Movement Is Magic!


An eighteen-month-old toddler and his nanny showed up for our Little Stars gymnastics class. The toddler, Daniel (not his real name) was “a big boy” as his nanny said and seemed reluctant to move around. During the first class Daniel went along with the group but balked at many of the activities and had trouble with those he did try. At the balance beam it took two of us to get him across. His nanny held him upright while I moved his feet across the beam. Between his resistance to moving and the body weight he was carrying, I wondered how worthwhile this class was going to be for Daniel, but reserved judgment. The following weeks brought changes that surprised me.

The next week Daniel participated a little more. In particular, he walked on the balance beam with much less guidance. Over the next few weeks, remarkable changes occurred in each class. Daniel was having fun and trying everything. On week one Daniel had a hard time grasping the parallel bar. By week three he was starting to hold onto the bar. By the fifth week he could hold onto the bar and swing, holding his body weight.


Almost more noteworthy was Daniel’s demeanor. During the first couple of classes, Daniel seemed expression-less unless he was balking at trying an activity. As the weeks went by he became increasingly engaged in the activities. Soon he got so excited on the trampoline that he rushed back, trying to get an immediate next turn. In the first weeks, the only sounds that Daniel made were cries when he didn’t want to try an activity. By the 5th week he was making excited exclamations and was totally engaged in his surroundings.


The moral of the story: expose a child to inviting opportunities for physical activity and watch the joy and energy emerge. I have seen this transformation countless times and chastised myself for thinking it might not work in Daniel’s case. However, an important part of this transformation is to create a conducive environment. Help the child learn to move their bodies with calm encouragement and gentle guidance in attempting new activities.