Preschool Progress and Moving Up

Hello, our 5-year-old daughter has been going to a local gym for almost 1 year now and is still in their beginning level class. We realize that some children move at their own pace, and that not everyone is cut out for this sport but we can’t help but feel that they are holding her back. We see what the other levels do and know she can do many of those things. However, every time we ask how she is doing it’s the same “she’s doing great.” We ask if she can move up and it’s the same “we’ll check her out” but they never do. At this point we really don’t know how to handle the situation. About 1 year ago we took her out of another gym because we saw her getting bored from not learning new skills. We really don’t want to do this again, but feel that history is repeating itself again. We just want our daughter to have fun and be happy. But when her similar skilled friends move up and she doesn’t……………it’s kind of hard to sit back and “take it.”

signed,

frustrated parents

With my reply, I hope to relieve your fears and concerns, but will at the same time reveal a secret of the gymnastics industry (and many other youth programs).

It is a rare four or five year old who makes any significant “gymnastics” progress. By this, I mean that it is rare for children this young to learn significant actual gymnastics skills like back handsprings. Even when “advanced” children do learn such skills at this age, by age 7, the other children will have caught up or will catch up soon and all the children will most likely be at approximately the same gymnastics skill level.

One of the primary factors in learning physical skills at these ages is readiness. For example, no amount of gymnastics classes will change the readiness time of any child to learn a skill like a cartwheel. If they are not ready (a complex combination of physical, athletic, coordination and mental factors), they will not be able to perform a cartwheel by themselves. When they are ready, they could learn a cartwheel without instruction (other than perhaps seeing it done) out in the back yard or schoolyard.

As such, the “move up” system in any gym is apt to be decided by other than real “gymnastics” factors, some or many of which may be subjective. This is the primary reason why you should not be overly concerned about class levels and whether your daughter moves up or not. Her progress in the sport over the long term is completely unrelated to any of these or lack of early class moves.

Now this certainly may bring up in the minds of many parents the question of why should they enroll their children in “gymnastics” gyms and classes if real “gymnastics” skill progress is not likely. And you may not realize (and some gyms and coaches may not even realize) exactly what direct benefits gymnastics programs can and do provide.

Because specific gymnastics skills are not usually learned at the preschool age level is not to say that preschoolers cannot make significant physical and athletic progress at that age and younger. It simply means that gymnastics skills are not the real, or sole, benefits of the program. Gymnastics schools and programs provide all of the usual physical, mental and social advantages of other preschool programs and provide some specific benefits that no other programs can provide.

What are the unique benefits of a gymnastics program that you are not likely to find anywhere else or in any other program for young children? The first is brachiation, which is simply the process of hanging and/or swinging by the hands and arms. The importance of brachiation is that it is an important stage of physical and mental development in a child’s development. We know of no other children’s program that provides the hanging and swinging needs of developing children.

Another unique advantage of a gymnastics program is vestibular development, which could most easily be described as adaptation to dizziness. Gymnastics programs provide multiple twisting and rolling movements, which contribute, to vestibular development. The effects of the stress of dizziness on young children is to increase blood flow to and stress the brain promoting brain size growth, stimulation of learning processes and possible brain capacity improvement.

We know of no other preschool age appropriate program that provides as much upper body physical development as a gymnastics program. This means that gymnastics is the best physical program for overall body and strength development available, even for those who may choose to participate in other sports and activities later in their childhood and life. Soccer provides aerobic and leg development, but no upper body development. Dance provides flexibility and coordination (again only where readiness is present). Gymnastics provides it all.

Below is our list of what gymnastics does provide, some of which may or may not be provided by other preschool activities:

  • Self-esteem when every child is treated like a Star.
  • Fun.
  • Co-ordination.
  • Self-confidence.
  • Develop and improve Self Image.
  • Self-esteem (thinking “I’m great” after learning each new skill).
  • Socialization and Social Development of social skills (sharing, caring, helping).
  • Development of learning skills – Increase Cognitive Skills and abilities. (listening skills, verbalizing, memory, concentration).
  • Movement Education and Movement Exploration.
  • Vestibular Development – increasingly acclimating to an series of dizzying activities which stress the brain and cause it to grow (and possibly increase in capacity).
  • Physical development – increasing strength, flexibility and endurance.
  • Introduction to Gymnastics Apparatus.
  • Development of age and level appropriate Gymnastics Skills.
  • Develop basic athletic skills for other sports.
  • Increase Awareness.
  • Spatial Concepts.
  • Have a compatible program for every child.
  • Develop Social Values.
  • Emotional Development.
  • Physical Development.
  • Good Posture.
  • Coordination.
  • Introduction to Music.
  • Creativity.
  • Self Expression.
  • Stimulation of the Learning Process.
  • Good posture.
  • Socialization.
  • Introduction to Music and Movement.
  • Learning processes and progress.
  • Confidence in Others.
  • Parental relationship.
  • Strength, Flexibility, Endurance, Power and Speed.
  • Hand-Eye, Eye-Foot coordination.
  • Develop Spatial Concepts – Up, down, forward, backward.
  • Movement Element of Time – fast, slow.
  • Concepts of Personal and General Space.
  • Listening skills and games.
  • Create positive learning environment.
  • Develop long term loyalty to the gym.
  • Develop long term student base for the gym.
  • Develop base for successful team program.
  • Keep Gymnasts happy and in the Program.
  • FUN!

So as long as your daughter is active in the gym, is progressing in physicality and having fun, you should feel confident that you are getting your money’s worth and need not worry that she is falling behind.  I still might make a request that my daughter be kept with her classmates if she is the same age as they are (5 year olds).  If her friends were six years old, there can be a significant developmental difference between those two ages in the gym.

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