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Why Gymnastics?

 

Why should you sign your young child up for gymnastics classes?

Gymnastics classes can provide comprehensive movement education for your young child. For the purpose of this article, I am defining young children as those from the age of 18 months to 6 years old. Gymnastics forms a foundation that will help children in any sport they choose as well as provide opportunities to build social skills and promote learning.

Modern gymnastics is rooted in physical education programs developed over a century ago to be used in schools and by the military for fitness and training. Today, gymnastics is a competitive sport but it also retains its value as an excellent form of physical education, especially in gyms with class programs developed for young children.

Gymnastics develops strength and flexibility along with balance and motor planning. Skills build on each other and movement is broken down into parts and taught in progression. Even very basic skills that a child is learning can be further simplified if a child is struggling with a movement or body position. While some amount of coordination is innate, a child can improve their coordination with practice.

Strength and flexibility take time to develop and children experience success as they grow stronger and master skills. Gymnastics builds the whole body. Jumping and climbing develop leg strength, while parallel bars and handstands develop upper body strength. Much of the movement learned by young children in gymnastics is useful in their everyday lives. Children gain body awareness through gymnastics and can begin incorporating fitness into their lives.
All types of kids can benefit from gymnastics. The active child has a chance to use their energy but will need to learn control in order to walk across the balance beam or hold onto the rope while swinging. The timid child can be coaxed into trying to roll or climb and thereby broaden his or her comfort zone. A preschool gym is a controlled environment where timid children can expand their abilities confidently and this helps minimize their fears.

Brain and neuroscience research suggests that pathways develop and change according to a child’s experiences especially in the early years. Pathways that are not used start to disappear as the child nears elementary school age. So children that are not exposed to a wide range of movement skills may have more difficulty learning those skills as they get older. Trying new things is what life is all about and new experiences can help the brain develop to its full potential. Gymnastics can also aid language development as words get tied to their meanings through movement. For example, children step over or crawl under. Physical activity and learning occur in gymnastics class.

Gymnastics classes provide a social environment where children wait turns, observe, and interact with other children during class. Listening and following directions, sharing equipment, and developing a sense of personal space also enhance a child’s social skills. Young children develop self confidence as they master movement skills. The playground becomes more fun once children feel comfortable with their motor skills. Children in gymnastics classes become more at ease in group situations, and participating in class involves some elements of performing in front of a group. Overall development occurs in gymnastics classes through physical activity requiring strength, flexibility, motor planning and social interaction.