Between being a gymnast, a coach, and a parent… here is why I think gymnastics is great for young kids:
They learn to take direction
When a young child heads to gymnastics class, there is a lot of temptation. What child wouldn’t just want to run across the gym to the trampoline and start bouncing? But… in a class setting, there are expectations and structure that the children need to follow. They learn impulse control, and how to remain focused on the task at hand even while the rest of the gym is loud and busy.
Children in gymnastics classes also learn to apply the directions that they are given. They learn how to listen to a verbal direction and make a physical change in what they are working. This isn’t always an easy skill to learn, but it is something that will benefit your child for years to come! Whether they decide to pursue soccer down the road, or whether they are sitting in a boardroom as an adult - they need to be coachable.
They learn body awareness
Regardless of what sport your child decides to focus on in the future, they will need body awareness. They need to have a great understanding on where they are in space, and how to make their body do what it needs to do.
We tend to think in terms of coordination, and we tend to assume that people are either coordinated or uncoordinated. And while natural talent and ability is absolutely a real thing, it doesn’t mean that we can’t improve from wherever our starting point happens to be.
In fact, our local early intervention program regular recommends gymnastics classes as a form of physical therapy for children who may be struggling with their motor development. Gymnastics is one of the few sports that requires you to use every part of your body in cooperation with each other - from your head to your toes!
They build confidence
Gymnastics is the perfect location to allow children to test their own limits and push themselves. They learn that the harder the work, the more cool tricks they get to do! They learn that each skill builds on the next, and that the more handstands they do the easier they become.
This sport allows even young children to learn hands-on the importance of hard work, consistency, and believing in themselves. Seeing the pride on a child’s face who just did their first successful cartwheel is always an incredible thing to watch. And they are able to own that success because they are the ones that practiced and made that happen.
They learn safety skills
While there are mats, trampolines, and foam blocks covering every inch of the gym, it doesn’t mean that the gym is 100% safe. Which is why safety awareness and safety skills are taught systematically throughout youth gymnastics programs.
Children learn to pay attention to their surroundings, to remain in control of their own movements, and to follow the rules.
They learn how to roll properly, hand to land safely, and even how to fall in a safe way. These skills come in handy whether your child is on the playground, at recess, or playing another sport! Once they have those basic safety skills, they can apply them to a variety of situations.
They build core strength
There is a video tape somewhere at my mom’s house of 6 year old me doing seemingly endless press handstands in a row. That takes a serious amount of strength and requires muscle groups that are often not developed in other sports. Other youth coaches tend to love when their athletes take gymnastics classes in the off-season because it builds overall strength.
And the best part is that it builds strength without feeling like work to these kids. Handstands, cartwheels, bars, trampoline, etc… all of these things are fun! And the next day your child might have some sore muscles from working so hard, but that doesn’t hold them back from having fun again next week!
They get out their energy
Young children always seem to have an overabundance of energy! As parents, we don’t understand where it comes from, but we learn very quickly that we need to provide outlets for this energy.
Gymnastics is the perfect outlet. It is a safe environment with soft mats everywhere. And running faster, jumping higher, and flipping as much as you’d like is all encouraged!
It is a whole body workout that is fun for your child. Have you ever tried jumping on a trampoline? It is surprisingly exhausting, but your child won’t notice until they finally head home (and sleep well for you that night).
So while your little one might not be destined to be the next Simone Biles, they can still get a lot out of the sport of gymnastics! Giving your child the opportunity to exercise, build life skills, and have fun is truly a gift to them and their future selves.