For Parents When age does body awareness usually click?

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Proud Parent
Apr 29, 2021
5yr old is on level 2 team and is progressing nicely, but she just doesn't have those pretty lines and straight legs that the 7-9yr olds have. My DD is actually really great at asking the coach for clarification and she wants to make the corrections but it seems she just can't get her body to do what she wants it to. She even makes comments to me "I know I won't win because my handstands don't look very good." Her coaches are positive with her but they do give out stickers for things like pointed toes or have a "stick it" contest on vault, and she never does well against the older girls who have so much more control over their bodies.
General body awareness never "clicks." It's built with practice gradually over time. As they get older, it often becomes easier to build it, and the ease with which any particular kid builds it at any particular age varies widely.

But while general body awareness is something gradually acquired with practice over time, specific aspects can be practiced, and in many cases they can be practiced easily at home. But before I get to what those drills are, let me heavily emphasize this: she should only do drills at home when/if she feels like it. Do not pressure her IN ANY WAY to do these drills; it is of absolute paramount importance that the drive to do gymnastics at home comes ONLY from the athlete, and not from the parents -- this is true at any age, but is especially important at a young age. You don't want her to ever think of gymnastics as a chore that you're making her do.

Anyway, for leg tightness and toe point in particular, here are a few easy at-home drills:
1) Sit on a chair or couch with the legs straight and toes pointed. Do this without the legs supported past the knees; in other words, from her knees down should be off the edge of the chair or couch, so they only stay up if she's keeping her legs straight
2) Same as above, but lightly push down on her feet. The idea is that you're trying to make her knees bend, and she has to fight to them straight. A short time -- say, 10 or 15 seconds -- is plenty. If she's feeling adventurous, though, you can make a game of it. How long can she keep her legs straight while you're pushing down on her feet? The idea is for her to understand that it's not enough to hope for her legs to be straight by coincidence; she has to keep muscle tension to keep them straight.
3) Same as #1, but while she has something else to think about. She can read (or you can read to her), or she can watch TV, or she can solve a tabletop puzzle, or whatever else 5-year-olds do to entertain themselves while sitting in one place. I'm not a parent, just a coach, so I'll leave it to you to figure out what activities will work for this, but the idea is for her to practice keeping her legs straight and toes pointed while focusing on other things.

But honestly I wouldn't worry about it too much at 5 years old. The more she does gymnastics and the older she gets, the better her body awareness will become.

And let me emphasize one more time: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PRESSURE HER TO PRACTICE AT HOME. Not even passively (like by asking whether or not she's been practicing). If she comes to see gymnastics as a chore, her odds of sticking with it drop like a stone, as will the amount of effort she puts in both at home and in practice.
body awareness seems to really kick in around 6-8. My dd took a while. I would say 9-10 before she truly understood holding her muscles tight, pointing her toes, etc. She was a preemie and hadn't lost her looseness (low tone), which was awesome for flexibility but bad for tightness. While I agree with GT that it doesn't exactly "click" there is a maturation process each child goes through that you cannot force, though you can tweak to an extent. Some will show body awareness really early (these tend to be the higher tone, muscular kiddos) but for most it is in that 6-8 range.
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At such a different age for every kid. We have 4 year olds with incredible body awareness, and 14 year olds with very little. This is such an individual thing.
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I would agree it builds over time. My daughter always has problems with straight legs and pointed toes especially in practice (luckily much better in meets lol) and shes almost 12. But dont letter her negative talk herself! My kid does that and it just gets worse with age. I try and say you would say those things to your friends so you dont get to say them to yourself either! focus on the things you are good at! there must be lots of them to be on pre team at 5 and practicing with much older girls!
My daughter started gymnastics very young, and even with regular body awareness drills, it did not click until she was around nine and a half.
When it kicked in it made a big difference. The change happened between competition seasons and she went from being tenthed to death and often coming last to usually standing on a podium or very close to it.

She has to work at it though. I do not think it will ever be automatic.
Lol my kid is 9 and is basically a floppy noodle. On bars, she’s tight and cares about her shapes, but beam and dance on floor? Forget it, it’s like a baby deer just learning to walk. When she’s competing she tightens up but beam is such a hot mess that when I saw her today for the first time in awhile, she stayed on for all of line drills and I was in AWE. Legit in awe.

At 5? Forget it. I don’t know what the heck she was doing with her body but it cracks me up when I see videos of level 1.

It’ll come with practice, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly :)
My daughter had to be visually shown the difference, because that’s how she learns. I think she was six? One day I took the time to explain to her by showing her with my own body what it means to be tight vs floppy. From that day on she was rock tight in everything. So it wasn’t that she couldn’t do it earlier, it was that she didn’t understand what was wanted. This won’t be the solution for every child but just as a broad rule, discerning and utilizing specific learning styles is SO helpful in coaching/teaching.
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