There’s a long standing belief that a healthy mind starts with a healthy body. Brain research that spans more than 50 years supports this with proof of the direct connection between mind and body. The great news is that, if you have a crawler or toddler, starting them early in gymnastics may mean giving them the mental edge too, apart from training them to be physically active.
We can deduce how gymnastics can help out your child physically. The activity increases their strength, agility, spatial skills, as well as their sensory motor skills. Aside from this, the mental discipline required in gymnastics teaches children time management and organizational skills, as well as dedication and commitment. Do you also know that gymnastics can also improve your child’s reading skills? Gymnasts are proven to be better in content assimmilation, giving them the ultimate edge when it comes to school work. That is why kids who are into gymnastics tend to perform better in school.
The connection of gymnastics and reading/ content assimilation springs from studies done by Dr. James Fadigan, and research and application done by Ralph R. Barrett, who is also a gymnast and educator. The proof is so glaring that Barrett even wrote an article about this connection and how he applied it to his SMILE Lab project, called “Does Gymnastics Enhance Reading? Yes!”
In Fadigan’s studies, he refers to neuroscience and psychology work done by Bruner, Gagne, Gadner, Guilford and Piaget. He concluded that:
- Various sensory motor skills are developed until the child is two years old.
- After the second year, 26 kinds of cognitive skills are learned.
- Reading and content assimilation skills only occur after enhancement of these skills.
In Barrett’s case, after thorough research, he applied his findings in developing SMILE (Sensory Motor Intensive Learning Environment) Lab, a program that improves sensory motor skills of his students.
Both Fadigan and Barrett saw the lack in the public and private school systems, particularly the tendency to address problems in content assimilation with more content assimilation. Sensory motor training – through gymnastics – is an alternative to addressing these problems.
SMILE Lab was very successful in what it set out to do. Starting with minimal budget and through different work stations, it was able to improve children’s visual acuity, balance and cross laterality. The emphasis is movement – and this has helped greatly in improving school performance.
Within two years, SMILE Lab noted mental improvements in its core kindergarten and first grade classes from Ross E. Jeffries Elementary in St. Cloud, Florida. Those praticipating in SMILE Lab’s sensory motor activities demostrated improved reading-readiness skills, as compared to those who didn’t join the activities. Another test conducted in 1998 and 1999 has students involved in gymnastics performing better in their reading and math SATs, compared to those who didn’t.
Today, Barrett’s methodology is being implemented in many Kinder Gyms around the world, and bringing about positive results. In the Central Coast, Central Coast Gymnastics Academy’s Kinder Gym offers opportunities for your child to get into gymnastics early and acquire mental skills that put him or her ahead of the pack.