After watching the Olympics this summer, my boys have been wanting to do gymnastics! Aidan (age 9) is the one who most needs a physical outlet, but when I found a gymnastics class for homeschoolers at a local gym, I enrolled Gresham (almost 6) as well. And since we were driving to the gym for those two, I decided that Owen (age 3) could really benefit from their preschool program.
Owen loves it! I’ll post about the older boys another time, but I wanted to share how gymnastics is helping Owen with coordination and sensory issues as well as some exercises that preschoolers can do at home.
During each class, Owen goes through two different “circuits” with various exercises in each. He loves the parallel bars!
He also loves the feel of jumping off the spring board!
From a sensory standpoint, gymnastics class has been really good for Owen. We think that his sensory issues (“issues” is kind of a strong word, but I didn’t know what else to call it!) are partially the result of his reflux pain as an infant and partially a personality thing. Owen is a kid who craves sensory input. As a toddler, he was constantly eating crayons, taking bites out of books and cardboard boxes, playing in the toilet, etc. He went through a phase where he could not resist dumping out a glass of water on the floor if he came across one. Drove. Me. Crazy. As much as he craves sensory experiences, there are some he can’t stand. For example, if his clothes get wet, he takes them off. Doesn’t matter where we are or whether I say that he is allowed to take them off or not!
Owen had trouble with the large trampolines at gymnastics. At first, he did not like to jump or even walk on the trampoline even though we have a small one at home that he loves. There was something about that sensation he did not like. After a month in the class, he now jumps and even turns in a circle while jumping! At the end of each class, the kids take turns swinging on a rope over a pit filled with large foam blocks. Owen wouldn’t let go of the rope at first, but now he enjoys that activity as well. I think that all these different sensations have been good for him!
Exercises for your 3-4 year old at home:
We do many fun educational things at home, but developing motor skills is not a strong point for me! I’ve learned a lot through having Owen in this class. If you have access to a gymnastics facility, I highly recommend putting your preschooler in a class. If not, here are some ways to exercise at home!
Notice that there is a blue circle to land on in the photo above - I love how this gym uses circles on the floor to help the kids know where their body should be.
I made Owen some circles at home out of my favorite frugal craft material – felt!
Fun with Jumping:
- Set up circles like I have them in the picture above, and have your child jump from one circle to the next. They should be jumping with both feet together. You can do this with the circles in a straight line, or have the circles in a zig-zag pattern.
- Set one circle in the middle of the room and have your child jump sideways completely over the circle. Then have them jump back the other way.
- Stand on one circle and do a half turn jump. (Face me! Now jump and face the other way!)
- Practice jumping feet together, then feet apart, then feet together, then feet apart. You could use felt circles to make a “hopscotch” pattern, or draw one outside with chalk.
Owen’s favorite piece of equipment is the balance beam! The one at his class is made out of wood and covered with carpet. It’s about 4-5 inches wide and about 4 inches off the ground. I think it would be pretty easy to build one, but even easier than that is a masking tape balance beam!
- Walk on tip toes
- Walk backwards
- Hop like a bunny
- Crawl on hands and knees
- Stand on one foot for a count of three, then take a step and balance on the other foot for a count of three, etc.