Let’s get real for a second: teaching tuck jumps to preschoolers is hard.
They have to have a powerful enough jump to have time to bend their knees up to their chest (without dropping that chest down!), straighten their legs back out to land. Most of their little bodies aren’t built to have big ‘ups’ just yet.
What do we see the most? Tiny little jumps with maybe a bent leg, or if they get their knees up to their chest, they land in a yucky squat/crash that is terrible for their little knees.
For years, I did the same teaching cues and style for tucks jumps:
“Pull those knees up to your chest!”
“Knees up to your belly button!”
“Knees up to that character on your shirt”
[Hold your hands out in front of you] “Jump and touch your knees to your hands!”
“Let me spot you and hold you up so you can bend your knees up and down to get the feeling”
But, nothing ever really worked.
I wanted to solve this problem. I was thinking about tuck jumps and got real with myself that I had to change the way I was teaching this skill. I stopped to think about the tuck jump movement, how fast it was and all of the skills it required. Then, I thought about what scenario in life would I need to get my knees up super fast like that? And... it came to me, and here’s the story.
The only way I would move that fast and get my knees up is... if I was getting my feet out of the way from something gross coming.
Lightbulb moment! Teaching tuck jumps is all about feet, not knees, like I had taught before. The snake story was born. In the next class, here’s the story I told:
“We’re going to pretend to see a snake coming, slithering toward us. Do you guys see it? [yes!] Ok, we’ve got to JUMP AND GET OUR TOES OUT OF THE WAY so the snake doesn’t touch us.”
Boom. Amazing tuck jumps, all of them.
The key was the toes part. In order to move your toes up, you’ve got to tuck your knees up to your chest. It was so cool to watch them all get tuck jumps with one tweak in teaching!
So now this is now I teach tuck jumps, and even my threes can tuck jump the day away!
A (slightly) cautionary tale: Heads up! I used the snake story for my parent tot class, and they all got freaked out about a snake. So, my expert advice is to use it for threes and up! :)
I hope this helps you as much as it helped me and my gymnasts. Happy tuck jumping!
Have you tried the snake story, getting your gymnast’s toes up? Leave a comment on our fb page and let me know how it went!