A friend of mine recently asked me if I thought putting Ally into gymnastics classes at this age would be detrimental to her physical development. In all honesty, it has never occurred to us that gymnastics classes would be doing more harm than good. We signed her up with the intention of finding a healthy outlet for all her excess energy. She loved the class from day 1 and has quickly caught up with the rest of the kids. The fact is, Ally is strong despite her small frame so it helps her learn new skills quickly. We don’t have dreams of her becoming a world-class gymnast but it’ll be interesting to see how far she can go.
Back to the question of ” is it harmful to their physical development?” I tend to disagree. At this age they don’t do serious gymnastics or stretching. At least, not in Ally’s gym. A lot of the warm up exercises are fun, like running back and forth picking up balls to put in the bucket, pretending to be flamingos and walking on tip toes. There isn’t anyone sitting on the children’s backs to make them stretch or forcing them to do splits. Yes they do a lot of jumping and sure, there is impact especially when they jump from a height but it’s always onto a padded surface. As for injuries, its bound to happen in any sport, at this age, all the kids are helped individually on apparatus like the beam and the bars.
Gym classes has taught her to be discipline and to follow her coach’s instructions. Socially it’s great since she is with children older and younger than her. She learns to wait her turn and to look out for the younger children. Her coaches always stress the importance of fun at this age, they are very careful not to over train the child even if they can see that the child has some natural talent. We limit her to an hour of gymnastics a week, otherwise she would be at the gym everyday if we let her.