Take one look at all the flipping, twisting, balancing, and trampoline in gymnastics and it is no surprise that our sport often attracts kids with HIGH ENERGY. The gym is actually the BEST place for them, after all!
While it’s awesome to have excited gymnasts in the gym, it can be hard to manage an extremely high energy kiddo in class (or a whole class of extra energized little ones!) Some gymnasts may need a little extra support balancing out their energy and keeping themselves safe in the gym. Before helping you handle this kiddo, let’s first take a look at what might be going on in their bodies.
Proprioceptive System: Body Awareness
Everyone has a built-in system called proprioceptive system. This is basically your sense of ‘body awareness’. Your proprioceptive system sends messages from the sensory receptors in your muscles and joints up to your brain, letting the brain know how each muscle is moving, how muscles are working in relation to other body parts, and generally where you are in space.
Every time you push or pull, or when your joints are stretched, your proprioceptive system is activated. This system helps you determine how much force you’re using and whether you need to use or or less, depending on the task (example: opening a car door, coloring a picture or pushing a stroller.) It is one of the reasons kids hang, climb and lean on almost everything.
Mix It Up With a Little “Body Awareness Snack”
Luckily, gymnastics naturally has body awareness input built into class. For gymnasts with seemingly endless energy, they may need a little extra support to keep themselves safe in the gym.
Proprioceptive input can be calming and a ‘reset’ of sorts when a situation is overwhelming and over stimulating (ex: the gym on a Monday night!) Providing a quick ‘heavy work’ activity may help your gymnasts body to calm, turning her focus toward executing other motor activities with better motor function and accuracy!
You'll want to make sure the "heavy work" comes after something like beam, (which can be deregulating for both vision and proprioceptive systems) or after some major tumbling goodness (lots of upside down inner ear stuff there.) Think of these short activities as a little “snack for the sensory system.” Your gymnastics circuit is the meal, these body awareness drills are the little snack.
Here are some simple activities to stimulate the proprioceptive system and help ground your gymnasts energy level:
1. Heavy Work
- For kids with a lot of energy, it sometimes feels good on their bodies to lift and carry heavy things. Here are some heavy work drill ideas:
- Lift a floor bar up and down
- Fill a bucket with bean bags and carry it down the beam
- If your team program has ankle weights, put a few in a bucket or pillow case. Preschool gymnasts can lift and carry them to one end of the floor to the other.
2. Resistence Activities
- Push ups on the wall, crab walks
- Jump into the pit or super soft 8 incher to get some excellent sensory input
- Trampoline or tumbl trak jumps
- Climbing the rope or rock wall as high as they can go
- Climbing up a big slide
- Push a doorway. Gymnasts stand in the doorway, put hands on either side and push for as long as they can
3. Pushing and Pulling Activities
- Put some animals (or one of your gymnasts!) on a landing or cheese mat. Gymnasts push the mat down the floor and pull it back to give their friends a ride!
- Tie a theraband onto a bar, have gymnasts pull the theraband up and down
- If you have a Bilibo, fill it with ankle weights, bean bags or something heavy. Gymnasts pull it down the floor, like a horsey pulling it’s load to the store.
Body Awareness For All
These are quick activities that provide a little more motor input for super active kiddos to check in with their bodies and keep themselves safe in the gym.
The best part is, these little body awareness ‘snacks’ will work for not only your super energetic gymnasts, but your typical energy gymnasts as well. You can use them during class as a fast management tool to get your high energy kids back on track.
Balancing body awareness sensory input with your regular gymnastics stations will make sure your awesome energetic gymnasts feel grounded and ready for more! Start experimenting with these ‘snacks’. Choose one to try in class tonight!
To learn more about what works for each age group, check out our coach training course Child Development for Preschool Coaches!