Anybody who has witnessed a toddler on the run knows that toddlers are naturally active, curious and eager to move. This desire for action makes gymnastics a perfect fit for your busy toddler. In a safe and nurturing environment, gymnastics can provide your child with an opportunity to play, learn and burn off some steam.
Your toddler won’t be ready for any complicated moves or fancy apparatus. But, she will enjoy tumbling around on soft mats and cubes. You can introduce your child to uncomplicated gymnastics activities at home, with the help of a soft mat and some pillows. Encourage her to simply explore how her body moves. If your child needs prompting, demonstrate some simple moves, like bending to touch her feet and rolling from side to side on the mat.
Many local gyms and recreation centers have tumbling classes for toddlers, including mommy-and-me programs. There are also a number of specialized gymnastics training centers that offer classes and birthday parties for children. These supportive environments will provide your child with the opportunity to explore more complicated moves. With assistance, she might bounce on a trampoline, maneuver an obstacle course or even balance on a low beam. Beginning at about 2 years old, she might add somersaults and headstands to her repertoire. Between her second and third birthdays she might learn to hang from the parallel bars.
According to the National Association of Sports and Physical Education, toddlers should get at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity, led by an adult, each day. That’s in addition to at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity. The association also recommends that toddlers not be inactive for more than an hour at a time (aside from sleeping). Gymnastics is an optimal way for your child to get structured physical activity, while building essential motor skills at the same time. KidsHealth.org notes that children who are active at a young age tend to stay active throughout their lives. And staying fit can boost self-esteem, help maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
When bringing your child to a gymnastics facility, first ask for a tour to check that the equipment is in good working order and the floors of the facility are well padded. Discuss what safety precautions are taken with toddlers, and whether someone is available to administer first aid. Above all, be sure that a capable adult will be alongside your toddler at all times.