Ian and his Nana began a new routine a few weeks ago. Now she takes him to a gymnastic class every Wednesday morning. I was able to attend his first lesson, and Brinn his most recent, but otherwise it’s Nana and Ian time.
Several people have expressed confusion when I share that Ian’s taking gymnastics. “What? But he’s like only 1. Can he really do gymnastics?” Yes, he’s only 20 months old, and yes and no. He can really do some gymnastics.
We were referred to the Little Gym by a friend who has a little boy the same age as Ian. She convinced us by sharing how much fun Leon has during his gym time. When I discussed it with Ian’s Nana, she decided that she and Grandma (my grandmother) wanted to put Ian in gymnastics as his Christmas present.
The Little Gym has a great program that caters well to the short attention span and limited mobility of toddlers. They begin each class with a fun warmup complete with music. From there, the children can play on the equipment (with parental assistance) for a short while, then students join the teacher for the “lesson.” Sometimes this involves doing forward rolls, walking the balance beam, crawling through a tunnel, etc. Then they proceed on to ball time. The teacher pulls out a large upright bin full of large bouncy balls and scatters them out through the warmup area. After balls, it’s back to playing on the equipment, then on to wrap up with bubble time. The teacher pulls a small balance beam onto the warmup mat, and stands on it to blow bubbles for the kids to chase and squish. As the children leave the lesson, the gym managers give each child a hand stamp (or 4 hand stamps and 2 feet stamps in Ian’s case).
Ian’s not performing roundoffs into back hand springs, or jumping into squat throughs on the vault, but he is learning important skills that are already helping his development. Ian’s a reluctant talker so far, but when he’s at a lesson, he screams “BALL!” when he notices the teacher move towards the closet where balls are stored. Physically, he’s developed more coordination as he’s learned to hang from the bar and walk across the beam. Ian’s teacher has actually recommended that we no longer hold his hands when we help him walk up stairs or climb on rocks. She explained that his balance is already fairly developed, but everyone can always become more balanced. She suggests holding him by the elbow instead so that he has to work a bit harder.
Another area of improvement we’ve noticed is with socialization. Ian’s finally entered the age of “stranger danger.” He doesn’t like for either of his parents to leave him behind, and he refuses to let a new person pick him up. In his first lesson, he was very reluctant to go to the instructor, or the managers of the gym. By the end of the lesson, he was running up to his teacher, and begging the manager for extra handstamps. And on top of all that, it’s just flat-out fun to see his face light up and hear him chatter and squeal in delight as he learns a new skill or masters a new feat.