In preschool gymnastics, warm-ups focus on gentle stretches and simple exercise moves, designed to develop muscles and introduce the child to good physical conditioning habits. Striking a balance between fun and learning is easy when you use games and positive reinforcement during warm-up time.
- Skill level:
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Start off on the right foot by allowing only as many children to attend as you can successfully control at one time. For 2- and 3-year olds, a good ratio is 1 instructor for every 6 children. A class of 4-year olds may only need 1 teacher for every 10 children.
Use games to teach warm-up skills. Have the children hop on one foot, then the other and jump like bunnies in a line to build ankle and leg muscles and increase coordination.
Stretch little legs, arms, wrists and backs by employing animal names and movements. Walking like a crab is fun for preschool children as it teaches them to use new muscle groups. Stretching their legs in a "V" sit encourages them to increase their flexibility as they try to open their legs as wide as an alligator's jaws.
Count exercise repetitions such as bunny hops or jumping jacks to reinforce their counting skills while developing rhythm and muscle tone. Alternately, have them recite the alphabet for variety.
Identify the parts of the body used in gymnastics during warm-up exercises and use the gymnastic movement terms associated with them. For instance, a child should learn to "arch" her back, "extend" her arms and "balance" on one foot. Using the terms she will need to progress in gymnastics provides a good foundation at this age.
Move quickly from one exercise to the next. Preschool children have short attention spans and need frequent changes to hold their interest.
Praise good behavior when the children follow directions. Gymnastics is a dangerous sport and students must learn early to mind and conduct themselves in a safe manner.
Tips and warnings
- Use your imagination and make warm-ups fun for preschool children.