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At What Age Should Kids Start Gymnastics?

by Jennifer Zimmerman, studioD

No hard and fast, pediatrician-recommended rule exists that kids should start gymnastics at a certain age. Most gyms don't even have a specific rule. Some gyms have tot classes for children as young as 18 months and some have beginner classes for 12-year-olds. However, some guidelines can help parents decide at what age their children should start gymnastics.

American Academy of Pediatrics

Children under 6 years old are not ready for organized sports such as baseball, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization instead suggests that kids between 2 and 5 years old practice motor skills such as tumbling, running, throwing and catching. Instruction should be short and play time should be included in formal classes. So, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids between 2 and 5 years could start gymnastics, as long as classes are geared for their maturity and motor skill levels. The academy specifically mentions gymnastics as a good sport for kids ages 6 to 9 years old, so waiting is an option as well.

USA Gymnastics

USA Gymnastics, the umbrella organization for the U.S. Olympic team and for certified gyms across the country, has a specific teacher certification for its teachers of young children, called the Kinder Accreditation for Teachers. USA Gymnastics recommends that children under 3 years old take class with a parent or caregiver and that gymnastics classes use activities that are developmentally appropriate for each age group. They encourage children to start classes during the preschool years, but stress that starting later is fine as well.

Early Skills

Beginning gymnastics classes focus on learning gymnastics terminology, basic body positions such as tuck and straddle, and rolling skills. Children will need to pay attention to instruction and be able to follow directions to learn these skills. Soon they will progress to upright balance skills such as jumping, hopping and walking on the balance beam.

It Depends

Deciding when your kid is ready for gymnastics classes also depends on the child. If your 3-year-old is already doing forward rolls across the back yard, then she might be more ready for gymnastics classes than your 4-year-old who refuses to try even rolling sideways across the rug. But if that same 3-year-old can't sit still during story time, she might not be ready to handle a formal class. Many gyms and class locations have free trial classes so parents can see whether their child is old enough to enjoy gymnastics.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

  • BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images