by T[iffany Houser|http://www.greenmonkey.net/blog/2008/12/01/tiffany-houser-bio/|Tiffany Houser], Green Monkey Interactive
I was fortunate enough to have parents that made me take swim classes, dance lessons, and gymnastics during my pre-school years. Not only did theses activities enhance my physical and social skills, but I now realize they began my journey of having a love affair with physical fitness and movement.
I make it a point to encourage parents that I know and meet to enroll their children in all three activities, both boys and girls, for many reasons.
First, I am a huge proponent of children taking swim lessons for safety reasons primarily. As a former lifeguard, seeing the terror on certain children's faces around water was painful knowing how much joy it brings into other children's lives or the terror I experienced when an unknowing little one would jump into the water with a smile and come above the water in panic.
The reason I feel strongly about dance lessons for children is that it brings out a lot of qualities that cannot be taught because they are learned through experience such as rhythm, creativity and performing in front of audiences. I believe dance not only challenging their bodies but it stimulates their minds by keeping track of the step counts, following the beat of the music and staying aware of their surroundings while moving their little bodies.
The performance aspect of dance brings out personalities and pride as they are not only taking lessons but also preparing to showcase what they learned in front of an audience of more than mom and dad. I'm sure that with television programs such as So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars is leading to more young adults taking dance lessons since these shows are breaking down the traditional stereotypes that used to be associated with the world of dancing.
iffany HouserHowever, I believe the ultimate activity for all children to experience is gymnastics. This is what truly developed me into an athlete and more so, built my confidence and eliminated fears. I was instantly good at most sports because of gymnastics which is why I gravitated naturally to also becoming a cheerleader and a track athlete. My gymnastics skills catapulted me into doing well in both these sports since I was willing to try anything even if it meant potential injury.
As my body is constantly changing and seems to remember old skills and picks up new skills, I am realizing the results that this movement trifecta had on me.
Getting involved in all three early in life allowed me to be coachable and learn in a group environment and be evaluated in a group and as an individual. I also benefited from meeting friends before I started kindergarten which gave me a sense of familiarity and security rather than being peeled off my parents on the first day of school.
Since I was fairly good at all three, I developed a good deal of independence and pride in myself where I began choosing what classes I wanted to take and routines I wanted to perform. Even though in my early childhood I was TERRIFIED to communicate in public or even order a meal directly from a waiter in a restaurant, I had no problem tumbling or tapping around in front of large audiences.
This led me to trying out for organized teams which brought out the competitive side in me. I believe this is what also made me a better academic student because I was used to performing at my best. I became a parent's dream because I fell in love with school in general. I never wanted to miss a day!
I refer to dance, swimming and gymnastics as activities in this blog post because I wanted to stress the benefits to parents without the association of what it means to involve children in sports. Even though each of the three are among the leading international sports, all three do possess the ability to give children a life set of skills both physically and mentally to use in almost every situation in life. This is why movement at a young age encourages and is a breeding ground for not only successful adults, but healthy, happy and balanced adults.
There are many studies proving that children who are involved in activities outside of school whether they are sports-related or not are better students and develop quality social skills. Other studies go to prove that children who are involved in physical activities whether it be organized sports or some sort of class or lesson in a physical discipline are more likely to live healthier and happier lifestyles because they learn at an early age the importance of the body's performance and because in certain cases they perform in public and are supported by peers and family leading to a fulfilling experience that they want to duplicate throughout life.