The Importance of Motor Development in Early Childhood
By Ashlyn Kershner
We at Viking Gymnastics and Dance take great pride in our tots’ programs. With dedicated coaches and tot-oriented spaces and equipment, our commitment to providing a safe, fun, and instructive environment for our smallest friends remains one of our greatest values. These programs are so important because they cultivate the gross motor skills (or, large-scale movements like walking, jumping, and dancing) young children need to develop both physically and mentally.
Why Gross Motor Development is Important:
Research shows that early childhood is the most crucial time of development for the brain and body. It is at this time that our neurons are forming the quickest connections, so it is important that we use this time to enable children’s young brains to develop to their best capabilities. The physical and mental development of young children are intimately connected. Physical development of gross motor skills actually helps the brain develop mental, or cognitive, connections as well! For example, walking sideways, especially on a balance beam, can help the brain connect the same neural pathways required to develop stronger reading skills. Without the encouragement to develop their bodies, young children’s minds will not develop as quickly. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance for parents, guardians, and other adults responsible for our young ones to encourage physical activity and play as much as possible, and Viking’s tots’ programs are a great way to do that!
How Viking Can Help!
We offer classes for children as young as 6 months, helping them (and helping their parents help them!) to learn how to maneuver through their environment, strengthening muscles and coordination, learning how to fall and climb and even walk while engaging with a bright, colorful environment designed specifically to help them reach their full potential while also having a blast! Our coaches, led by the inimitable Coach April, are a passionate, energetic bunch who care deeply about the cultivation of active and engaged tots.
At Viking, young children learn how to work together, cooperating with their friends in simple games like pass the beanbag (like hot potato but less competitive!) and communicating with one another during their class, offering each other encouragement and generally having fun making friends while improving their social skills in the process. They also learn how to more confidently move through their environment, climbing, running, jumping, and rolling to improve their coordination, balance, and strength. They even learn some basic counting and color skills based on their environment (“Jump on the red block” or “Do five donkey kicks”), which helps foster stronger connections between their mind and body, their cognitive and physical functions. In addition, these skills help foster stronger academic and general life skills, and gymnastics in particular serves as an excellent springboard to any other athletic endeavors children may pursue, as it cultivates all sorts of muscle groups and mental abilities.
We have six class levels for our tots in gymnastics, ranging from parent-tot style classes where parents help their infants start to learn how to move more independently to our kinder-tot class, where Kindergarten-aged children learn basic tumbling skills like forward rolls and cartwheels, walk on a balance beam, and learn some pretty fancy jumps on the trampoline, all while beginning to learn how to do these things with proper form and technique to prepare them for the next level of their gymnastics education. In dance, we have eight classes, again ranging from parent-tot classes where parents can help their infants learn to move to music through kinder-tot classes in three dance disciplines (ballet, jazz, and hip hop) as well as combo classes which combine two disciplines in one class. Each discipline teaches a slightly different skill set to the little ones, from the strongly attitude-based hip hop to the more precision-of-form-based ballet. Each introduces children to different kinds of music as well, which further encourages coordination and cognitive ability.
These classes, both in gymnastics and dance, provide a perfect environment to foster physical, mental, social, and emotional growth in our tots preparing them to excel in all aspects of life, from athletics to academics, and we are lucky to have such awesome staff to guide our young friends on new journeys every class. If you know a tot who might benefit from one of our classes, or even who might just have a blast learning new things with us, we encourage you to give Viking a try! We’d love to meet your little ones and help them develop into strong, confident, active youth. You can find more details about all the gymnastics and dance classes we have to offer on our website. Check us out, and sign your child up for tot classes today!