I coached kids gymnastics for 21 years so I suppose I could be biased, but I believe that there is no better activity that you can put your child in than gymnastics. It teaches developmental skills like nothing else. Gymnastics doesn't just have physical benefits. It also has cognitive benefits for children. In a 2000 study published by USA Gymnastics, researcher Ralph Barrett found that children who did gymnastics improved their math and reading scores and grades.

Gymnastics is also an excellent way to introduce your child to fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Kids love it because it's fun, but it's also teaching them how to make their bodies stronger. When kids have a positive experience with their first physical activity, they are more likely to enjoy working out as an adult. The best thing about gymnastics is that it provides a foundation for every other sport. They don't call it "the sport of sports" for nothing! It's great for both girls and boys, and it is even beneficial for children with special needs.

What You Need To Know About Kids Gymnastics

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about kids gymnastics.

What age should I start my child in gymnastics?

One of the great things about kids gymnastics classes is that you can enroll your child at a very young age. Most kids gyms will take toddlers as young as two. They typically teach toddler gymnastics with a parent present. That means that you will learn what skills your child is working on and how to spot or coach them when they practice at home correctly. But you don't have to start at age two. Beginner gymnastics classes are available for kids of any age.

How much do kids gymnastics classes cost?

On average, kids recreational gymnastics classes cost between $15 to $20 per session. Most classes meet once or twice a week. Classes for competitive gymnastics typically cost $150 to $300 per month. If your child is participating in competitive gymnastics, the cost of classes will generally go up as they become more advanced.

Wha​​​​​t is the appropriate attire for kids gymnastics?

For boys, shorts and a t-shirt tucked in are appropriate for gymnastics classes. Girls generally wear a leotard or biker shorts for class. You want to avoid loose or baggy clothes that could get caught in the equipment. No shoes are required because during class the kids will be barefoot.

Should I sign my child up for recreational gymnastics or competitive gymnastics?

young gymnast

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If your child is brand new to the sport, it is best to start them out in recreational gymnastics, meaning non-competitive. This type of class will teach them the fundamental skills and introduce them to the sport. If you find that your child loves gymnastics and wants to advance, then you can talk to the coach about competitive classes. Most gyms will evaluate the child in the recreation classes to determine if they would be a good fit for competitive gymnastics. Competitive gymnastics will require a more serious commitment from the child. They also have to demonstrate that they have physical strength, mental toughness, and have learned the necessary skills.

What is the difference between tumbling and gymnastics?

Tumbling is one aspect of gymnastics. In gymnastics, kids learn tumbling like front rolls, back handsprings, handstands, and backflips. Some gyms offer just tumbling classes, but if you put your child into kids gymnastics, they will learn a lot more than just tumbling. In gymnastics classes, they will also learn skills on the balance beam, parallel bars, high bars, rings, trampoline, and vault.

What t​​​​ype of activities will my child do in kids gymnastics classes?

Your child will do a wide variety of activities in their gymnastics class. For strength training, which is essential for all gymnastics skills, they will do things like push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, rope climbing, and leg lifts. They will work on flexibility with stretches. They will learn skills on the trampoline like jumps and flips. Your child will also learn balancing skills, tumbling, and scales on the balance beam. Most gyms have foam pits in which the kids can safely jump and flip. Kids gymnastics classes also teach bar skills for the uneven parallel bars, the parallel bars, and the high bar. They will also do strength work on the swinging rings.

For floor tumbling, kids gyms use a wide variety of mats and wedges to assist the kids with their skills like walk-overs, round-offs, back rolls, and handsprings. Older children will also learn skills on the vaulting table and springboard. The kids will also play fun games and do obstacle courses. Some gyms offer artistic gymnastics classes as well. If your child takes an artistic gymnastics class, they will learn dance skills and tumbling. And they will work with props like ribbons and balls.

What The Experts Say

gymnast in competition

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The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that kids should get at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise every day. For strength training, the ACSM says gymnastics is a perfect option for kids. In gymnastics, the kids will safely work on strength training using their body weight. Gymnastics is considered the sport of all sports. Coaches from sports like baseball, football, soccer, cheerleading, swimming, and track all recommend kids gymnastics to learn skills essential for their sports.

Why Gymnastics is Great for Kids

There are many reasons that gymnastics is great for kids. One of our favorite reasons is that it gives kids a safe place to expend some of that awesome energy. A good class will wear them right out. They learn developmental skills while getting stronger and healthier. Gymnastics will even make them sleep better! Here are seven more reasons why you should put your child into a kids gymnastics class.

​​​​It's fun!

One of the greatest things about kids gymnastics is that it is so much fun! What could be better than running and flipping into a foam pit, jumping on a trampoline, swinging on bars and tumbling on a floor with springs all in one class? If your little one is dancing and flipping on the furniture at home, that is a good indication that it's time to find a good gymnastics class where they can learn to tumble in a fun, safe environment.

It's great for kids of any age, starting with toddlers

Kids gymnastics is particularly ideal for toddlers. The gym features colorful padded equipment, and the classes are just plain fun. The children climb, crawl, hop, jump, bounce, roll, flip, and swing in a safe environment. Toddler gymnastics classes are typically 30 minutes long, and the parents participate. Some of the benefits for toddlers in gymnastics is that they learn balance, social skills, classroom skills like listening and following directions, and confidence. They also learn to overcome their fears, and they get a solid foundation for any activity that they do in the future.

Physical benefits

Gymnastics is an excellent foundation for every other sport. It is also a perfect way to introduce your child to physical fitness and strength training. When kids start loving physical exercise at a very young age, they are more likely to stick with it throughout their entire lives. Gymnastics teaches strength, flexibility, balance, agility, and coordination. It also shows children how to follow directions and take turns with their classmates.

​​​​Non-physical benefits

The physical benefits of kids gymnastics are relatively obvious. But gymnastics offers so much more than just physical fitness. It's an excellent way to teach children discipline and focus. It also teaches resilience and mental toughness. Studies show that gymnastics helps a child's cognitive development as well as physical development. Many sports can teach a child social skills and focus, but because of the bilateral activities and coordinated movement patterns, gymnastics creates greater efficiency in the brain. Parents consistently say that their child did better in school after participating in gymnastics.

Special Benefits of Kids Gymnastics

One of the beautiful things about kids gymnastics is that it is phenomenal as a developmental foundation. Gymnastics is unlike other sports in that it encompasses a wide range of developmental skills like motor skill and cognition development, social skills, gross and fine motor skills, self-esteem, and body confidence.

Kids gymnastics, dance, and cheerleading

If you have a child who is interested in dance classes or cheerleading, then they will undoubtedly benefit from a kids gymnastics class. Cheerleading, dance, and gymnastics work hand in glove with each other. The body alignment, flexibility, coordination, strength, and discipline that your child will learn in gymnastics will make them an even better dancer because dance relies on those same skills.

Cheerleading also has a lot in common with gymnastics. Cheer is a combination of dance and tumbling. Your child will learn all of the tumbling skills used in cheerleading in their gymnastics class. If you have an older child, who is interested in cheerleading, dance, or gymnastics we recommend putting them in classes for all three. Some gyms offer combination classes as well. If you have a young child interested in these activities, you should start them with kids gymnastics. They will learn the foundation there that they can later use in the other two.

Dance studios generally only offer different types of dance classes like jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, and hip-hop. Most studios don't provide gymnastics or cheerleading. Most kids gyms, on the other hand, do offer cheerleading classes. Some even teach dance classes. There are also cheer gyms which offer cheerleading, dance, and tumbling. But they generally don't provide full gymnastics classes.

Kids gymnastics and sports

Gymnastics is one of the most challenging sports on the planet. Gymnasts must have balance, rotation, and spatial awareness. Elite gymnasts also have the strength of nine times their body weight, the skill speed of a fraction of a second, and the short distance sprinting speed to rival any professional runner. They can also do 900 degrees of rotation in under one second.

The strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, and motor skills taught in kids gymnastics classes are the perfect foundation for every other sport. Strength and agility are useful in hockey, basketball, football, volleyball, and diving. The flexibility and focus that you gain from gymnastics can help a soccer goalie save a big score, for example. Putting your child into a gymnastics class will make them better at any sport that they choose to pursue.

Adaptive gymnastics for children with special needs

For me, one of the most rewarding things about coaching kids gymnastics was working with children with special needs. Gymnastics offers many of these kids a whole new way to express themselves. Over time I saw autistic children make significant gains in motor skills, expressive language, following instructions, and overall confidence. When these kids first started my classes they were timid and shy, uncoordinated, and for most of them, resistant to the whole thing.  But what a difference I saw after a year or two of adaptive gymnastics! Over time more and more of their confidence shone through as they successfully performed each skill.

For children on the severe end of the autism spectrum, I taught them individual classes, usually with a parent in the room. Most of these kids could not possibly be in a class with other children, but they thrived in one-on-one sessions. When these children do gymnastics, their brains are working in constant connection with their bodies as they become stronger. Integrating conceptual themes like lead and follow, start and stop, and together and apart helped these kids to learn skills. We also found that positive reinforcement and using different approaches to problem-solving and social integration were helpful.

For children with special needs, the structure of gymnastics classes is particularly helpful. The name of the game is consistency and repetition. Teaching this way reduces the anxiety in the child because the expectations are known and their process becomes more habitual. Some of the things that worked very well for my students were communication through touch, sound, showing by example, and imaginative play. While the structure is crucial, it's also essential that the classes aren't too rigid.

One Final Point

As highly as I can recommend kids gymnastics, and I do big time, I must note that it won't be right for every kid. It also has to be said that gymnastics can be a dangerous sport. It is essential that the children learn safety as they practice their new skills. Any good gym will be certified and well versed in safety precautions. Because it can be dangerous, it may not be right for kids who have severe behavioral problems. In those cases, it may be better to look for a gymnastics coach who will work with your child one-on-one. I recommend that before you enroll your child in a gymnastics gym, go and observe a class. Make sure that the individual gym and coach are right for your child.

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