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Benefits of Gymnastics Classes for Kids

Updated on April 8, 2013
Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny is the mother of two. Together they read, craft, and play games for fun.

Using "airplane arms" to walk a balance beam
Using "airplane arms" to walk a balance beam | Source

Gymnastics is a sport many adults don't think of outside of every four years, at the Summer Olympics. However, gymnastics classes for kids are hot, year in and year out. What makes gymnastics a perennially popular afterschool activity? Is it worth the time and expense? Read on and see.

Gymnastics Increases Coordination

When our eldest child was a preschooler, she had problems with balance and gross motor skills — not enough to be a cause for alarm, but enough that she would bump into furniture and fall down if someone knocked into her by accident. We decided to enroll her in a non-competitive gymnastics program to see if that would help, and to our great delight, it did. We even joked that the class should be titled "physical therapy for klutzy kids," since she was now able to climb the jungle gym at the playground with all her friends. She also learned how to use "airplane arms" to walk a balance beam (and to help her balance if someone bumped into her).

Now she's in grade school and loves being able to do cartwheels and backbends with her friends during recess (and she can flip right over the monkey bars at the playground, too!).

Gymnastics Teaches the Value of Hard Work

Some kids may excel at gymnastics naturally, but most children need to put in real time and effort to master skills beyond the basics. However, once a child has succeeded in mastering a skill, she can feel rightfully proud both of her newfound ability and of her self-discipline in being willing to work hard. This discipline can transfer into school work and even chores at home.

Kids Gain Confidence Through Gymnastics

As kids challenge what their bodies can do, they gain confidence. In a gymnastics class, each child is coached according to his or her own ability, so each child is able to feel successful the first time he performs a new skill rather than relying on an entire team to perform well or having to compete against his friends all the time. It may take weeks to master a perfect cartwheel, but once your child has it, he will confidently show it off at every opportunity. And the confidence he gains will be based on mastering skills, which is where true confidence comes from.

Gymnastics also allows shy or introverted kids to shine where they might feel overwhelmed by a team sport, since classes tend to be small and not as noisy.

Gymnastics Classes Improve Social Skills

Listening, following directions, and taking turns are all important social skills that group gymnastics classes can help your kids develop. Children also learn the importance of being supportive of friends when they are having difficulty learning something new.

Skills Your Child Could Learn in Gymnastics Classes

Gymnastics Is Great Exercise

If you enroll your child in classes at a competitive gym, all-around conditioning (e.g., running, push-ups) is likely to be part of the class or an expected "homework assignment," but even non-competitive and performance-based gymnastics classes will make your child both stronger and more flexible.

Gymnastics involves a tremendous amount of upper body strength for both boys and girls; just look at the arms of Olympic gymnasts and you will see what gymnastics can do! But gymnastics won't make your child muscle-bound, either; gymnasts must also be extremely flexible to tumble, bend, and flip without hurting themselves, so stretching and flexibility exercises will also be part of any good gymnastics class.

Free Running Is Like Gymnastics, Only Cooler

Gymnastics Harnesses Unfocused Energy

What parent of young sons hasn't occasionally wished that small boys would come with an off switch? Gymnastics classes can harness children's excess energy and use it productively, giving active children the opportunity to gain strength and coordination while "playing." A good afterschool class will tire your child out so that he is happy to sit quietly with a cold drink and focus on his homework afterwards. My son has been taking gymnastics since he was four years old, and he is at his calmest on gymnastics days because he knows that he will have the opportunity to swing, hang, stretch, jump, and tumble to his heart's content.

Some gyms also offer parkour or free running classes for older kids and teens, where they teach specialized flips, tumbling, and tricks used in those sports. These classes are especially good for boys who think organized or team sports aren't cool, but still need to expend energy (and might otherwise be prone to trouble or falling in with a bad crowd).

Eight-year-old girls getting ready to perform a gymnastics floor routine for a theater full of hundreds of people
Eight-year-old girls getting ready to perform a gymnastics floor routine for a theater full of hundreds of people | Source

Kids Learn to Perform in Public

Whether your child is competing at a gymnastics meet or is performing a routine at a recital, he is going to be in the public eye. Practicing and rehearsing allows kids to be confident in performing their skills and routines, no matter how large the audience. And that confidence can carry over into other areas of life, such as public speaking or filling leadership roles at school.

The performance-based gymnastics school we have our children enrolled in right now has an annual performance at the end of the year where the kids perform for nearly 700 people. The thought of that many people petrified me, but my kids walked onto that stage without a problem. For that alone, they deserved a medal in my book!

Gymnastics Classes Are Affordable

Whether your child is a budding Olympian or just wants to get more coordinated and make friends, gymnastics classes are definitely worth it. Beginners' classes at private gyms tend to run from $60 to $75 per month for a weekly one-hour session, which is comparable to the cost of other specialized extracurricular activities and classes, such as karate or art. Many gyms also offer sibling discounts or discounts for taking multiple classes per week. You may be also able to find a bargain if your community center offers gymnastics classes (although they may not have all the equipment a gymnastics facility has). You can definitely get all the benefits of gymnastics for your kids while sticking to your budget.

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    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Me too!

    • Coach Ellen profile image

      Coach Ellen 5 years ago from Texas

      That's awesome to hear. If you have chosen the right gym, that is usually the case. Love the sport of gymnastics!

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Coach! My kids have developed tremendously since starting gymnastics: they have conquered fears; they have performed in public; they've made new friends; and their coordination has never been better. Gymnastics has been wonderful for us, and my kids love it!

    • Coach Ellen profile image

      Coach Ellen 5 years ago from Texas

      Great Hub. I enjoyed it. I'm a gym owner and team coach, and truly believe in the benefits of our sport for life skills. Thanks for sharing.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Giselle! My son absolutely loves his gymnastics classes, and aside from his tendency to vault over the sofa, it has really helped him channel his energy in appropriate and constructive ways. We've been very lucky to have two high-quality gyms near us that have strong boys' gymnastics programs, though. I know not everybody has that advantage, but it definitely pays to do your research to find a good boys' program (preferably with at least a few male coaches to act as role models).

    • profile image

      Giselle Maine 5 years ago

      This is really great! I found this article especially helpful for moms of boys - all too often the focus is on girls in gymnastics, yet the boys often have just as much energy or more than girls and need a positive outlet to expend it! Especially as you say in the case where the energy may otherwise go into destructive or risky behaviors. Thanks for this wonderful article and for its inclusive spirit (also with your highlighting on sibling activities, recreational gymnastics, etc).

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      It's my pleasure, Becky. I'm glad that you have personally seen the benefits of gymnastics classes for your kids. My kids have simply blossomed in their class, and they run to each class with such joy that I am very happy to be able to give them such an advantage.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      My oldest went to gymnastics at 3 and we found all the information you shared above to be true. My youngest who's 3 now is about to embark on gymnastics as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences and "highlighting" gymnastics.

      ~Becky

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Hi, Natasha. I took some gymnastics classes as a kid as well, and I really wish I had been able to continue. I hope to be able to give my kids the chance to keep doing gymnastics as long as they have an interest, whether that's two more years or ten. I've really seen my daughter blossom this past year!

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I took gymnastics as a kid, but then we moved somewhere that didn't have any gymnastics options. I really loved it, and am glad I had the chance to participate, even for just a few years.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
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      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Thanks, clevercat! I had a lot of fun choosing videos for this hub; there are so many great gymnastics videos out there (which proves my point about performing in public!).

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wow! I love it! Great pics and terrific choice of videos. I love that gymnastics can help harness unfocused energy, and help kids learn to perform in public. Voted up, useful, and interesting.