What came first, gymnastics or dance?
A baby starts to move in the womb before it is born. Sometimes this can feel like gymnastics to the mother, but is it? Mother’s heart beat is a constant rhythm present from when the baby can first feel, even before hearing develops. Yet many babies start kicking in the middle of the night, waking mum up, possibly because of discomfort from being in the one position for too long. Is this movement gymnastics or dance? Humans need to move for good health, it is why we have muscles.
Once born, a whole new world of adventure opens for a child. A baby learns to turn his or her head from side to side seeking a feed, waves hands around, often responding in surprise when something is touched. Little feet start kicking out in uncoordinated activity, yet building strength to be ready to walk when older. If dangling toys are placed within reach the young child will usually try to touch them, learning coordination and starting to build core body strength to pull herself or himself upright. Once sitting, a child can be taught to clap and wave hands in a controlled way in the air, thus helping to develop an awareness of balance changing with movement.
This starts with remembering rhythm, the heartbeat and its changing speed experienced before, and during, birth. Choosing music with a similar rhythm helps when teaching baby to clap, the new skill is coordination. This has its own built in reward, for when the skill is mastered a distinct noise results. Depending on the child, this may give so much delight that it is practiced often and loudly, with a level of dedication which can be an indicator of how persistent the pursuit of future goals may be. When the clapping and waving is in time with the beat, jiggling and bouncing on the bottom is an early form of dancing. This child can hardly wait to get up and dance on two feet.
When a child first pulls herself or himself up to a standing position, the body’s center of gravity is abruptly raised to a much higher position. The child wobbles uncertainly, for muscles in the feet and legs have to be more finely controlled in order to avoid over balancing and falling. Muscles can become tired and the child may decide this walking stuff is not all it seemed to be while only a spectator. Quiet encouragement can help to achieve the desired goal, and activity to music often assists, for the child can promptly sit down and still participate.
A child has developed basic skills for gymnastics by learning how to move independently. The way this has been achieved depends on individual body type, personal outlook and the type of encouragement offered by significant adults in the child’s life. If the child has been included in musical activities, any physical skills can be applied in dance. All physical movement has an inherent rhythm.
Many parents will now be considering what organised activities can help their child develop and grow. What to choose?
Gymnastics or dance?