When, Why, How: Gymnastics for Kids

I’ve had the pleasure of answering the When, the Why and the How of gymnastics for kids, to hundreds of parents. I wear my coaching shirt in public way too often! If we haven’t bumped into each other yet, this post is for you.

When, Why, & How should kids start Gymnastics | Gymnastics for Kids | Gym Gab
Photo | AmyLynn Studios

When Should Kids Start Gymnastics?

If you wanted a one word response it’d be – NOW!

Most Gyms offer Parent-Tot classes, starting as young as 12 months old. Is this necessary? Of course not. Is this a great opportunity for you  and your little one to explore the active world of walking, crawling, jumping, rolling, hopping, climbing, and swinging together? Absolutely. Bonus: it’s a social event for both of you!

Some parents aren’t able (or don’t have the desire) to run around the gym with their tot. If this is the case, 3 year olds are usually able to attend class on their own. Does your child have to start this young to be successful? No! Is it a great activity to prepare for school and provide enjoyment and physical development? Yes! (I’m aware a bit of the WHY is slipping in here – it’s hard to resist).

Some kids don’t get the opportunity to try gymnastics until later in life. Is it still worth trying? Definitely! Many gyms offer gymnastics and tumbling classes that are exclusively designed for teens. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a gym with an adult class!

I’ve had parents ask if their child needed to know how to do a forward roll, be potty trained or follow directions before starting gymnastics. Nope. The forward roll will be taught, try a Parent-Tot class if your little one is yet to be diaper-free, and learning to follow directions is part of the gymnastics experience! If your child is disruptive, you may be asked to tag along . . . stick with it, and find a coach that has great class management skills.

Why Should Kids do Gymnastics?

If I had your attention for the next several hours, I’d give you a thorough answer. I’m betting I’ve got quite a bit less time, so I’ll keep it short(er).

Social Skills: peer interaction, taking turns, watching, listening, team work.
Cognitive Skills: focus, memorization, problem solving, following instructions.
Confidence: achievement, overcoming fear, goal-setting, work-ethic, commitment.
Physical Development: strength, flexibility, coordination, speed, balance, endurance.
Fun: games, music, swinging, flipping, twisting, flying!

Real life examples:

Kasey was an active two-year old who scared her mom by climbing on counters, dressers, and the refrigerator! The pediatrician recommended gymnastics. Kasey found a safe outlet for her monkey-like talent and fell in the love with the sport. Ten years later, Kasey  moved onto other activities. She excelled in dance, diving, and cheer. Gymnastics gave Kasey a foundation for these sports, but most importantly a foundation for life. Her love and appreciation for what the sport provided her drives Kasey to be a gymnastics coach one day.

Lauren was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The doctor recommended gymnastics (different doctor, different state). Although movement of the joints was not easy for Lauren, gymnastics encouraged mobility. Lauren learned to trust her body and her body learned to bend. Gymnastics offered a fun and encouraging atmosphere for physical development.

Makenzie was timid. She didn’t like leaving her mom. She didn’t like walking on the beam. She didn’t like going upside-down. A couple of years passed, and Makenzie’s mom continued to bring her to gymnastics. Today, Makenzie loves walking on the high beam. She loves showing off her bridge kick-over. Makenzie loves gymnastics and her mom loves the confidence it’s given Makenzie.

Gymnastics for Kids | Gym Gab

Photo | Chelsea Searle Photography

How Can You Get Involved?

Locate your local gyms: USA-Gymnastics provides a quick way to find gymnastics programs in your area. All clubs listed have signed a Standard of Care agreement. Click here to enter your zip code.

Compare your local gyms: After you have found the gyms that are within a comfortable commute, compare! If you have multiple options in your area, walk into them all. Observation is key. If you’re interested in the competitive program, watch a team workout. Talk to the director or parents in the stands. If you want a recreational approach, observe a class your child will be attending. Ask about extra programs and activities that may be offered. Decide which gym “feels right”.

Sign-up: Although many gyms offer a free trial class, this is not an adequate amount of time to evaluate if your child likes gymnastics. I suggest committing to at least one month. If your child is struggling, talk to the coach or try a different class.

I’d love to hear when, why or how your child started gymnastics! Leave a quick comment or email me your child’s gymnastics story to: hello@gymgabblog.com

16 Responses to “When, Why, How: Gymnastics for Kids”

  1. Sally

    My little Lei Lei (2 years old) was climbing, jumping, hanging and anything else you can think of All the time! So… We asked Makenna if she thought Gymnastics would work for her. Well now she’s in a 3-4 years old invitation only class and loving every second. Now my 4 year old girl wants to try gymnastics so we signed her up for a beginners class at a different gym. I totally agree with the thought that the gym needs to fit the gymnast.

    • Makenna

      I love this example of different gyms meeting different needs! And thanks for sharing Lei Lei’s story. She was built for gymnastics and I’m glad she gets to experience the magic of the sport at such a young age!

  2. Wendy

    Hi! I’m a gymnastics coach myself – and I thought this was a great posts with a lot of straight forward, great pointers !

  3. Angie

    My daughter started gymnastics last year at the age of 3 because she’s a daredevil/monkey who never sits still. She was in a class with a lot of other little girls and well, a 3 yr old doesn’t usually have the longest attention span…her coach (bless him) had the patience of a saint. We kept going and she kept getting better. She’s moved up 2 more levels (classes)in recreational gymnastics and her new coach asked if she wanted to try out in May for the pre-competition team (doing local meets). I don’t want to push my daughter into this if she doesn’t want to do it. She says she loves it and would like to try out (which makes me happy). I’m thinking about taking her to one of their practices and meets so she can watch to decide if she’s that interested. She’s also started asking for a beam and a bar so she can work/play at home.

  4. Kim Blackmun

    My girls started gymnastics at 3 years old- they are now 11 and 8 and USAG gymnasts. They are in excellent physical condition and gymnastics has taught them discipline- dedication- self esteem- teamwork and perseverence. They know about nutrition and the importance of being active and taking care of their bodies- Gymnastics is a tough sport- But the best decision we ever made!

  5. Denise

    Thank you so much great info. I have been searching for some time now on how to get my daughter that has truly been showing talent since she learned to walk and within weeks was climbing and within a month back flipping she is now 7 years old and before she gives me a heart attack with her gymnastics, I have to find her outlet and let her explore where she is not gonna damage herself or scare the bajesus out of me.

  6. Kelly

    My 3 year old started a month ago, she loves it and I love watching her. It’s a great way to focus and have fun. Great article by the way.

  7. Bethany

    My daughter who is 2 and half started gymnastics at 1 year old. To some it might sound crazy and like a huge extravagance. For us it is not. She had started climbing on everything and in some very unsafe ways. Gymnastics classes helped her learn to climb objects safely and safe ways to get off said objects that did not involve mom teleporting across the living room to catch her as she took a blind step off of the couch. She has built core strength, arm strength, leg strength. You name it kid is strong. It has also helped her learn about turn taking, built her confidence that she can do anything (blessing and a curse there I will admit), and nurtured her fearless nature. Gymnastics is some of the best money we have spent.

  8. Karen

    my little girl is two & started her first gymnastics class! Where can I find toddler sized leotards?

  9. Kasandra

    My 7 year old started taking gymnastics a little over a year ago. She was just always so hyper a giant ball of energy and needed a fun outlet for her. She loves it she just made the pre team with hopes to be on the team by January. It has taught her so much and has given her the confidence to belive she can do anything


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