Parents today have many choices for all kinds of sports activities for their children. I believe that all sports can enhance and enrich a child’s life. So what’s unique about gymnastics, then? Great question!
Gymnastics offers many benefits to children of all ages and skill levels. I have personally observed benefits in children's physical, social, and mental health.
This is the most obvious benefit that parents can immediately observe as they watch their child participating in a typical gymnastics class. In one 45 minute class children will use every major muscle group in their bodies! Gymnastics skills increase strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and body awareness. They’ll run, learn how to jump and land safely, stretch, roll, balance on top of things, support their body weight, use all their strength while swinging on rings and ropes and even a zip line, get inverted while doing handstands or hanging upside down on a bar or rings, crawl around in a foam pit (which is a lot of fun, but if you’ve ever tried to crawl around in a foam pit, you know what a workout it is), work on coordination skills using bean bags and other various items, and do things like crab walks, bear walks, dance movements, and a multitude of other fun physical activities. They will leave the gym sweaty, giggling and happy!
And as far as competitive gymnastics goes, students who reach this level are some of the strongest and toughest kids on the planet! They have to do constant conditioning and practicing to keep up with the demands of their gymnastics skills as they move up through the team levels.
Whether it’s a non-structured “Mommy and me” type of class for one-to three-year-olds, or structured classes for older children for both recreational or team gymnastics, students will learn social skills in the gym. In the non-structured classes, where little ones are still mostly aware of only their own needs, they are exposed to other children. They’ll have to learn to stay only in the allowed areas of the gym, wait for their turn on an event, such as the trampoline, share something they might grab for just as another child is grabbing for it too, such as a hoop, and learn to interact with the other children, parents, and the instructor. There’s actually a lot going on there for a very young child.
In the older children’s structured recreational classes, students learn to listen to their coach, wait for instructions before they go on the equipment, take turns, become more aware of their personal space as well as their fellow students’ personal space, make new friends, feel proud of their accomplishments, and applaud their classmates’ accomplishments as well. Plus, they’ll have a lot of fun!
For developmental team classes all the way up through competitive team classes, the social benefits become even more important as team mates face many difficult challenges and overcome them together, and learn to support each other. Many adults who participated in team gymnastics as children made friends for life while doing so.
Of course gymnastics is a lot of fun, but every level and age group will run into challenges ranging from small to very difficult. In a “Mommy and me” class, a two-year-old may not be able to figure out how to bounce on two feet on the trampoline, while another one may have a fear of the parachute or foam pit. An older recreational student may have a fear of getting inverted and flipping over the bar, while another one may not have the arm or core strength to do a chin hold or a pull over. Even competitive gymnasts usually have at least one event or set of skills that they struggle with. They also have the constant challenge of having to work on improving their current skills and routines, as well as trying to learn new ones.
Every time a student faces and overcomes a challenge, whether it’s from a lack of strength, coordination, flexibility, lack of understanding, or a fear, they build their confidence level and feel better about tackling their next challenge. And gymnastics skills are taught in progressions, so a good coach knows there are many ways to help a student feel successful.
Gymnasts also learn some great life skills, such as patience, perseverance, discipline, reasoning, courage and compassion for others.
It is a widely held belief among gymnastics experts that these combined benefits of gymnastics can transfer over into many other areas of children’s lives. They can approach such things as school and other social activities with more confidence. Whether it’s simply playing on a playground or choosing another sport, gymnastics helps prepare children to participate in other physical activities.
If you’re a parent who’s considering having your child try gymnastics, I hope this article will encourage you to do so. And if you are the parent of a gymnast, you can feel confident that you’re providing something wonderfully beneficial for your child.
Thanks for stopping by!