Roll Out The Mats

As a mother of two young boys, I am always looking for a fun and exciting experience for my kids. They have so much energy, and I am constantly in search of the best way to get their creative juices flowing. I decided gymnastics would be a great choice.

A local gymnastics facility offered a class for 5 year olds and up, which lasted an hour, and a class for children under 5, for 45 minutes. Luckily, they were offered at the same time and in close proximity to my work and their school. I know how taxing gymnastics is on the body and how challenging for the mind to push oneself to another level--just what my boys needed.

The Program Details

In the 5-year-old and older class, a group of boys, all of them loaded with energy, were ready to take on the next challenge. The instructor and his assistant were perfect for them. The assistant was an older male student who could do all types of cool tricks that got my son immediately interested.

The program included a full hour of push-ups, flexibility exercises, trampoline time, work on the bars, and even holding themselves up on the rings to build strength.

The class moved swiftly, so none of the boys were bored. And if any of them got a little out of line, the instructor immediately addressed them in a professional manner, putting them back to work.

Perhaps my favorite part of the class -- and certainly my son’s -- was the “chicken fights,” which taught balance. The kids held on to one foot while hopping around and trying to push other boys down with the free hand. While I thought it was too competitive, the boys really enjoyed it, and none of them felt threatened.

Each boy was paired with someone his own size, and if he beat that person, he was allowed to move up to the next size match. I was impressed by how well this was handled, and thought it was an effective way to teach the boys how to “fight nice.”

Idle Time For Toddlers

My younger son’s class, on the other hand, was not at all what I expected. It was a mixture of boys and girls, which would have been fine, but he had a hard time adjusting to the vast array of tutus surrounding him. It was a little overwhelming, but he was looking forward to a good time … and I was anxiously waiting as well.

I’m disappointed to say the fun never started. The children as a group had a difficult time understanding what the teacher was asking them to do, so she spent a lot of one-on-one time. While she was doing that, the other children were off in space, doing their own thing.

My son kept looking over at me, wondering what he should be doing. In 45 minutes, he did three exercises, which took about three minutes each. The rest of the time was spent waiting for the other children to participate.

I don’t think the class was too big, but the skill level should have been reduced so more moving around could take place. Children have boundless energy, so asking them to sit still after a full day of school is not what I signed up for.

My younger son was old enough to hold himself up on the rings, but the girls probably would not have had a good time with that. The class would have been better if there were more exercises like jumping jacks, running around the track (something the older class did), or doing modified push-ups, exercises that do not require such involved skill as cartwheels and the balance beam.

Benefitting The Mind And Body

I was a gymnast for years, and I know the value gymnastics adds to a person’s exercise routine. It teaches self-discipline and self-respect, something today’s youth could certainly use.

Gymnastics also teaches how to take one’s body to the next level of physical strength and flexibility by using the mind as motivation. This is a life-long tool, instilling the importance of exercise without the need for outside motivation.

Incorporating gymnastics for children into a recreation center is worthwhile. If you are considering adding a program, or already have one, hopefully this insight into what is enjoyable for children will help.

While my younger son is no longer interested in attending, my older son is now on the competitive gymnastics team. Maybe once the younger one gets older, he will enjoy the class more, but for now we’re looking for something else.

Kati Trammel is the advertising and public relations account executive for MCCS Marketing, Semper Fit Retail, Food and Beverage, based in Okinawa, Japan. She can be reached at