By Jeff Lulla, President, Fun & Fit Gymnastics
As a child’s young mind and body matures, he or she grows through important developmental stages. Providing stimulation and sensory input to infants and toddlers during the formative years is vital. Children develop their fundamental movement skills between the ages of 1 and 5 and begin developing their self-concept even earlier. Each stage of your child’s development presents critical learning periods and opportunities for growth. So, as soon as your child is able to walk and explore his/her world (about 12 months old), a toddler gymnastics class is beneficial.
The benefits of gymnastics are not limited to body development. Research now provides evidence that physical fitness is associated with cognitive learning and academic achievement in children. In a study by Lesley A. Cottrell, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at West Virginia University, children who had the highest standardized test scores in reading, math, science and social studies were fit at the start and end of the study. The next best group, academically, in all four subjects, was made up of children who were not fit in fifth grade but had become fit by seventh grade. The children who had lost their fitness levels between fifth and seventh grades were third in academic performance. Children who were not physically fit in either the fifth or seventh grade had the lowest academic performance.
When kids are enrolled in gymnastics classes, parents can expect to see improvement in both physical ability and cognitive development. We call this “Physical Literacy.” By learning to move, the children are also learning how to think, focus their attention on achieving goals and overcome challenges. Additional benefits include developing social skills working with other children, self control following a teacher’s (or parent’s) instructions and emotional control learning how to try challenges that might be a little scary.
Most parents begin saving for their kid’s college education early, but the research suggests that the best time to invest in your child’s education is early in their lives through movement and fitness programs that are positive and success focused.
Another important benefit children get from a professionally run gymnastics class is to learn to associate risk with joy and excitement instead of fear and dread. When the outcome of a new challenge is success, praise and reward instead of failure and disappointment, a positive emotional bond becomes associated with new challenges. This can raise positive self-esteem and lead children to hunger for new learning opportunities instead of avoiding them. On a side note, look for a “Personal Best” non-competitive teaching philosophy and environment. Competitive teachers and gym environments found in most sports, where only the talented few succeed, can undermine these benefits.
The Fun & Fit Gymnastics Center is located at 1919 W. Burbank Blvd. in Burbank. For more information and other locations, call (818) 845-0700.