With so many activities available for our kids, how do you know which are the right ones and when is the right time to get them started. All seem to have slick marketing that promotes what you'd think to be the "right" things, but how do you truly know?
First, don't be fooled by the slick marketing. Do your own due diligence! To help, here are three fundamentals that I focused on when I chose gymnastics for my two sons. I will concede, there may be other criteria that might be worth looking at. However, as a Dad and a former high level competitive athlete, these were my top three, and I feel as you read you will see why.
1) Body and Spacial Awareness
For the toddler or preschooler, the development of motor skills through nuero-muscular activities (working the mind with the body to perform specific movements and or skills) like gymnastics and dance are great to build a foundation of body and spacial awareness. This fundamental development is transferable to every sport they may play or be involved in later in their childhood. Gymnastics is based on a strong philosophy of repetition which, as you probably know, has been shown to be a key factor in not only physical development but also in many other areas of learning. Research shows us that children who are put into these type of classes, between 2 and 6 years of age, generally have better self esteem, ability to deal with challenges as well as learn faster academically. In fact, several studies find that by advancing the child's cognition through repetitive challenging nuero-muscular movements of the body, it actually accelerates the ability in the brain to learn more efficiently.
2) Discipline and Ability to Listen and Follow Directions
I can almost always tell a child that was put into either gymnastics or dance as a toddler. Generally speaking, they listen better, understand how to stand in a line, wait for a turn and share. Sometimes these two exceptional benefits get over looked because they are part of the finer details; however, it is a fact that youngsters that have learned these at a very young age excel faster, learn quicker and master basics better than those that missed out on this and have to go back and revisit/learn these basics.
3) Balance, Speed, General Strength and Flexibility
Now I don't know a sport out there that doesn't require one or all of these! Balance, speed, general strength and flexibility will play an important part in your child's life whether they become more active and or competitive in a specific sport or if they just enjoy sports as a way to stay healthy and energetic. These benefits that you will start your toddler off with are fundamental benefits that they can truly enjoy and have for a lifetime. General health and wellness has become a major topic in our world today, so I say start them off RIGHT!
When it comes to our children, there are a lot of areas to be concerned with. Here's what I learned, by having taken action when they were very young and focusing on the three specific areas I listed above, I now have peace of mind knowing I did the right thing by giving them a great foundation to work with. And that is an EXCEPTIONAL benefit, wouldn't you agree?