How do you know what kind of tumbling mat to get for your child or grandchild? Should you purchase an incline mat? Would a practice balance beam be a good idea at home? Well, yes, yes, and yes, but how do you know which ones on the market are going to be the best for your child? The best answer is to go check with the expert: your child’s gymnastics coach.
Gymnastics coaches are the best resources to tap when you want to know what kind of gymnastics equipment to get for your child to use at home. They have years of experience (hopefully) working with the stuff and know what fits a child’s needs and what absolutely doesn’t. In fact, if you take a look around at the gym or studio, you’ll see the choices they’ve made in terms of equipment for instructional purposes and have a clearer picture of what you might acquire for home use.
Gymnastics coaches know that the tumbling mat is the primary safety feature (next to good spotting) of the gymnastics experience. Without tumbling mats, well, there just wouldn’t be a gymnastics program because no one would sign their kids up for tumbling on concrete. This first-purchase item is the one you should be thinking about for your little tumbler at home. It provides a soft, padded surface from which to practice everything from simple forward rolls to handsprings. Its padding is what makes it safe, but it should also be firm enough that young gymnasts don’t lose their balance. Tumbling mats come in varying thicknesses and levels of support, so before you purchase one, check with the all-important coach to help you decide which is too hard, which is too soft, and which is juuuuuust right.
Incline mats get varying degrees of use in a gymnastics or tumbling program, and a good coach will be able to instruct you, the parent, about using them at home. For little tumblers still learning control of their bodies, the incline mat helps with forward momentum in the mastery of the forward roll, a significant first step in learning more complicated skills. They can help prevent the forward roll from becoming a head stand/back flop because they encourage the tucked head and offer the gentle push of the incline. With good spotting, you’ll find your child excels at a faster pace, thanks to the use of an incline mat.
Practice balance beams are soft, yet firm enough to be supportive, and sit directly on the ground. Slips don’t result in dangerous distances being traversed before ending in a painful crash. These are easy-to-use, fun to play on, and instructional all at the same time. Good beams can fold up and be tucked out of sight when they’re not in use.
Ask your child’s gymnastics coach about the tumbling mats, balance beams, and incline mats he or she would recommend for use at home. The coach has the experience and knowledge to help you choose the equipment that will last for years as your child pursues the dream of a life of gymnastics.