When learning activities are combined with games and fun, children love to learn, says psychologist Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm, a longtime contributor to NBC's "Today Show." When it comes to participating in sports, learning and practicing skills can be incorporated into games to keep kids entertained. Games should be fun and creative, yet difficult enough to improve fitness components such as muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and balance.
A Fun Warm-Up
The game of adventure trail is a fitting warm-up exercise for gymnast students, as it combines several exercises together and works different muscle groups. Set up several stations around the gym. For example, set up a forward tumble over a wedge mat station, followed by stations for handstands on a mat against a wall, butterflies and splits stretches, toe touches, bridges and cartwheels. Gymnasts must complete the stations in order, with each team starting at a different station. Direct the children to spend a minute or two at each station before rotating them to the next station.
A Twist on Simon Says
Simon Says with a gymnastics twist challenges children to follow directions and work on their skills. Students line up and in front of their coach. The coach announces, "Simon says: Do a cartwheel!" and the students must do a cartwheel. Instead of tricking the children and giving a command without first saying "Simon says," the child who does the skill last or fails to perform the skill loses that round. This game is easiest when another coach is available to see which children should go on to each round.
A Talent Routine
Set up gymnasts in teams of three to five students. Give each team 10 minutes to create their own talent routine. Suggest to the gymnasts that they must use skills learned during that day's lesson, or skills from previous lessons, so long as a range of exercises are performed. When each team presents its routine, the other teams must watch. At the end, the teams write down which team they liked best without voting for themselves. The team voted to have performed the best routine wins a prize. This activity promotes creativity and teamwork.
Pretending With a Purpose
Mixing creativity with exercise is the game of animal mimicry. Direct your gymnasts to pretend to be different animals and perform the movements of these animals. For example, directing everyone to be a kangaroo would involve the students performing different jumps around the room. This exercises strength and power output. Or, direct your gymnasts to be crabs. As crabs, the gymnasts must crawl around on their hands and feet with their belly buttons facing toward the ceiling. Pretending to be crabs helps build muscles in the arms, legs and core.