The ‘pre-school’ class you should be sending your preschoolers to
“I think its invaluable” – Jackie Sikic, Clinic Director at Kid Link Occupational Therapy
“It will definitely make kinder or school easier… I couldn’t recommend it more highly” – Emma Grose, Take Off Program Parent at Jets Gymnastics Eltham
“We’ve seen kids come such a long way with improvements to their motor and sensory skills” – Leesa Lowery, Take Off Program Head Coach
Did you know that Occupational Therapists often recommend gymnastics programs to preschool-aged kids?
Gymnastics is known as the ‘foundation sport’ and is suitable for all ages and abilities – but when it comes to preschoolers there is added, extra benefits, which extend far beyond learning forward rolls and doing monkey climbs on the bars.
Clinic Director at Kid Link Occupational Therapy, Jackie Sikic says gymnastics participation among young children is “invaluable” and builds confidence, while enhancing motor and sensory skill development.
“The biggest benefit is body awareness and confidence in terms of developing their vestibular and proprioceptive systems in relation to their sensory skills,” she explains.
“It is a whole body approach, kids work on upper body strength, lower body strength and do heaps of core work.”
“I think it’s invaluable, I send a lot of kids to gymnastics programs for that reason – it’s quite holistic.”
If you’re a kid, walking into a gymnasium is probably one of the most exciting things your eyes have ever seen. It is a multi-coloured playground, only with specialised equipment and trampolines.
The gymnastics dominant movement patterns including landings, locomotion, spring, swing, rotation and statics performed in gymnastics classes, help develop motor skills. The best thing about it is, kids see rolling, skipping and jumping as FUN rather than a motor or sensory benefit.
“It’s a very sensory-rich environment. Kids just walk in and they just love it, there’s something for everyone at gymnastics,” Jackie says.
“Learning to coordinate one side of the body, with the other side of the body, or your upper body with your lower body, when you’re climbing or when you’re hanging – all of those body awareness and bilateral activities help to consolidate that connection between your left and right brain.”
Other benefits include learning how to interact with other children, share, take turns and follow instruction. These life skills are of utmost importance for young kids and learnt in the preschool years.
“Any structured class is good for independence, following through with instructions, negotiating with other kids, waiting your turn and all of those kinds of things transfer a lot,” she says.
“I think with preschoolers in general, that’s the age you really want to develop confidence and resilience, while the side benefits of that is coordination, strength and body awareness.”
Emma Grose is a parent of twin girls, 2.5 year-old Torah and Kenzie, who were both 18 months old when they joined the Take Off preschool program at Jets Gymnastics Eltham.
Emma says she is blown away with the social skills the girls have learnt, as well as improvements to their coordination.
“I definitely see benefits – it’s awesome and I couldn’t recommend it more highly,” she says.
“The quicker they can get into a routine of knowing that they have to sometimes participate in a class, take turns and follow instruction, it will definitely make kinder or school easier – rather than have to learn that once they get there, they’re learning it now.”
“The connection they have with their coaches shows a lot as well. They go home and they’re excited about the stamp they got and they look forward to gymnastics each week.”
The Take Off preschool program at Jets aims to build upon foundational gymnastics skills, but it extends beyond that – setting up kids for life through structured activities and the learning of ‘pre-school’ social and interaction skills.
Take Off Program Head Coach, Leesa Lowery has been working with kids for several years and is amazed at the difference gymnastics makes to the lives of young kids.
“It’s amazing to see how far some of these kids have come,” she says.