Three things every young gymnast needs: a tumbling mat, a practice balance beam, and an incline mat. Of course, when formal training becomes involved, those three things might become a coach, a class, and reliable transportation, but for now, in the early stages, having some apparatus at home on which to practice can be the impetus that drives a lifetime of healthful activity.
Tumbling mats are a no-brainer when it comes to tumbling or gymnastics at home. They’re just safer, period. If you want your kids to be active and try new things, providing them with a safe environment to do it is crucial. If forward rolls aren’t fun or comfortable because they’re being done on hard surfaces, the couch and a hand-held electronic device will seem more appealing. But a tumbling mat provides the supportive surface from which to launch those forward rolls and many, many more gymnastics skills. They’re also a safer surface on which to play, especially when the kids are little. They’re supportive enough that balance isn’t an issue, but padded enough to absorb shock that otherwise might have involved an injury.
Practice balance beams are a phenomenal teaching tool, whether your child has expressed an interest in gymnastics or not. Obviously, the balancing skills required for eventual competition on the beam are more easily practiced on one, but balance beams help children learn about their bodies and how to control them. When the practice beam sits directly on the ground and is firm beneath their feet, it encourages practice without the fear of a real beam high off the ground. And that in itself is a relief to parents.
Incline mats, or cheese mats (because they’re shaped like a wedge of cheese), are a fun apparatus for developing gross motor skills. The slight incline gives just enough momentum for the smaller child to learn forward rolls, and the larger mats offer the possibility, with proper spotting, to master the back handspring. But again, regardless of your child’s interest in gymnastics, this apparatus is just a fun object for play. Kids are naturally drawn to inclines: hills, ramps, slides, so they’ll spend lots of time “playing” on the incline mat without even realizing they’re developing skills on it.
If you want to encourage an active lifestyle in your growing children, a gymnastics kit containing a tumbling mat, a practice balance beam, and an incline mat could be just what the coach ordered.