Last year, I signed my son up for a gymnastics class at our local gym. He missed the age cut-off for other Fall sports and I wanted to keep him busy in something besides the preschool he attended 3 mornings a week.
He was so excited for his first session but nerves got a hold of him on the drive to class. I could tell my sweet 4-year-old was nervous when he glanced back at me in the bleachers when he timidly high-fived his new instructor and followed the other kids into the gym. A glass wall separates parents from the kids, so I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I did see Jackson shake his head no throughout the hour class when they asked him to try something he had never done before.
He was afraid of walking on the balance beam that sat directly on the floor. Too timid to hang from the bars without an instructor’s hands on his waist. He barely enjoyed the trampoline because it was “too bouncy.” For the first few weeks of gymnastics, he would work himself up in the hours leading up to class thinking about all the things he was too scared to try. Skin the cat. Balance beam. Frontwards roll. Jumping into the foam pit.
I don’t have a gymnastics background at all, so I didn’t know what he was talking about when he told me he didn’t want to “skin the cat” but I can tell you that gymnastics has transformed my son from a timid little boy to an adventurous, confident preschooler who loves to “work out.”
Nine months after starting gymnastics, he actively seeks out new things to try and isn’t nearly as timid about adventure. His preschool teacher told me that she had to change his progress report because he came out of his shell so much. I’m sure some of that can be attributed to growing up, but I give *most* of the credit to gymnastics and his fitness routine.
Gymnastics has given him the self-confidence to trust his mind and body. He has gone from a boy who refused to walk on a balance beam to one who likes to practice his frontward rolls off the couch and do ring dips at the CrossFit box when he watches me work out. Here are some gymnastics benefits that I have personally seen in my own 4-year-old (from the OSSG site):
- Gymnastics is the only sport that works total body strength, flexibility and aerobic development.
- Gymnastics enhances gross motor skills.
- Self-discipline is developed due to the very nature of the sport.
- Self-confidence is built through individualized goals and accomplishments.
- For any other sport, gymnastics is a way of developing strength and giving athletes that “added edge”.
- Early training results in increased kinesthetic awareness.
- A NASA study showed that gymnasts have highly developed “vestibular mechanisms” which increase general learning, (academic as well as physical).
I’m so proud of him and grateful for what gymnastics has given us. The true gift is his sense of accomplishment and love of fitness at an early age. If you’ve ever considered putting your child into a gymnastics program, I highly recommend it!