“Why should my child do gymnastics?” There are a million positive answers to this question, and we’re going to look at a few of them here. The short answer is the same answer given to any parent asking why their child should participate in any sport: because sports are good for children. The longer answer is more complex, but important to understand.
Pre-schools and elementary schools have increasing numbers of obese children in attendance. These obese children grow into obese teens, and then adults, living with life-threatening risks that could have been mitigated in their early years with something as mundane as the introduction of an active lifestyle. And that’s why gymnastics.
We want to prepare our children for their futures. What better way to equip them than to instill in them a love for an active lifestyle? It’s like an immunization against a sedentary and obesity-prone life. Gymnastics is the one sport that even the littlest kids can become involved in, and the sooner the better.
Let’s look at the physical benefits of gymnastics for children. If they begin gymnastics at very young ages, gross and fine motor skills are not developed. Gymnastics and tumbling programs teach children about their bodies: how to control them, what they can do, and how to strengthen them. As they roll and run balance and swing, kids are developing muscular strength in ways that playtime or a physical education class could never impart. And finally, one of the things we all admire about the elite gymnasts is grace and flexibility. A three year-old isn’t high on anyone’s list of graceful things, but through gymnastics, even children will learn control that can evolve into beauty and grace. Training in flexibility will make all their movements fluid and graceful (eventually!), and will help keep them in condition to do many other sports and activities if they choose. Few other organized sports train participants in flexibility the way gymnastics does, which is a shame, because flexibility informs so much of what were capable of later in life.
The non-physical but equally as important reasons to do gymnastics are similar to those of any organized sport. As a child progresses from tumbling to more complex routines and gymnastics apparatus, he learns self-confidence. In a non-competitive learning program a child is free to progress at her own pace, without a fear of “losing” or of disappointing coaches, teammates, or parents. Within the non-competitive gymnastics field, children learn the art of disciplining their minds as well as their bodies. In a competitive program for older and more advanced gymnasts, discipline becomes even more important, and stays with the athlete in all aspects of life.
The future is going to happen to our kids. We may or may not be there to see it all for them, but we can equip them with the things they need to be successful in it. Gymnastics is a gift that gives them a healthy lifestyle, the socialization of teamwork, self-discipline, and confidence; all the best tools to becoming a happy, healthy human.