This week, I was asked why I had my almost 4 year-old enrolled in our local gymnastics program.  After all, he also attends preschool for three mornings each week where I teach.  Socialization isn’t an issue for him.  And, it isn’t like I have oodles of time in my day that I am just looking for things to do.  However, I do see a huge benefit to programs such as preschool gymnastics, as long as they are conducted in an age-appropriate manner.

Our program is slightly pricey, but it is within a mile of my house.  This is our second year to be enrolled in this gymnastics program.  We go once a week for an hour, and my son is now at a level where he is on the “floor” with his teacher and classmates and not in a Mommy-and-me class.  I have the option to stay (which I do) and watch from a second-floor balcony level or to run an errand or two.

The reason I keep with this program is that I can see a huge difference between my first child’s motor skill development and my second child’s motor skill development.  While children certainly cannot be compared “apples to apples”, there are things that my second child does that are definitely more skilled than my first child’s.  The most important lesson my younger son has learned is how to fall and fall gracefully.

My first child did not understand the concept of falling for a long time.  Being a first (and for a while, only) child, I was constantly with him, there to catch him when he stumbled or hold him up if he teetered.  By the time my older son was of preschool age, he wasn’t necessarily clumsy, but he did have a few tumbles that were pretty rotten.  And, I feel that it is mostly because he simply didn’t understand how to fall without hurting himself.  He didn’t know how to catch himself or roll into a fall like my second child has learned.

Now, as a “wiser” parent the second time around, I have definitely learned that letting go means gaining some independence, so my parenting style has been altered, which also contributes to his skill development.  However, the safety of the gym, with its heavily padded equipment and floors, has made for a fun place for him to learn balance, agility, stamina, strength, and yes, falling.

I could do many of the same things his “coach” at the gym does with my son on our own time, but he gets such a kick out of using the equipment, being with a new little group of pals, and spreading his wings a bit more.  And besides, my home and yard aren’t nearly as much fun to fall gracefully upon.