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Benefits of Gymnastics Classes for Kids
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).
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.