I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years, a coach of all ages for 6 years, and a high school gymnastics judge for 3 years. If you have a question about cartwheels or pointed toes, I’m your girl.
(Just be aware that if you do ask–I’ll get WAY too excited and probably talk your ear off.)
I have seen it all–3 year olds with unbelievable natural ability, 9 year olds with absolutely no natural ability, and toddlers who do nothing but roll around for the entire hour of class. It really doesn’t matter what category your child fits into–they don’t have to go to the Olympics to benefit from gymnastics.
In fact, they don’t even need to make it anywhere near a competition, or even to level 2.
All sports and activities have benefits, but gymnastics is particularly incredible to help your young kids develop socially, emotionally, and physically.
Here are 12 reasons you should consider enrolling your kids (both boys AND girls!) in gymnastics:
1. Following Directions
Gymnastics classes are usually made of stations. Even in preschool, your two-year-old may be asked to move to and from different stations on their own, and to do specific activities without constant input from an adult.
It’s a big ask for all toddlers and preschoolers (and many elementary-aged kids!), but they will never learn to do it without practice.
2. Taking Turns
Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for 2-6 year olds to have to wait in line on their own. Especially if they are waiting to do something fun! I would see amazing growth in my preschool classes ability to stand in lines over a few months.
3. Independence and Self-Control
It might be the first time you ever hand your child to someone new for an hour–or they might come straight from daycare. Gymnastics is a safe and fun way for your child to get comfortable in a new environment with new people.
There are going to be a lot of times when your child does not understand what the teacher is asking them to do. It could be because they were watching the older girls do flips, or because their body just doesn’t move the same way the teachers’ does.
Either way, this is how young kids begin to figure out how to ask questions and ask for help. You’ve probably never heard a 3-year-old say, “I don’t understand” or “What do you mean?”
Kids aren’t born knowing how to ask for clarification. In fact, toddlers often respond to confusion with tantrums–you know it’s true. But at gymnastics, they start figuring out how to ask for help. And other times, they just go for it without really understanding it–something that a lot of adults don’t have the courage for.
5. Positive and Negative Feedback
Not even Shannon Miller did everything correctly in her first gymnastics class. Your child will get instructions on how to improve something. It is GOOD for kids to get negative feedback (without being scolded, of course), and learn to listen and make the right changes.
Emotional Benefits of Gymnastics
6. Dealing with Mistakes and Failures
Failure seems like a harsh word for a young child. We wouldn’t use that word in a class, but gymnastics is a perfect environment to normalize trying and failing. In fact, trying things and failing is a huge part of what makes gymnastics so fun!
7. Strengths vs. Weaknesses
Gymnastics is a highly versatile sport–it tests flexibility, strength, speed, agility, mental strength, and so much more. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Your child will definitely be stronger in one of those areas than another, and they might have to watch their classmates do amazing things.
It’s a perfect time to accept and celebrate their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the different strengths and weaknesses of others around them. (Another skill adults could really use some help with.)
8. Goal Setting
The first time I tried gymnastics, I couldn’t do a split. But I clearly remember the first time I did the full split–it’s like a permanent bookmark in my brain.
You can improve any weakness with hard work. That’s something every human has to learn from experience. Gymnastics offers your child a million opportunities to get new skills. It doesn’t have to be something big– the most excited I ever got for a student was a two-year-old who finally figured out how to do a straddle jump after eight months. The skill doesn’t matter–but reaching the goal does.
9. Facing Fear
It probably won’t take long for your child to be faced with something they find scary in gymnastics–like the first time they go upside-down on the bar. It is a perfect scenario for them to have the support they need to face their fears.
Physical Benefits of Gymnastics
I know this is what you think you’ll get when you enroll your child in gymnastics, but it’s only part of the picture. In fact, people say gymnastics is 10% physical and 90% mental strength–and I’ve never met a gymnast who disagreed.
If you watch any preschool gymnastics class, some kids will hop right onto the beam and walk across it like nothing happened. Other kids will cling to their teacher like they’re the last solid object on the planet–and somehow still fall off.
Most gyms have beams of different texture, different heights, and different widths. Your kids will also practice walking forward, backward, sideways, on all fours, and more. Where else can you build up your balance so easily?
11. Body Awareness
Body awareness is the fancy term for kids learning to pay attention to different body parts. At first, they’ll learn to point their toes, flex their toes, straighten their legs, lock their elbows, and tuck their heads.
As they grow, they’ll also learn core-building skills, like the difference between a hollow back and an arched back. This skill still pays off as an adult!
12. Exercise is FUN
EVERYBODY loves to jump into the pit. This is one of the basic facts of life.
Even if your child doesn’t feel giddy when they walk into the gymnasium (like I still do), they will see that exercise, hard work, and pushing yourself can be FUN–not boring or miserable.
Your child might not fall in love with the sport like some of us do, but I never had a student leave a class without learning something new.