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
Wings Gymnastics Boise, Idaho

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