Tumbling, in my opinion, is the funnest and scariest gymnastics event of them all. It’s not everyday you get to feel like Spider-Man, unless you’re good at floor skills. But even the web slinger had to crawl before making a leap, and mastering the basics is the first stepping stone for floor.
Gymnast need to build hand eye coordination starting from a basic level, during this time frame there are plenty of developmental tools which are used for keeping athletes safe, preventing bad habits, and gaining the ability to apply other consecutive skills.
Where to Begin
First, find a tumbling class that you can enroll your child in. Gymnastics education and movement comprehension is very important for anyone interested in becoming gymnast. Even though level 1 tumbling exercises are basic and your children probably do already it’s best to enroll them in classes. Ask around or google reviews to determine where is the best place for your child. In my experience, majority of places offer a trial class, so take time to determine what is the best fit for you and your child. You may find a facility that is more expensive than most but the coach connects well with your child. Trust me, the connection between your child and the coach is extremely important. You want your child to take direction well from their coach, and you also want your child to trust them. The extra money will be worth it.
There’s a certain threshold gymnastics mats need to meet that determines the level of quality. This quality is directly related to the safety it provides, how long they last, storability, and if it can be used at home. There is plenty of specialty equipment used to teach different floor skills, however, we suggest starting off with these tumbling mats for sale before jumping past the basics.
Here are a couple examples of what you should be using at home:
First step toward avoiding injury should always begin with a warm-up. The warm-up is to get the body loose and ready for the many positions it will be in. The warm-up will consist of quite a bit of stretching. It’s important to go by a list of stretches that compliment the movements the gymnasts will be in, mainly ones that suggest positions the body is preparing to be in.
Each skill that your child is learning needs to be taken seriously. While tumbling is fun especially for young children, they do need to pay attention to bad habits that could cause an accident. Even the most basic of skills needs to be performed correctly to prevent injury.
Beginner Tumbling Skills
Go ahead and run over to Level 1 Gymnastics Skills and scroll down to the “Floor” section, there you will find a list of skills to practice. Here is a short description for a couple of them and areas of focus during this developmental stage.
The forward roll is something you probably learned as a kid. The difference now is that it requires straight legs and pointed toes, and when you stand up you cannot use your hands. This is where coordination comes in, as well as the strength in your legs to get yourself back up without using your hands.
The backward roll is the same thing as the forward roll just backwards; however, the wrists are bent backwards and you push on your hands. Beginners will perform this skill on specialty equipment called a wedge mat, also known as a cheese mat because of its shape. It’s main function is to help beginners gain momentum to complete a skill.
A cartwheel is another basic skill. The most important part to learn on this one is getting both legs over and onto the opposite side from where hands are placed, this will help tremendously with an effective kickoff for a round off later down the road. Practicing a cartwheel develops flexibility, strength, and stability in hand support. Beginners will most likely use a panel mat with hand and feet markers indicating where to place their hands and feet.
These 3 are the foundation of tumbling, so they should be practiced frequently. Once they are mastered, that is when more skills are incorporated, such as the round-off. The round off is like a cartwheel, but when your hands hit the floor your hip turns and you land with your legs closed facing the opposite direction you started from with a nice rebound.
From here, your child will begin learning back handsprings, and a variety of somersaults. As your child advances further, things become more complex because multiple twists are incorporated with four or more skills added to a single pass.
I know what you are thinking; muscles on a child? Sounds ridiculous, right?
However, to perform some of the basic moves, it helps tremendously to have some muscle. I am not talking about “The Rock” type of muscle or anything close to that. To get your child to perform the basics, you can prepare them by having them do simple yet effective exercises which help build strength.
Your child will also be gaining muscle each time they attend tumbling class by simply doing the skills they are taught. For example, the cartwheel can help your child gain muscle as well. When your child lifts his/her legs over their head, they are holding their entire bodyweight with only their two hands. Even if they cannot fully do the cartwheel, the repetition of the skill is beneficial.
As your child progresses with every skill, take note of how much more they can handle due to the muscle they have gained.