Anastasiya Motuzok, co-owner of LA Gold Gymnastics, started gymnastics at the age of 7 and was a competitive gymnast through the age of 14 before she began coaching. She weighs in with some helpful advice about how to get involved and what to expect.
HOW DO WE GET STARTED AND WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
Luckily, plenty of gyms offer classes for infants and toddlers to get their start in gymnastics. Motuzok suggests contacting a local gym that offers this and setting up a trial class, usually for free. A trial class is a good way to gauge how your toddler will react to their first official class.
In regards to what to expect, it’s important to note that your child may get nervous and struggle through the first class. It’s a bit like the first day of Kindergarten sometimes.
“If their class isn’t successful, make sure to check with the instructor on their thoughts on why. A lot of times we recommend that they take a break for a few months and try again. That can make a world of difference for this age,” explains Motuzok. “Never force them to come to class tired, crying, or if they simply don’t want to. We want to encourage a positive relationship with their gymnastics class.”
IS IT SAFE?
Yes! You can feel confident that starting gymnastics at this age is completely safe and very beneficial. In Mommy and Me or Daddy and Me classes, the exercises, stretches, and activities are nothing too challenging. The class is designed around the age group’s development cycle, is supervised, and should never be beyond your child’s ability.
“We have never had any issues or injuries from participation in gymnastics at a toddler age. Rather, it may even reduce injury as they begin to learn how to move and fall properly. I would simply contact your gym and have them address any questions you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask to watch a class either,” offers Motuzok.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Bryan Kiser, a former high level competitive athlete and owner of Valor Gymnastics, also has plenty to offer on the subject. Since his gym hosts a Mom/Dad and Me class for children aged 18 months to 3 years old, he understands how beneficial a class for this age group can be. He lists several major benefits to starting gymnastics this young:
Body and Spatial Awareness
The development of motor skills through neuromuscular activities (working the mind with the body to perform specific movements and/or skills) like gymnastics and dance are great to build a foundation of body and spatial awareness. This fundamental development is transferable to every sport they may play later in their childhood, and studies have shown that participating children generally have better self esteem, ability to deal with challenges, as well as learn faster academically. In fact, several studies find that by advancing the child’s cognition through repetitive challenging neuromuscular movements of the body, it accelerates the ability of the brain to learn more efficiently.
Discipline and Ability to Listen and Follow Directions
I can almost always tell a child that was put into either gymnastics or dance as a toddler. Generally speaking, they listen better, understand how to stand in a line, wait for a turn, and share. Sometimes these exceptional benefits get overlooked, because they are part of the finer details. However, it is a fact that youngsters that have learned these at a very young age excel faster, learn quicker, and master the basics better than those that missed out.
Balance, Speed, General Strength and Flexibility
These skills will play an important part in your child’s life whether they become more active and or competitive in a specific sport, or if they just enjoy sports as a way to stay healthy and energetic. These benefits will start your toddler off right with fundamental benefits that they can truly enjoy and have for a lifetime.
Hopefully if you were waiting on your decision to start gymnastics, you feel confident about joining a class now. A Mommy/Daddy and Me gymnastics class can be a fun and health-conscious bonding activity for you and your baby or toddler. ■