Skill: Straddle Roll
To perform a straddle roll, the child sits in a straddle position. Hands should be placed in the middle close to the legs, with palms on the mat. The child then pushes up and lifts their hips so that they are over their shoulders. They then tuck their head and roll, looking at their stomachs. Legs should be kept in a straddle position for the entire roll. Knees should not be used to push hips over shoulders. Another common mistake is to bring legs in to push up instead of using arm strength.
To develop arm and shoulder strength to do /straddle rolls, we also do straddle push ups. To do this, the child sits in a straddle position and lifts their bottom off the ground several times and tries to hold this position.
If the student is unable to push their hips over their shoulder, they can practice the straddle roll by starting from a standing position with their legs apart and put their hands on the mat. They then put their head on the mat and tuck and roll.
Skill: Front Support
To perform a front support, the child holds his/herself on the bar with straight arms. Their bodies should be straight and tight, with weight on their arms (not leaning over on their tummies!) Their legs should be straight, together, and still. The difficult part is to hold themselves on the bar with straight arms. This takes a significant amount of arm strength. This is one of the first skills the child learns on top of the bar, and one in which they need to be able to do to perform most other skills.
Skill: Forward Roll on Bars
To perform a forward roll on the bars, the child jumps up on the bar in a front support position. he/she then rolls over forward and lands on the ground. To get over the bars, the child pulls on his/her arms to get their legs over. Again, the child should have straight legs and legs should be kept together. Most children are able to do a forward roll on the bar (once the fear is gone!). However, if they are not able to do a front support, they are doing the forward roll with their stomach on the bar instead of their hips. This is something that is improved as arm strenth increases.
Skill: Chin Hold
To help develop arm strength, the children occasionally do chin holds and eventually pull ups on the bar. The children pull their chin over the bar and hold this position as long as possible. The instructor spots by lifting at their waists so they are not holding all of their weight. As the child progresses, the instructor lets the child support more of their weight until they are doing the chin hold by themselves. Once they are able to do this, they advance to pull ups.
Skill: Pull Over
A pull over is a more advanced skill which is practiced with older preschool children and all schoolage children. The child mounts the bar by pulling their legs over and ending in a front support. The illustration shows the child in the middle of a pull over. At this point with her waist on the bar, the child will rotate her hands and pull their legs down until they are in a front support. This can be first practiced using an incline mat under the bar. Pull overs require a significant amount of arm strength, and usually can't be done if the child is not yet able to do a pull up.
Below are explanations of a few gymnastic skills
your children are learning in class! They can practice and show off their tumbling skills at home!
Skill: Backward Roll
This skill requires upper body and arm strength. At first, we teach the backward roll on the cheese (incline mat). To perform, the child sits at the high end of the cheese with hands by their ears (palms turned up). Then they roll backwards and place hands on the mat. Next, they throw legs back toward the end of the cheese, push with arms and land on feet.
The next progression in learning a backward roll on the mat is the Power Push Backward Roll (see picture on right). This is a backward roll over a folded mat. Because the incline is not as great as the cheese, it is a little more difficult to perform. Once they are able to do a power push backward roll, we then teach them how to do a backward roll on the flat mat. This is done by standing in a stretch position, sitting down and rolling backwards. At the school age level, we begin teaching straddle and pike backward rolls and back extensions (backward roll into a handstand).
Skill: Backward Roll over Barrel
We also practice backward rolls using various pieces of equipment. One piece is the barrel. This teaches the child how to push on their hands and use their arm and shoulder muscles. As in the picture, the child lays down on the barrel and after placing hands on the mat, lifts legs up and over and lands on their feet.
Skill: Backward Roll over Octagon
Students also practice backward rolls using the octagon. This is larger and more difficult than the barrel. The skill is performed in the same manner. The octagon is also used to teach back bends, back walkovers and back handsprings.
Grasshoppers are the name we give to the progression skill to teach cartwheels. Before learning the cartwheel, the child must learn how to tumble sideways, kick with one leg, and land on one foot. This skill also requires some arm strength. We teach this in a number of ways. First, we do grasshoppers over a folded mat. The child begins facing forward with one foot on the mat and arms stretched above their head. They then place their hands sideways on the mat (on the same side as their foot - if they are left, they place their left foot on the mat and place their hands on the left side of the mat). The child then kicks with the leg that is not on the mat, and kicks over the mat. At first, they will land on two feet.
The next progression is to learn how to land on one foot at a time. Once they are able to do the grasshopper over the folded mat, we teach the skill on a flat mat. The children also learn running grasshoppers, where they run before the grasshopper either over the folded mat or on the flat mat. Grasshoppers are also practiced on the barrel, octagon, mailbox, over the speed bumps, and with hands and feet to guide the children.
Helpful hints while practicing at home: If your child is having difficulty kicking their legs sideways, you can place something down for them to jump or kick over. Also, you can place a mark for where their feet should begin, where their hands should be placed and where their feet should end up. This also helps to direct them.
Once the child can successfully do a grasshopper with one leg out and has developed enough upper body and arm strength, the next progression is a cartwheel. Cartwheels are done by kicking sideways one leg at a time and landing one leg at a time. Legs should be kept apart (in a straddle split) as far as possible. The second leg should end behind the first leg. Legs should go directly over the child's head, not to the side.
Helpful hints while practicing at home: It is common for the child to land on the wrong foot. If this happens, have your child put a sock on the foot that he/she should land and direct them to land on the foot with the sock on it. Children also have a tendency to reach to the side, or behind their foot, instead of placing their hands directly in front of their foot. You can mark where their hands and feet should begin and end, or place your foot in front of your child and direct to reach over your foot.
What to wear for gymnastics and what to do with long hair!
For safety reasons and to make your children feel more comfortable in gymnastics, below are some suggestions on hair and attire:
Any loose fitting (non-constricting) and flexible attire is fine. It is difficult to do many skills in jeans. Girls feel uncomfortable, and it is difficult to do certain skills, in dresses. Tights with the feet in them are dangerous because they can make the child slip. If your child likes to wear tights during gymnastics, it is best to get the ones without the feet (they stop at the ankle), or wear tennis shoes over them.
Children can be barefoot or wear tennis shoes, whichever they prefer.
Children with long hair should have it up in a ponytail or braided. It can get caught under their hands when they do rolls and handstands. Also, ponytails are best if they are tied down low by the neck or to the side (as in picture). If it difficult to do rolls if the ponytail is tied up high on the head.
California Gymnastics is closed (both the office and teaching classes) on the following days:
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
President's Day (Monday)
Memorial Day (Monday)
Labor Day (Monday)
Thanksgiving Holiday - Thursday - Sunday
Christmas Eve through New Years Day