Wrote by Ellie Perkins. Retrieved from https://gymnastips.co.uk/blog/baby-gymnastics
Baby Gymnastics: The Ultimate Guide for Parents of Toddlers
Is Gymnastics Good for Your Child?
Gymnastics is an excellent and all-inclusive sport for many reasons, from learning balance and basic skills from a young age to developing beginner social skills, overall I would highly recommend the sport for young children due to all of its advantages.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how your child will benefit from baby gymnastics classes and what you can expect as a parent.
What Age Can Babies Start Gymnastics?
Most clubs allow babies to start gymnastics from as young as walking, so between around 9-12 months.
Children this young start in ‘baby and me’ classes where they attend a structured or nonstructured session with their parent or guardian. A structured session is a very coach-led class, where parents follow the instructions and layout of the class with their little one.
Whereas a non-structured class is more of a free play setting, where the children get to explore the surroundings with the assistance of their adults and coaches.
These sessions offer a learning experience that is three-dimensional as it will help build and develop motor skills, spatial awareness, coordination, and many more important early years developmental factors.
How Gymnastics Can Boost Confidence
Gymnastics includes a lot of activities babies have likely not experienced before, for example going upside down and confronting new obstacles.
In gymnastics, support and encouragement are always provided, whether the session is structured or not, the coaches will be there for help and guidance at all times.
During lessons, the little ones are encouraged to try new skills and overcome new experiences each time they attend by switching up the layout or bringing out a new piece of equipment each week, giving the children an opportunity to grow in confidence trying new things.
No matter how big or small achievements are, gymnastics coaches ensure that children are aware of their success right from the get-go, from mastering walking on the beam with help or getting their first bounce on the trampoline, regular praise for new achievements really aids the children to grow in confidence.
Gymnastics instills an understanding of routine and commitment. The sport teaches the child discipline from a young age, following rules from their coach and learning to copy what is shown to them.
How Gymnastics Improves Early Years Socialisation
Parent and Child Bonding
Parent and toddler classes are a great way for your little one and you to work together in a setting away from the home. These classes revolve a lot around trust and include both the parent and child working together for the duration of the session.
Whether it is having a hand to hold when walking on the beam or a jumping partner on the trampoline, toddler gymnastics includes a lot of parent and child bonding!
Meeting New Faces
Gymnastics is brilliant for babies because while it focuses on individual learning it allows your little one to be surrounded by others their age or even older and younger!
Meeting new faces and being in a class with other children allows your child to socialise and create new bonds with other children.
Gymnastics is not only good for your child to meet new children but it’s a great introduction for them to take instruction from an adult that is not their parent. This helps set them up for what is to be expected when they eventually reach an environment where their parent will not be there, such as preschool or nursery.
Social interaction is vital for young children, it assists in their social behavior and encourages working together and sharing.
Why is Gymnastics a Good Setting For Babies?
Taking your baby to gymnastics lessons is a great way for them to experience new surroundings whilst keeping them safe when they’re exploring new things!
The brilliant thing about gymnastics clubs is that they are kitted out for ultimately, safety. With sprung floors, safety mats, and lots of equipment, this allows babies to be opened up to that little more risk whilst ensuring they are safe.
Gymnastics sessions allow children to explore a wide variety of new surfaces and textures they may not have felt before. Trampolines and soft mats allow little ones to experience a different base beneath their feet, assisting with balance and also allowing them to feel new consistencies.
Children will also experience new textures in hand apparatus which are often used in early years gymnastics, for example, bean bags and feathers give children new materials to play with.
Babies learn a lot from copying what they see in front of them. In toddler gymnastics, children are often shown what to do before they have a go themselves, for example, a coach will show the little one how they must step over the blocks laid out on the beam.
Having the coach there to visually demonstrate what to do really helps children with patience and learning to take instruction from others.
Children often work together in gymnastics, so it may be following another child and copying what they are doing or alternatively following visual instructions such as arrows or spots on the floor to get to the next station.
This type of learning is all about listening. In early years gymnastics sessions are taught a lot through imagination and play, this helps the children to stay engaged and join in on the adventure!
Gymnastics includes a lot of instruction following, with early years this is made into something that is a lot more fun and simple for the children to understand.
For example, clubs often have themes for their baby gymnastics classes, so instead of asking the child to walk along the beam, they may use a scenario of walking along a bridge over fish in the water, using the equipment and extra resources to enhance the childrens’ imagination.
Developmental Benefits of Gymnastics
Gymnastics enables a lot of light, bodyweight activity as well as working with equipment that requires using all muscles in the body.
Attempting new things in a gymnastics class such as holding onto the bar or jumping on the trampoline as well as overall obstacles of gymnastics, encourages the body to work and builds strength along with bone density, which makes a strong and healthy skeletal system.
Depending on what skill your little one is partaking in, they are always using their muscles during movement which targets all muscle groups for total body strength and all-round flexibility.
Coordination and Balance
In gymnastics not only vocal cues are used to coach babies but also encouraging the hand apparatus that I spoke about earlier, really enhances the children’s fine motor skills and teaches them hand-eye coordination.
An example of a hand apparatus often used in baby gymnastics are bean bags or soft balls, these motivate sensory learning, by throwing and catching the tots are able to enhance their coordination as well as try new skills.
The beginner equipment in gymnastics also plays a huge part in young children’s coordination. Though they are not experiencing them independently yet, they begin to learn the basics of balance and where to place their feet, for example on a beam to ensure they do not fall.
What Should A Baby Wear To Gymnastics?
When taking your little one to a gymnastics class it is important that you ensure they are appropriately dressed. Gymnastics includes a lot of movement where the body needs to be able to move freely, so having the correct clothing plays quite a big part in this.
Children in gymnastics should be dressed in flexible clothing that does not restrict any movement, and also something they will not get too hot in, as they will be moving around a lot at gymnastics!
For a baby gymnastics class, I would recommend leggings or shorts and a top that allows your child to move freely, avoid any denim as this restricts movement and can affect when your child is trying to climb. As well as restriction, denim often has zips or buckles, which are not recommend in case they get caught, or can dig into your child.
Leotards are available for children from a young age, so if you would prefer for your little one to be fully kitted out, a leotard is a great recommendation.
What Should a Parent Wear to Baby Gymnastics?
As parents join in with the class in baby gymnastics, it is important that they are also dressed appropriately.
When it comes to what the parent/guardian wears to the class, it’s basically the same as the child. You want something that you can move freely in to ensure you can always be there to assist your child without reduced movement.
Avoid anything with pockets such as jeans or hoodies as though it is unlikely, it’s possible things can get caught, so always best to avoid!
Jewellery rules differ depending on the club but I would overall recommend taking off all jewellery from yourself and your child when attending a baby gymnastics class.
A lot of jewellery can be sharp, this becomes dangerous when at a gymnastics setting as not only can it scratch others and the equipment, it is highly likely that it can become caught in the equipment, which wouldn’t end well!
If you or your child has earrings that cannot come out, I would recommend covering them up with some micropore tape or small plasters.
Like in most sports, it is important that any long hair is tied back. If your little one has longer hair that can go up in a ponytail, I would definitely make sure it goes up.
As well as this it is important to tie your own hair back too, hair can very easily get caught in the equipment and gymnastics clubs include a lot of velcro, that doesn’t get on well with hair!
Avoid any metal clips or hairbands, as these can dig into the head if your little one is being assisted with skills such as forward rolls.
All in all, there are many benefits to babies from gymnastics classes. Gymnastics exercises both sides of the brain which improves body and spatial awareness as well as working on their physical wellbeing.
Gymnastics is an enjoyable, inclusive sport that is ideal for early years. When attending baby gymnastics you are filled with bright colours, encouragement, and new obstacles every week.
I would highly recommend baby gymnastics to any parent, it’s such a brilliant starter sport for any young child and teaches them the basic learning skills that will help towards their overall early years development.