It’s pretty easy to see how encouraging children to participate in gymnastics and other activities that promote movement from a young age can be of benefit. We’re constantly being bombarded with messages and warnings about unhealthy lifestyle choices; with exercise and diet being the two biggest issues. So of course moving around more and developing a link between sporting activities and having fun is going to be a good thing. But health and well-being aren’t all such activities can do to help children. There is a far more important, developmental advantage lurking beneath the basic idea of “being healthy”…
In a previous post, we discussed how we all need repetition to learn. This is especially true of children as they are not only developing an understanding of the skills they are trying to learn, but also how to control their bodies. A simple example of this is the “pincer grip” (pictured), which is essentially how we’re ‘supposed’ to hold a pen, pencil etc. From the picture, you can see how a child, even one that is writing confidently, struggles to hold the pencil as cleanly as the adult. Being unable to grasp it properly also causes their ability to manipulate the pencil as accurately to be reduced. The more practised adult has fine tuned their ability to write by learning how to control the micro-movements needed to affect the small manipulations writing requires.
So, what does writing have to do with gymnastics and child development? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Practise May Not Make Perfect, but Repetition Builds Confidence
It’s incredibly rare that anyone can say they are prefect at something with any sense of legitimacy. Even world record holders will often admit there’s still room for improvement in their field. So no matter how much you practise something, perfection is a concept that is pretty much beyond human achievement as it requires there to be no room to ever improve it. EVER. So most of us, knowingly or unknowing, settle for proficiency; basically we get good enough at something to satisfy our needs and stop worrying about it.
However, for children, attaining any degree of proficiency is a huge undertaking as they are starting from an almost completely blank slate. Fortunately, they are infinitely better at learning than adults are and can quickly pick up skills that could take adults who know how much longer to learn (you just try learning another language when you’re old enough to have a mortgage!) This is the natural process of development; children will learn enough of something so that they can engage with a task. If we want them to be proficient, they need to then keep practising that skill and refine their abilities; something writing is a fantastic example of. The key point is that along with proficiency comes confidence; and that is truly invaluable.
Confidence is Key
We frequently tell ourselves that children are fearless and boundlessly confident because they seem to barrel head first into just about any situation. In actual fact, there is increasingly mounting evidence that suggests children are suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues as we touched upon in our recent blog post. The world is increasing in its complexity and ensuring the confidence that tends to come with innocence remains untouched is very tricky. So, bolstering their confidence is the smart play, and the best way to do this is give them a natural confidence in their independent abilities.
Mastering the fundamental movement skills that are essential for so much of our lives will help build this confidence. There has been plenty of research in recent years that cite the direct connection between a strong confidence in a child’s fundamental movement skills and their confidence in pretty much ever other area of their lives.
By aiding their development of these skills at a young age, you are essentially giving them greater confidence in their lives as a whole. Playing, socialising, school work, learning, even behaviour can all be significantly effected by the confidence a child has in their movement abilities. Children are not consciously aware of this fact, but the link has been proven time and time again (just Google it!) The effect is most noticeable in younger children due to the developmental leaps they regularly seem to make; but the benefits of having help early can be tracked right through to adulthood.
There are never any guarantees in how our children will turn out, and we all know that modern parenting is full of seemingly endless pitfalls. However, there are some aspects of parenting that always ring true, and some we learn through more modern research. The life long benefits of fundamental movement skill practise during early childhood is one of them. Give your child’s confidence a boost and help equip them for the uncertain world of tomorrow. Give them a taste of gymnastics with one of our free taster sessions and see if it’s for them. There’s nothing to lose and maybe a lot to gain.