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How Do Children Grow a Sense of Self?

Gym-boyWe often hear people and organizations say they develop children’s self esteem. I’d like to believe that children play a very important role in creating their own self-image. The more opportunities they have to develop new abilities and skills, the more their “self-talk” (also called metacognition, or thinking about thinking) helps them confirm their growing self. It’s such a treat to hear very young children tell their parents “now that they’re able to perform a certain skill they can move into the next “big kids” class”. They understand it as an accomplishment on their part and one they achieved because they consistently tried their best. They are able to see and get a sense of themselves as changing and growing. This will become a feeling of accomplishment they will want to work hard to be able to feel again and again.

Self-concept is formed from many sources. Early self-concept comes almost as a mirror reflection, regarding oneself through the eyes of people who surround us. So, for a young child, when her parents or teachers show her their love, caring and approval of her and her actions, she internalizes the feeling that she is a person capable of inspiring love and admiration. They grow to believe that they are lovable and capable. The next time they have the opportunity to try a new skill or activity they will be more comfortable doing so. Each success building toward the next.

When important adults convey the reverse message the opposite effect on self-esteem is planted.

Young children quickly absorb the messages given them; without evaluating the rightness or wrongness of the message.

Throughout their childhood they will receive messages from friends, family, coaches and teachers. They tend to accept the messages that agree with the self-concept they have already formed, and ignore the feedback that is inconsistent with their self-image. You can see why the early gift of believing in their own innate goodness and sense of accomplishment is so important.

For the most part this is a process that kids handle themselves, but there are ways the adults in their lives can help.

It really doesn’t have to be over the top ceremonies that acknowledge new skills. Sometimes simply displaying pictures of the first day of class or celebrating the first use of a new skill, helps point out the family’s respect for growth.

Opportunities to use their talents—“Sarah can tie her own shoes, watch”—lets children see you recognize their growth.

Remember, they need a chance to realize, “Hey! I’m growing up, I can do that.”

Shauna Swank-Sahlein

It’s Gymnastics and So Much More.

It’s Gymnastics and So Much More

Often when I’m asked what I do for a living I reply that I provide a place for children to safely develop socially, emotionally and physically. Gymnastics is one of the vehicles used but equally important is the process of the whole child development that is taking place. I am lucky to be a small part of that amazing process. The fact that the development may have occurred as part of a progression to mastering a back handspring is often obscured by the back handspring itself. Much of what was simultaneously accomplished will not be recognized as equally, if not more valuable, until later – sometimes much later – in that child’s life.

Sometime after completing gymnastics lessons that child will remember how scary it was to trust the training, how frustrating it was to not be able to master it for such a long time, how many times they wanted to hang with friends instead of getting to gymnastics class, how their classmates learned it waaay before they did…and how really great it felt when they finally, finally got it!

They’ll recall how hard it was to remember to: 
stand in straight hollow, arms by ears, head neutral, feet together… push hard through the toes to kick the feet over… finish in a straight hollow position. All that AND focus on hands while upside down AND keep arms straight with legs together throughout the whole thing!

But. When. They. Get. It – what a feeling of accomplishment and euphoria! And with each skill acquired they reinforce knowing how to set a goal, break it down into manageable pieces, apply themselves when they sometimes don’t feel like it, practice positive self-talk and celebrate hard work.
At age thirty-five they’ll rarely if ever perform a back handspring but they will have quite often employed the peripheral skills developed while taking gymnastics. It’s a brilliant system for these life lessons and these life lessons are some of the long-lasting reasons for gymnastics classes.

By Shauna Swank-Sahlein
Wings Gymnastics Boise, Idaho

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5 Reasons Why Every Child Needs Swim Lessons

1) Learning to swim is a life skill – one that just may save your child’s life.

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-

14 (Source: CDC). Research shows that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce

the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children aged one to four years. (Source: Pediatrics &

Adolescent Medicine 2009). Teaching children to swim is a vital skill for drowning prevention.

2) It Boosts Development of the Whole Child

What parent wouldn’t want their child to have accelerated development physically, intellectually,

and emotionally? Scientific studies have shown children who swam consistently from infancy

were significantly stronger and more coordinated than those who did not. They scored higher

for intelligence and problem solving. Emotionally, they were found to have more self-discipline,

greater self-control and an increased desire to succeed. They also rated higher in self-esteem and

were more independent and comfortable in social situations than the control groups. (Source:

Scientific Benefits of Baby Swim Lessons 2012).

3) It keeps your children active and healthy.

With childhood obesity on the rise, swimming is not only fun, but it levels the playing field for kids.

They can be any shape or size and still enjoy the benefits of buoyancy in the water. They do not

have to compete or standout, they can do it on their own terms, with their own goals, and in their

own time. Swimming can open a door to an active lifestyle one stroke at a time.

4) Sets them up for unlimited water adventures throughout life.

Once the love of water foundation has been set and children know how to swim, it opens the

door for many other learning adventures water can provide—such as swim team, triathlons,

snorkeling/scuba diving, surfing, water skiing, white water rafting, and simply having a good time

with friends in the water.

5) Creates a strong parent-child bond.

There is nothing like the sensation of water on the skin to enhance connection and building trust

with your child. When you start them as infants in formal lessons, this bond is even stronger as

parents are taught how incorporate fun and games, as well as life saving skills, into the family

swimming experience.

Written by:

Shannon Hamrick, Owner, FLOW Aquatics Swim School.

Summer lessons start at the Wings Center new pool on 23 June 2014.

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Need Another Reason to Consider Gymnastics for Your Child?

Do you have a young person in your life that is in constant motion, shuffling, swinging, climbing, dancing, pushing, pulling; basically challenging the laws of physics and your patience? Can you imagine what an asset that fountain of energy is going to be once that child is able to harness it?

Or maybe you have a child that would benefit from some additional movement?

Gymnastics offers a multitude of benefits but the main one is that it provides a way for kids of all ages and stages to learn and develop on many levels through movement.

Brain development- As your child refines her physical coordination, she is also building essential neural pathways in the brain. It’s those exact same pathways which become the conduits for left/right brain thinking tasks such as creativity, reasoning, and self-regulation. Cross patterning movements develop and strengthen visual processing, midline crossover and spatial awareness which are all important skills for language, reading, writing and math.

Balance is an essential building block to all physical movement, and cognitive, emotional, and social growth as well. Gymnastics is ingeniously designed to challenge children’s sense of balance and orientation. It is a constantly utilized skill.

In gymnastics, skills like crossing bars hand over hand are made easier once a child learns to develop a rhythmic swing that helps organize their movement; and that in turn helps to organize their brain. Think of body rhythm as an internal metronome… the constant “beat” of how we move our bodies, which in turn, helps to develop a whole host of other skills and capabilities that extend beyond movement. Body rhythm underscores language acquisition by helping children tune into speech patterns which in turn, aids memory.

Social skills- Friendships begin in class because kid-sized social experiences like gymnastics classes create the framework for learning about peer relationships. When light-hearted competition is introduced into classes, kids naturally push themselves to be better. No one needs to stand on the sidelines encouraging them. The natural, human drive to succeed is all the incentive they need to try harder.

Physical- Strength builds physical stamina, of course, but even more, when people push themselves to new, physical achievements, the brain is recording these sensations and preparing itself to take on even bigger challenges in other areas of life and learning. For instance, when confronted with a gnarly math problem, children who understand that it may take extra effort to learn a leap stand a better chance of sticking with the problem even when it takes extra effort. The physical benefits of gymnastics include building strength, flexibility, power, agility and spatial awareness and short bursts of aerobic activity.

Emotional development- We think kids don’t like rules but that’s not necessarily the whole story. Rules provide the challenge that make movement so much fun! Jumping, hopping, swinging are fun but adding a new challenge every now and again makes it that much more fun! The mechanics of gymnastics ask kids to hop, jump and stop with deliberate control. This helps children master self control.

Planning and strategizing are lifelong skills learned through play. Moving their way through a course that may include climbing, tossing a bean bag, swinging on a trapeze and crossing a balance beam requires sequencing and prioritizing. Watching their coach explain it and then following the course allows children to physically realize their plan while developing on-your-toes adaptability.

Accomplishment feels great but missing the mark can build character. When children develop good sportsmanship, they are developing the skills and attitudes they’ll need for a well-balanced approach to life.


by Shauna Swank-Sahlein 

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