Vail Novice Father: The next Mary Lou Retton
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –My 2-year old daughter doesn’t bother to control her excitement when she steps into the gymnastics room. The room contains trampolines and foam pits and mats and hula hoops and bright colored balls. When my daughter steps into that room, it’s like gravity decided to take the day off.
My wife and I bring my toddler daughter to gymnastics classes once a week. We’re not getting her on the Olympic track just yet. But it is winter and it’s easy for the Kid to get stir crazy when she spends all day in our living room. Though these sessions are called “gymnastics classes,” there’s not much teaching going on at this age level. It’s pretty much just legalized jumping on the bed.
The room has a little atrium where we unbundled the Kid and take her shoes and socks off. From that point on she no longer needs her parents. She rushes onto the gymnastics floor and goes after the first fun object that catches her eye.
Today that is a ladder laid down at an angle over a couple of blue gym mats. The Kid climbs on the multi-colored rungs, hands holding the wooded sides for balance, sometimes deciding to climb with her feet on the rungs, sometimes deciding to lunge over the rungs and climb through the holes, always finding a new and novel way to use this feature, always wanting to navigate the ladder one more time.
It takes a little while to remind the Kid there are so many other really, really fun things to climb on and jump on and crawl through. The only area worth her attention after the ladder is the foam pit. This is where real gymnasts practice their flips and spins with fewer consequences for not fully rotating their flip. The foam blocks are multi-colored: red, blue, yellow. These colors and textures are is highly appealing in themselves to the Kid.
The most appealing feature of the foam pit is her ability to jump into it. It’s not so much a jump as it is a flop. The Kid still doesn’t have the coordination to fully jump. The maneuver is more like a squat down, flail her arms up, spring onto one foot, twist slightly, and free fall the 2 feet into the foam blocks. Mary Lou Retton she ain’t … yet.
Letting my daughter go crazy at gymnastics for an hour builds coordination and helps her learn physical play and all that other really important stuff. But the best part is that hour of rambunctious play tires her out enough that she takes really long naps when we get home. This means I get to take a nap, too. When I put her down, her eyes closing before I lay her on her mattress, I challenge her to a napping contest: whoever naps the longest wins.
The best part of the contest is that when she wins, we both win.