Of course gymnastics is fun! However, the class format can start to feel a bit repetitive, with perhaps more standing in line than young kids enjoy. Your instructors have good reason to structure each class. There are skills to be taught and goals to be achieved. Sometimes though, sometimes the goal should be to have fun.
Here are some activities you can work into a class if it needs an energy boost, plus some stand-alone activities you can offer (and bill) to add variety to your class schedule and create space for bonding and socializing.
Activities you can go to anytime
- Foam pit races: Works in any class and any age. You can run individual heats, do tag team relays. You can even have both boys and girls classes across different age groups come together for races, if you put together teams and races for optimal fun. Such as in mixed doubles tennis, you can pit boy/girl teams against each other. You can run a 4-person relay with two boys and two girls from different age groups. Everyone loves the foam pit and it raises everyone’s energy level.
- Dance circle: Dance circles are a common way dance studios often end a class, with everyone dancing in a circle as each student takes center stage to show off their moves. Try the same idea for floor exercises. Play some fun music, circle around, and ask each student to take a turn in the center improvising a short skills routine. You may get some fresh choreography ideas!
- Animal events: The youngest gymnastic students learn different animal-named exercises early, from the kangaroo jump to the crab walk. There’s a lot you can do with animal imagery for different age levels. Toddlers can do Animal Races. Grade schoolers can play Animal Charades. Ask them to get creative and think up some of their own animal moves to keep their friends guessing.
- Balance beam stand-off: Think of those Survivor challenges where the contestants have to stand on a narrow platform in increasingly tricky positions until there’s just one contestant left standing (or balancing…). You can keep everyone on a low beam for safety but revise the different poses they have to move through based on age and skill level.
- Don’t fall in the water: What kid hasn’t built an awesome floating home fort? The kind where they have to move around stepping only on the pillows or furniture? The floor is water, and if they touch, they lose. Take that idea into the gym. Kids will have fun building the floating fort out of different kinds of mats and portable equipment. Teachers can move some of the larger pieces. Once the fort is ready, have the kids play tag – but without falling into the “water.” Mix things up by switching frequently who’s “it” and by re-arranging some parts of the fort between rounds.
- A modified version of “Simon Says”: This can be a competitive team game or just a fun activity for the group. Instead of someone playing “Simon,” write down on cards different skills or exercises. Actions can be anything from a simple jumping jack to scissor jump steps. Have a pair of dice on hand as well. A student picks a card, which tells her what action to take. Then she rolls the dice to find out how many times she has to do it. Picking “cartwheel” and rolling five means she has to do five cartwheels. If you want to make this a team game, the teacher can pick the card and roll the dice. One member from each team now has to do the action and the one to finish first wins a point for their team.
- Airball: This is another game where you can easily increase the difficulty level for older and more skilled students. The basic game is to use beach balls that the kids need to keep in the air without holding on to it for more than two seconds. Picture this more like volleyball setting and batting the ball around, rather than throw and catch. You can make this game more difficult by increasing the number of balls in play at the same time. If you want to make this a strength game, you can also move to rhythmic gymnastics balls or exercises balls. You can make it a “throw and catch” game with a medicine ball. You can use mats to create a challenging terrain. There are infinite variations.
Fun activities you can add to as billable classes
These are all great activities for instructors to use in class or break up some class monotony. You also want to add fun-focused activities to your class offerings. These classes are certainly valuable revenue opportunities, but they also broaden the appeal of your gym.
- Game hour: Have a special games class on the schedule where it’s nothing but games! You can have a weekly games class on the schedule for younger kids and perhaps a bi-monthly or monthly games night for older kids.
- Sleepover! Have a fun slumber party from time to time. It can be filled with games (gymnastics and otherwise), a movie on the wall, and other activities. It’s a fun social activity and kids will really get a kick of being in the gym all night.
- Special holiday camps: One-day gymnastics camp on days where parents may not know what to do with their kids for the day. These will be especially helpful on those holidays where schools are closed, but parents still need to work. Make camp fun, not just a day of structured class after a structured class.
Students should always look forward to coming to your gym
As much as kids may love gymnastics, they can also get frustrated. You want the students and families in your community to always have positive associations with your gym. An effective way to do this is to inject fun into your culture and offerings thoughtfully. Even for your most competitive team, make sure that the mere thought of heading to your gym brings a smile to your students’ faces.