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Headstands & other preschool skills

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flpflp7

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Sep 6, 2007
34
I was wondering how many gyms out there do headstands & what age they start their gymnasts doing them. What other skills do you do with 3-5 year olds? We don't do headstands because our director thinks it's harmful for young kids' necks. What do you think? What about bridges? Since it's not good to do these before 5 what other skills do you do instead to get them ready for bridge type skills when they are old enough?
 
H

hammy

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I do table tops (Crab walk position) with my little ones. I also work on bear crawl and basically building their strength through fun activities. Sometimes, depending on the children in the class, I will do a back handspring over a small barrel (in other words, i just have them lay on the barrel and roll over backwards, then bring their feet to the ground)--I spot them on this. It's a fun activity and it helps them get used to putting weight on their hands/arms and being upside down.
 

gymbabisMom

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Jan 8, 2006
178
Ahwahnee, CA
I remember at congress they told us in the preschool class that headstands, backbends and neckrolling are no-nos till about age 5. There is too much risk of injury because of their bones not being solid yet. I don't teach the minis anymore, but when I did we did a lot of basic movement stuff, skipping, hopping, clapping front to back, ball throwing and catching, log rolling etc.. there are lots of little obstacle courses and games you can make up to make it so much fun they don't even realize they are actually learning something..lol
 

Laura

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Oct 22, 2007
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the gym I coach at has a really good kindergym program. I don't actually coach them but i have seen what they do. They do lots of obstacle type courses: jumping over boxes, crawling through tunnels, walking on ladders etc. they do swinging on (low) bars, jumping off mini tramps, walking on the beam, stepping over beanbags etc on the beam, hanging on the rings, bouncing on the trampoline, forward rolls, bunny hops. They also have wheelie boards that they can sit or lie on to push themselves around on, a mini flying fox, boards with holes to throw bean bags through and other fun things like that. They also play games and have songs etc.
 

Laura

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Oct 22, 2007
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... forgot to add... I never teach headstands! well, i do teach the boys as a progression for headsprings, but that is a little different and not till they are much older! for girls I never teach them :)
 

flpflp7

New Member
Sep 6, 2007
34
Thank you all for your ideas & input! It's greatly appreciated espcially since we are putting together new lesson plans.
 

gymbabisMom

Parent/Coach
Jan 8, 2006
178
Ahwahnee, CA
By neck rolling I meant rolling the head around touching the ears to the shoulders. supposedly this can cause neuralogical problems. Can't remember the exact details though.
 
Jan 22, 2008
437
Hi I am new here but my DD started gymnastics a few months after her 2nd Birthday. She started to do bridges, headstands at age 3. She is now 4.5 and is doing crab walks, backbends, headstands press to hand stand. I didn't know these things could be dangerous for her. She is on Pre-team currently so I know she is working some skills that are for older girls.
 

mariposa

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Sep 25, 2007
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my DD started gymnastics right when she did 4. they never did headstands (though she did them all the time by herself at home) and they did do bridges, but it was never for any amount of time, just up to a bridge then down. this was at 2 different gyms.

they mostly did obstacle courses and jumped on the trampoline a lot at her first gym. at her second gym they did about the same, with the addition of more bar work. there was no repetition at all at either gym. it took her 10 months to learn to do a cartwheel (at both places.) but, she did have A LOT of fun and once the cartwheel clicked, she started advancing faster.

that led us to moving gyms (at a few months past 5 years old) and after a month there, she moved to a devo/pre-team class and she will be moving to team in march. now they do tons of bridges, backbends, kickovers and she just started doing back walkovers, and also back handsprings. all the girls in the class are 5-7, though one girl started a month or 2 before she turned 5 (she is now 5). my daughter is the next youngest at exactly 5 1/2 right now.

i imagine that there is danger, but with some kids, i think they would be doing it anyway. like my DD with headstands. i certainly didn't teach her and neither did they. she just would do them.

my DD didn't start doing back extension of any considerable amount until she was already 5 and she only goes to gym 3 hours a week right now.
 

~ beth

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May 24, 2008
19
I start headstands at the same age I start bridges...age 5. Alot depends on the ability of the kiddo. If they don't have strong muscle control, they don't do it. I view the headstand as a good tool for teaching tight body while in inversion for handstand, but I don't want kids on their heads if they can't support the position without ample stability. So, starting out, they are spotted and usually against a wall.

Regarding neckrolling and the recommendations against it..it has to to with eliminating unnecessary torque to the spine. We are trying to remove excessive stress to the spine if there are drills that can achieve the same results and benefits without it. For example, lateral stretches are now supposed to be supported.
 
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jes.the.gymnast

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i would NEVER teach headstands to females and especaly young children. a childs bones dont fully olsefy (harden) till their late teens, by doing headstands at a young age you restric bone growth and if they are done alot could resault in neck problms later in life.
this is my veiw along with some other coachs and health instructors i know.

also
obstical courses are always fun for little kids and forward rolls over bars
:)
 

Aussie_coach

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Jan 4, 2008
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In Australia it is compulsary for all coaches to take safety courses before coaching and we are taught never, to do headstands with kids. Also not to introduce bridges to very young kids. With pre school age kids we work on forward rolls, bunny hops, handstands with 1 leg up, swinging on bars, walking on beams, bouncing on trampolines, seat drops on trampolines, jumping off beat boards, climbing and so on.
 

~ beth

New Member
May 24, 2008
19
That is a completely respectable position. I completely agree with falling to the conservative side on an issue if there is question in your mind about asking a child to perform a skill.

I'm, personally, fairly comfortable with the headstand in children above age 5, as long as they have the stability to hold themselves in the position without wobbles. If there are any medical professionals with reason not to perform the skill, I would be very interested in that information. As of this point, we have not been given any specific information within our country that it is an inappropriate skill, with supervision.

Given the concern regarding spinal injury, I do, however, refrain from headstands in preschoolers and beginning gymnasts who do not have the control to maintain a stable position.
 

elilla

New Member
Feb 22, 2008
40
Omaha, NE
I have done some research into this issue. As of yet, I have not found a single research study to back up the idea of holding bridges and headstands until children are five. The ONLY article I have found to even mention holding bridges was in a Sports Medicine journal and the reference was the KAT manual which we all know is outdated now. I have children learn both bridges and headstands. I spot them at all times and they only hold the position for a second or two. I even have a few 2 year olds who can bridge on their own. I think each coach needs to make an informed decision but it is hard to make a decision based on solid research. I think it has all been blown out of proportion!
 

~ beth

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May 24, 2008
19
The KAT manual is not considered outdated. The KAT program was replaced by the Preschool Fundamentals and HOT Courses, but those courses were completely based off the KAT standards. Those standards remain current. Most of the Preschool Fundamentals course is based off the KAT manual as an online course to make it more accessible to coaches who cannot make it to congresses. Nonetheless, the standards remain the same.

I think you can find more information regarding the topic if you look up the condition called Spondolysis. Articles specifically state gymnastics as one of the sports in which the condition is a concern. Overstressing the spine, especially in young athletes or athletes who are not adequately prepared for the skill work is one of the specific causes of the problem. Hence, the change in standards.

I have preschoolers who "CAN" bridge...we all have kids like that. The question is SHOULD they bridge. Given the research regarding it, and the recommendations against it, I choose to fall to the cautious side of the question.
 

elilla

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Feb 22, 2008
40
Omaha, NE
After posting previously I found your post in the "bridges" thread. It does make more sense after reading the history of how this recommendation came about. I have just been frustrated because there seems to be a lot of recommendations by experts but no hard and fast evidence. I have a doctorate degree in a health care field and have seen theories come and go. I like to review the research and then make an informed decision. It seems like in this issue I am not able to make a decision based on empirical evidence. I agree that we need to veer on the side of caution. I also wonder the prevalence of spondolysis and if certain children are predisposed and thus gymnastics has exacerbated the spine. I will have to go back and do more research.

I apologize for saying the KAT manual is outdated. I was just a little frustrated that the only articles that I have found reference the KAT manual which is not accessible. I take back the comment.

Thank you for your information. I will continue to research this topic. I do believe however that a coach is not negligent nor a program should be evaluated simply because I allow a child under the age of 5 to do a bridge or a headstand. I think as coaches we should try to educate ourselves as completely as possible and use our clinical reasoning to make an informed decision. Thank you again and I look forward to future posts.
 

~ beth

New Member
May 24, 2008
19
Not a problem. I'm not easily offended. I have been one of the KAT instructors for alot of years and I have had to explain this particular issue many many times.

..and yes, I do believe that some kids are more prone to the condition than others largely due to lack of flexibility. From my understanding of the issue, there are also genetic trends in which it can run in families due to anatomical build.

I have seen it firsthand when I had to deal with a kid who developed spondolysis while on team in my gym.

One of our team girls decided it would be a good idea to do backyard gymnastics on one of her friend's clothes lines at home. She fell, and as a result of the impact she developed spondolysis. She is naturally one of the most inflexible kids I have ever worked with. We have worked for 3 years just to get her shoulder flexibility to open up. She is a very solid, tightly built kid. So, her lack of flexibility combined with her impact injury made the issue difficult to handle.

During the time that she was under physician's care, I was in contact with her doctor on how we should work with her, and what her restrictions were. He and I were on the same page in our thoughts on the issue, and he backed me up in my refusal to allow her to perform activities that would worsen the condition. In her case, it was more about her doctor and I holding the reins on her and her mother because her mom was pushing for us to train her in spite of her injury. I had to flat refuse to let her on the floor multiple times until her doctor released her for activity. I had to reassure them that rehab WAS her training at that point..it's about longevity, not immediacy.

We helped with her rehab, and did the drills her doctors provided for us, but it was a battle to keep her from going home and doing stuff that was against the doctor's orders. We removed her from workout, other than her rehab drills, for three months. Her doctor told me that if she didn't abide by the rules, to let him know and he would perscribe complete bedrest that would completely stop her from any activity. So, he and I kept tight reins on the things she was allowed to do until her injury healed.

Once she was released for activity, we had to be really careful and move really slowly in order to avoid re-injury. That was last year. I still watch her closely, and if she starts showing signs of fatigue to her back, I stop her from further activity.

I am kinda old, and like many other people my age, I did gymnastics back in the dark ages of the sport. So, I live with the ramifications of it with back and neck problems. It was my choice, and I would never give up my participation in the sport because I love gymnastics and I can't imagine my life without it. BUT..if I can help a kid avoid the same issues later in life while still participating in the sport we love, then, I will train them with that caution in mind.

The thing is, we don't know which kids might be genetically more inclined toward the injury and which kids aren't. It's not something you can look at a kid and see. Plus, even in kids who aren't genetically prone to the condition, the condition can still develop. So, I agree with what you said, it's better to fall to the conservative side of the issue.
 

ellabella

Member
May 26, 2008
176
Thanks for all of the information Beth.

I have a question regarding my daughter. She is 3 and takes a recreational class once a week. The do bridges sometimes. Maybe once every 3 weeks or so and just one time and then they move on. She also does them at home quite frequently. She has a lot of back and shoulder flexibilty and does a fully stretched bridge. I read this thread awhile back and was concerned for her. Her father coaches at the elite level, but he is foreign so I don't trust him when he says it's fine. That sounds bad, but his country is not known for their concern for the health of their gymnasts. He isn't a doctor. I'm concerned and don't want her doing them anymore. I have been around gymnastics enough to have seen the back problems and I have heard my husband complain about his back everyday since I've known him.

I'm absolutely going to make her stop at home, but what do I do about her class? I don't want them making her do something that will hurt her. Since they do bridges so infrequently should I just not worry about it?
 

~ beth

New Member
May 24, 2008
19
I cannot in good conscience tell you that it's okay for her to bridge at all. I don't allow any child under age 5 to bridge in my gym. Nor do I EVER recommend that a kid do gymnastics at home without the supervision of a coach. My coaches are very particular about it as well.

I'm not stupid. I know kids go home and do things, and I can't control what they do when I'm not there. Still, I cannot recommend something that I know isn't in their best interests.

I don't know what your relationship to her coach is like, but if you have a good relationship, I would think that they would be willing to listen to any concern you have. As long as concern is expressed in a constructive way, I would think any coach would be willing to listen.

Here's the thing. Just because she CAN do it, doesn't mean she SHOULD do it. At age 3, she has a lot of life ahead of her. She has alot of gymnastics ahead of her. She has plenty of time to do the skills when the time is right for her to do them, and there are plenty of other things she can be doing to build her fundamentals and to prepare for those skills she will want to learn later.

The problem with spondolysis is that it can be an over-use injury that oftentimes does not show up right away. That is particularly true within our sport.

Her little body is growing and changing at a very rapid pace right now. I would fall to the cautious side, and request that she do tabletops, and drills like the abdominal sag and seal stretch which achieve the same exact flexibility results as the bridge without placing the excessive strain on the spine.
 
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