One of the questions we get asked quite frequently is “How on earth can babies do gymnastics?” And from the outside looking in, it’s a perfectly valid observation. Afterall, Gymnastics is a sport commonly associated with vastly complex movements and highly refined balancing. Clearly all skills completely outside the abilities of babies. On the other end of the scale, it is also a common assumption that our baby classes are little more than stay and play sessions akin to those you’d find at a children’s centre. This also couldn’t be further from the truth, and in this blog post we hope to go through some of the finer details of baby gymnastics and try to answer how exactly they can actually do gymnastics in the first place.
Babies Don’t Do “Gymnastics”…
The first thing to get clear is that babies do not do gymnastics in a traditional sense. We’re not pretending for a moment that we have babies doing cartwheels, flips or advanced aerial movements. All of these skills are clearly highly advanced and require years of practise, training, and dedication to achieve. But this is where baby gymnastics starts to come into things. Those years of practise, training and dedication have to start somewhere, and that place is with our baby gymnastics classes!
Whilst we’re on the subject of what our classes are not, it should be absolutely clear that they are not simple play sessions for the children (or the adults). The classes take on a structured set of activities from a carefully designed curriculum, the purposes of which we will discuss in a following section. But the point remains that the children will be participating in a series of planned activities and not simply left to roam around the gym as if it was a soft play. This distinction is very important as it means our instructors have something to do other than put balls back in the ball pit.
So, hopefully we’ve managed to establish what our baby gymnastics classes aren’t, but this brings us back to the original question from the title – How Do Babies Do Gymnastics? We know what they don’t do, there’s no unstructured play and no somersaults, but to really answer this question, we need to take a look at what actually happens in a baby gymnastics class and more specifically what the general goals of a class are.
What Goes on in a Baby Gymnastics Class?
In essence, our baby gymnastics classes aren’t all that different from the classes for older children. They are formed around a curriculum underwritten by the British Gymnastics association, and cultivated into activities by our instructors. These activities can range from simply interacting with items such as sensory balls, wands, silks etc, to practising skills such as teaching your baby to put their hands out when they are held upside down.
Each of the activities has these simple goals, with the overarching aim being to help your little ones development. This is the core aim of all of our classes, but especially for the younger ones as they are developing at a fantastic rate and this needs to be encouraged and cultivated to help them achieve.
A typical class structure will see our instructors do a introductory activity where the babies are encouraged to shake bells on parts of their bodies, followed by a warm up where they are assisted in moving around the room in whatever fashion is best suited to their developmental stage. After this there are usually a few rounds of set activities to try with the little ones as well as some time to let them explore around the gym because let’s face it, once they start moving independently you can’t really stop them can you? This will be rounded out with a group activity such as playing with the parachute and a warm down where the babies get to chase bubbles.
As with so many things surrounding babies, this isn’t a strict structure and things can and will vary a lot. It is not only very common but completely expected for the babies to be non-compliant, grumpy, grizzly, clingy or simply wanting to do their own thing. This is all part of the experience and the only key thing is that you have a go with your little ones to whatever extent they will tolerate. The more you expose them to the activities in the gym, the more likely they are to engage.
Hopefully this little overview has given you a loose idea of how we present gymnastics for babies and if it sounds interesting then you should definitely give it a try!
What is the Goal of Baby Gymnastics?
Looking further at the goals of baby gymnastics should help make it clearer how babies can actually “do” gymnastics, but we promise, it’s simpler than it probably sounds.
Even before they’re born, babies are undergoing rapid muscle development in the womb. For many babies (and mums!) this shows as them wiggling, kicking, rolling and generally not staying still. Whilst almost universally a good sign of healthy development, the amount any baby moves is obviously different from any other, but movement in general is essential for their development.
Throughout childhood our muscles are developing constantly, but this is never as rapid as within the first 12 – 18 months. As such it is really important to help babies move as much as we can to aid the development of their joints, muscles, bones and ability to control their bodies to name but a few. It is this development that is the cornerstone of our baby gymnastics classes.
All of the activities in our classes will focus around developing one or more of the core developmental abilities that babies need to master to enable them to roll, crawl, balance, walk, run, and eventually climb, flip, somersault, and just about anything else you can think of. These core motor skills provide the foundation for all other movement in life and by practising and developing them early, we can give our little ones a great start.
Some Example Skills
We don’t want to bore you with a full, in-depth breakdown of our planning for each lesson, but during the class our instructors will explain what skill we’re working on to keep you informed. But seeing as we’re all here, let’s take a quick look at a few example skills:
Gentle and frequent stretching helps babies extend their range of movement by exercising their developing muscles. Providing some resistance and letting them push against you helps work the muscles harder and can quickly improve their flexibility.
Encouraging babies to grab objects from around them, pick things up and shake them all aid in the development of their motor skills. Learning to control something as complicated as a hand is a lot for a baby, so playing with them and passing objects for them to grab can really help.
Being Upside Down
Perhaps not the most obvious of skills, but being carefully turned upside down and rotated around is brilliant for developing balance. The more they are upside down (for very brief periods at a time!) then the more the fluid in their inner ears moves about and this is key to their developing sense of balance.
Babies are born with the instinctive ability to grab hold of anything that touches their palms, so make use of this! Giving them fingers to hold on to and gently lifting them up usually results in them holding on and working a lot of muscles in their upper bodies. In the gym this advances on to using a bar, but the development is the same.
From these and many other foundational skills, babies develop to take on the world and it is the goal of our baby gymnastics classes to help them achieve this in a fun and enjoyable way. Once they become toddlers there are further classes that are each designed to push their development and give them the skills they need to be healthy and happy. From that point our curriculum does start to become closer to a “traditional” gymnastics programme, but with all the same Gym Bubbas hallmarks they have been used to since they were little. For many this is simply fun and good exercise, but we have found that having access to this level of encouragement and development from an early age is nothing but beneficial for them.
So, how do babies do gymnastics? They don’t. They develop the skills and abilities they need to get moving, have fun and cause as much mischief as our instructors. But from this essential foundation they can grow into excellent gymnasts and develop healthy habits for life whilst having fun.
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?