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Everything you need to know about gymnastics classes for kids
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What to expect at a kids' gymnastics class
First and foremost, it is important for kids to understand that a children’s gymnastics class starts with the basics. While they may have dreams of high ropes and acrobatic tumbling, gymnastics clubs will focus on getting the basics right first. This is likely to include things like forward and backward rolls, handstands, bridges and cartwheels, as well as all-important balancing skills. These skills lay the foundations that they can build on in the future.
Most classes will start with a group warm-up, followed by a series of fun exercises. The class will then move on to the main event: working on skills on various apparatus. At the end of class, there is usually a short period of cool-down and stretching. As a gymnastics class specifically for children, the main emphasis will be on having fun while learning and developing new skills.
What the club actually looks and feels like, and the equipment they have available, will depend on whether the class is held at a dedicated gymnastics club, or at a community centre or school hall. At a dedicated club, expect to find anything from wedges and gym horses to huge crash mats, trampolines, and giant foam pits. In a community space, equipment may need to be broken down after each class, making it more likely that the equipment will differ slightly. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that the instruction your child receives is any better or worse - at this stage gymnastics is more about movement than equipment.
At what age should my child start taking gymnastics classes?
While there is no definitive answer, most experts recommend starting between the ages of three and five. This allows your child to develop coordination and strength while still having fun. If your child is interested in gymnastics, and you think they would excel at the sport, then it can pay to start them earlier.
Lots of gymnastics clubs will offer mother and toddler classes, giving your little one a chance to tumble in the foam pit or try out some of the equipment. More structured classes tend to start once your child is old enough to listen and follow simple instructions, and when they have developed the fine motor skills and balance required to get stuck in!
How can I find a kids gymnastics class near me?
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that our top tip is always to head over to our activities pages to find a children’s gymnastics class in your area. Finding the right one for your child must take into account what’s available in your local area and your family’s schedule. Also, have a look at the type of gymnastics on offer, and the ethos and experience of the coach. If your child is shy or nervous, consider taking them to a taster class - once they see how fun it is they'll be excited to join in!
Do I need to buy special equipment for gymnastics classes?
The simple answer is no – at least, not right away. If your child is just starting out, all they will need is a leotard or comfortable clothing they can move in, a hair elastic to keep long hair under control, and a water bottle to keep hydrated.
If they chose to stick with it and progress to more advanced gymnastics, then you may need to invest in club-branded sportswear, or safety wear such as wrist straps, guards, and grips. It is also possible to buy equipment for your children to practise their gymnastics at home, from padded mats and floor beams, right through to low bars.
Shops such as Decathalon and Cannons offer a range of home gymnastics equipment, from mats and air tracks to handstand bars. For those looking for a floor mat suitable for forward rolls and handstands, Ikea also does a colourful gym mat that has the added bonus of folding away when not in use.
What’s the difference between competitive gymnastics for children and recreational gymnastics?
With recreational gymnastics, the focus is on developing skills, learning about the sport, staying fit, and having fun, without the pressure of taking part in a competition. Competitive gymnastics, as the name suggests, involves competitions. Gymnasts spend their time training and refining their skills ready to perform against other athletes in front of a judging panel. Recreational gymnasts typically train less intensively, while competitive gymnasts have a much more strict training schedule - even as children. Once your child has mastered the basics, you’ll need to consider which type of gymnastics class is right for them (and how much time you want to commit!)
The benefits of gymnastics for children
Gymnastics is a great way for kids to get active and keep healthy, as well as improve coordination, balance, and flexibility. It can teach kids how to focus, follow instructions, and be disciplined. Gymnastics can also be beneficial in building self-confidence and, despite not being seen as a team sport, is good for developing social skills. As with many other sports, such as dancing or football, gymnastics can be great for mental health as well as physical health.
What is the difference between gymnastics and tumbling?
Tumbling is a discipline of gymnastics. It is usually a skill that is developed after children have mastered the foundations, and it requires lots of strength and discipline. It involves performing a series of acrobatic movements, with no gymnastic equipment required apart from mats and a springy floor.
Parental warning about gymnastics for kids
Once your child develops a love for gymnastics, it is only fair to pre-warn you that the gymnastics does not stop when they leave the class! You may find your sofa being used as a springboard, garden posts being used to swing off, and furniture being reinvented as vaults. It’s highly likely that they will be in perpetual motion - with their feet often flying past your face as they cartwheel past!