It is important to incorporate enjoyment with physical activity so kids grow up realizing that fitness is fun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that children get at least an hour of activity each day, including bone-building activities such as jumping, vigorous activities such as sprinting and muscle-building activities such as pushups and squats. Gymnastics is a wonderful sport in that it involves all these aspects of fitness. Whether your own kids are involved with gymnastics or you train other children, add in fun activities to improve their performance and ability.
Animal Imitations and Races
Gymnastics involves a ton of jumping and movement patterns, so relate these movements to animals and have kids imitate them. Have them bear crawl, crab walk and inchworm from one side of the floor to another. Incorporate frog jumps where they touch the floor while doing traveling squat jumps, kangaroo jumps where they jump as far as they can and try to stick their landing and bunny hops, which are just short repetitive hops. In place, they can do donkey kicks with their hands on the floor, kicking their feet into the air, and starfish jumps, where they do a straddle jump with their arms in the air, looking like a star. Also, play this as a relay race.
Add-on is great for all ages, because it works both physical skill and memory, according to GOB Gymnastics. Stand the gymnasts in a line. Have one gymnast perform a skill or exercise and then have all gymnasts repeat. Have the next gymnast in line perform the same skill and then add on one of their own. Continue adding on until a gymnast forgets the order of exercises. Shuffle the line and start again.
Island tag is a great way to build speed, agility and coordination, especially in the knees, hips and ankles. On the gymnastics floor, spread out a variety of wedge mats, panel mats, foam mats, balance beams, blocks and other equipment, which will be the “islands” and the floor is the “water.” Have the children play tag, jumping from island to island. If they touch or fall into the water, they are out and have to do some sort of conditioning on the sidelines until the round is over. Keep rounds short to hold their attention and change who is “it” often.
Follow the Leader
Follow the leader is a great way to present leadership and creativity opportunities for gymnasts. Utilize the whole gym if it is available and give a time limit of two or three minutes. Have the leader gymnast lead the class around the gym doing various tricks and skills on available apparatus, while the rest of the class follows. This is a good chance for an outstanding gymnast to do a few more of her favorite tricks, or just have a lot of fun with her friends. It is also a way to provide a reward at the end of a gymnastics week to an outstanding gymnast.
Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.