both parties to learn how to be respectful of everyone’s different abilities – as well as how to support one another.
From everything I can tell, EC Kids is an amazing program taught by two enthusiastic and capable teachers. They provide a much-needed resource for getting your children to put down their devices and get active – as well as a support system for parents. Their website has online music and videos you can do at home, and they are in the process of created a parenting class – something their clients have been requesting for a long time.
For the moment, the majority of their classes are held outside, for the safety of the children and their instructors – but they are in the process of finding a permanent indoor space – a goal that was sidetracked by the COVID lockdown but is back on track. And that "obstacle course" I was talking about? I discovered that is their famous "Inflatable Ninja Wall."
In addition to their regular classes, they offer “pods” – private classes for families who would prefer a smaller gathering, as well as birthday parties and summer camp. They also work with schools and community organizations.
J.T. and Debbie truly love their jobs and it is evident in how they interact with the kids. Their excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. If you are the parent of a young child in the Los Angeles area, EC Kids is an amazing resource and something well worth checking out.
If you’d like more information, you can visit their website at ecfkids.com or call them at (310)993-6802. You can also get a taste of their teaching style by watching the videos on their website or Youtube channel (just search for EC Kids.)
As parents, we all want what’s best for our children. What better gift to give them than a lifetime supply of confidence and healthy habits. As the EC Kids motto says, their goal is to help children “Have their best day ever – every day!” #HiddenGems