Gymnastics is the perfect extracurricular activity for kids of all ages. Students in gymnastics learn to follow instruction, take turns, and try new things while improving their physical fitness. Gymnastics classes for kids start as young as 9 months old and continue through high school.
Gymnastics classes are broken down into levels based on age and ability. The best place for new gymnasts is a class for beginners. Even if your child has experience in dance or a similar sport, gymnastics involves four to six apparatus and requires specialized training on each piece of equipment. At each class, gymnasts participate in training on each apparatus to improve as an all around athlete.
Most gymnasts spend one year in each level. Each athlete will progress at their own rate. Specific skill requirements for each level are incorporated in weekly lesson plans. Whether by formal evaluation or regular coach communication, gymnasts progress to the next class as they master the skill requirements for each level.
Approximately 10% of gymnasts will end up on a competitive team. Competitive teams include Xcel and Junior Olympic levels, both under the USA Gymnastics program. Readiness for competitive team requires regular attendance, flexibility, muscular strength, strong listening skills, and mastery of specific skills. Team development programs are by invitation only and seek to identify and track those athletes with the aforementioned characteristics to a competitive team.
There are many physical, mental and social benefits associated with gymnastics classes. The physical benefits of gymnastics are perhaps the most obvious and include flexibility, muscular strength, and muscular endurance. Students in gymnastics practice flexibility each class period, both in warm up and throughout class. Gymnastics is one of the few youth sports that works upper body strength. Learning to pull yourself up on the bar, hold yourself upside down, and hang from the bars challenges students in both strength and endurance.
Beyond the physical benefits, students enrolled in gymnastics learn to take turns, follow instructions, and work together as a team. Additionally, gymnastics has been linked to improving a child's ability to learn to read. Learning to follow multi-part instructions is not only important in gymnastics, but transfers over to school as well. Directional cues are equally as important for preschool and school age children. Gymnasts learn right and left, above and below, inside and outside, over and under, forward and backward, and more directional cues that transfer to every part of a little one's learning.
Toddlers are not too young to take gymnastics! One of the best parts of gymnastics is the ability to start at a young age. Many programs start as young as nine months old in Parent and Tot classes. Don't worry, parents don't actually participate in class, but instead, guide their toddler through a series of fine and gross motor stations throughout the class. When students turn three, they are able to enter the gym without a parent. While there is no perfect age to start gymnastics, starting young allows kids to absorb the amazing health and academic benefits of gymnastics.
Gymnastics is a relatively affordable sport. With only 10% of gymnasts ever entering the competitive arena, most gymnastics classes meet once a week for 30-60 minutes depending on the level and age of the athlete. Most gymnastics lessons are priced by the month or session. Each gymnastics studio sets their own pricing schedule. Classes can range from $15-$20 per class.
Gymnastics is a sport that is extremely active and goes in every direction. Wearing appropriate gymnastics attire is an important part of safe training. Most female gymnasts wear a leotard to class. Leotards can be found at a variety of stores, including online shops and retailers. Leotards are the safest gymnastics attire as they do not get caught on equipment when students are circling around the bar or jumping on the beam!
Most male gymnasts start in the recreational program wearing athletic clothing, including a tucked in shirt. All athletes should attend class barefoot as the trampolines and other surfaces can be very slippery in socks. Gymnasts should wear long hair in a ponytail.