Gymnastics teaches preschoolers both physical fitness and learning skills. Gymnasts learn balance, flexibility and coordination, as well as how to listen, follow directions and interact with new children and adults. Preschool gymnastics can keep the children’s attention and interest by teaching a variety of skills on the different apparatuses, including floor, trampoline, beam and bars, in a class lasting no longer than one hour.
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Preschoolers should spend the most time learning tumbling skills on the floor. Basic tumbling skills include forward and backward rolls in the tuck and pike positions, and cartwheels. Children 4 years or older can learn bridges. Before learning these floor skills, preschoolers can learn animal walks, which ready them for the tumbling skills. The bunny hop prepares children for cartwheels because the children stay on all fours, hopping with the feet and then transferring their weight to the hands. Triangle wedges can help children roll, and handprints can help them place their hands correctly for cartwheels.
The trampoline teaches important skills that young gymnasts will later apply to other apparatuses, including the floor, beam, parallel bars, uneven bars and horizontal bar. Preschoolers can learn different types of jumps, including straight, tuck, straddle, 1/2 turn and seat drop. In the seat drop, gymnasts jump up in the air three times and after the third jump, come down to the trampoline on their bottoms and then bounce up to a stand. Children can practice their finish or “ta-da” position, with their arms extended over their heads and one leg out. Use of the harness helps children stay centered on the trampoline and keeps them from falling.
While beam is a women’s gymnastics event, at the preschool level, both boys and girls use the apparatus. Preschoolers use a 4-inch wide, padded, low beam that is just one-step up from the ground. Preschoolers may first practice on a line of tape on the ground if they are afraid to step onto the beam. After mastering walking across the beam with arms up, preschoolers can try walking sideways along the beam. Then, they can learn kicks, bringing one foot up to the knee on the other leg and kicking out, toes pointed. Finally, preschoolers can learn how to dismount -- hopping off the beam and sticking the landing in the “ta-da” position.
Preschoolers learn to swing and become comfortable with the bar at the beginning level. First, preschoolers learn to hang from the bar, and then to swing with their legs in the straddle and pike positions. With spotting, preschoolers can begin jumping to a front support, which is the starting position for forward and back rolls and the finishing position for the pullover. Preschoolers can practice pullovers with the assistance of a padded wall behind the bar. With their arms on the bar, they walk up the wall and finally kick over the bar, landing in a front-support.