We know that our little gymnasts love going to gymnastics each week because it’s fun, but the truth is it’s not just fun, it is so much more. Right from the very beginning, brain development is dependent on environmental stimulation. Let’s add the importance of movement to brain development, and the importance of motor skill development to all key aspects of life, and it becomes obvious that movement and stimulation are crucial to the healthy development of a child.
Reaching Developmental Milestones
Sometimes children, for all kinds of reasons, do not receive all the stimulation or movement they need to reach certain developmental milestones, this can lead to developmental delays. Without going too deep into the neuroscience behind it, it is essential that young children meet the developmental milestones in order for their brain to fully develop. Exposure to movement and brain stimulating experiences within our Tiny Tornadoes program can help to achieve developmental milestones, even if it is a skipped or missed milestone.
Gross Motor Skills
Tiny Tornadoes provides the perfect balance of movement and stimulation in an engaging and fun environment. In fact, gymnastics is a fantastic way of developing the skills necessary for school, sport, and life in general. What our gymnasts see as fun is actually a thoroughly planned lesson that includes activities every week that strengthen and build motor development and stimulate the brain. Gross motor skills (which are the coordinated and planned movements of our large muscles and joints, and include: crossing the midline; core strength; balance; spatial awareness; and fundamental movement skills) are included every single week.
Crawling through a tunnel or across the beam is encouraging cross patterning, stirring the witch’s caldron, or moving an object from one side to the other without turning the whole body is crossing the midline, standing tall like a rocket is using core strength, jumping, running or hopping are all examples of fundamental movement.
Colours, textures, shapes, heights, swinging, and spinning are all part of the program, stimulating different areas of the brain such as the visual, vestibular and proprioception systems – all crucial to development.
Fine Motor Skills
In Tiny Tornadoes we also focus on fine motor skills, which work on the smaller muscle groups. Fine motor skills are necessary for school readiness and being able to do the day to day life skills that are required to take care of ourselves – such as button or zip up our clothes, tie our shoes, brush our teeth or hair. The use of tongs, manipulation of small objects to ‘decorate a gingerbread’, for example, and picking up and placing of various sized and shaped objects are all deliberate inclusions to develop skills that are important for early childhood. Although they might not seem like traditional gymnastics activities, these things work alongside gross motor activities to build stronger, focused and more capable children and gymnasts.
Being able to manipulate tongs to pick up ‘rubbish’ or ‘moon rocks’ or wind a weighted fish up a reel gives a child the hand control to later be able to work on grip strength, not to mention pencil grip! Catching a fish with a magnetic fishing rod is as important as catching a ball for working on our hand-eye coordination (both are popular activities). Juggling scarves works our pincer grip while balloon tapping is fantastic for hand-eye coordination.
Although all of this is very important to us as coaches, it is not so important to our gymnasts who are in the gym to learn some skills and most importantly to enjoy themselves. So, we will leave it up to the coaches to understand the ‘whys’ of the activities and we will leave it up to the gymnasts to do what they do best – have fun!