Sunday, November 6, 2011

Climbing and Tumbling

My daughter has outgrown her tumbling class. Not that they do anything extraordinarily difficult there, much less real tumbling. Mostly, the children run circuits around the blocks and mats, and practice clambering over, around and under things. But there is an incline to practice rolling or somersaulting, a short wooden bar to hang or swing from, bridges to cross, arches to crawl under. The course is different every time.

In the beginning, her greatest challenge was being around the energetic tumble of other children. She'd startle and cry any time a child pushed past her. She'd spend a long time watching what everyone was doing and where they were. Sometimes she'd watch so long that she'd hardly have time to play before the session was up.

Slowly, slowly, she learned to tolerate being around rambunctious personalities or overly friendly toddlers, and to enjoy the physical challenges and accomplishments that could be had.

She learned to climb up large blocks, step from one to another and leap off onto mat or trampoline. She'd jump on the mini trampolines and hang from the monkey bar, kicking her legs out in front of her. She learned to climb under an arch, or better yet, to scale the side of one, grasping with fingers and digging in toes as if she were a rock climber. And she would heave herself to the curved top, and then stand there balancing with a huge grin, delighted at gaining her perch. I once saw her rock standing on an upside down arch as if it were a surf board!

She's learned to love playing with large balls and parachutes. She's learned that we have to put on socks and shoes before we can pick out a sticker, and how to wash her hands after class. Her successfully stepping backwards off the handwashing stool (instead of falling off sideways trusting me to catch her), was among my proudest satisfactions. She certainly has gained more knowledge and confidence in her physical capabilities.

It's been so fun to see her progress over the last year and a half. In the last month, however, I've seen a shift in her focus.

She used to run up and down "the mountain" or roll down it when she was feeling inspired. But will she try a somersault? Noo. Well, she did once or twice for Daddy. Now she plays she is going to "the beach" and tells me we need to put on sunscreen so she can sit on the sand. She has no further interest in the monkey bar, but she'll steal the pillows from around the base, drag them underneath an arch, and pretend she's sleeping in her "house."

She used to climb into "the doughnut" (two arched mats arranged to make a circle) for the fun of it, to enjoy flopping onto the wall, about chest high, and pushing herself forward and sideways to drop into the hole. Now she imagines the doughnut is the swimming pool, and she wants to "swim" in it or go fishing.

Sometimes a parent or instructor will make discrete pitying noises. "She'll get there," they say. Many other kids her age, after all, have either moved on to the big kids tumbling class or are off to preschool. But where is it exactly she needs to get? As with any other development, she'll do something when she's darn good and ready, and no pressure, er, "helpful encouragement" will sway her if she doesn't want to do something.

We seem to have hit an impasse. Apparently she has mastered the parts that interest her, and has no interest in further complicated maneuvers.

It's not as if she's not capable of being active. In fact, after a tumbling class, she seems eager for more activity, and will literally run laps around the large bathroom before I can persuade her (tackle her) to settle down enough to wash her hands.

And when she goes to the park, she'll clamber up planks and ladders, sliding headfirst down slides, throwing herself across nets and onto complicated courses.

Not to mention the irrepressible running that bursts out any time she gets to any space large enough to jog a stretch. She runs as if she has so much energy, she simply must put it somewhere. But that 'somewhere' doesn't seem to include structured tumbling.

No, right now it's the imagination that is calling her, and she's so fully engrossed in imaginative play that all that lovely apparatus merely stands in as a landscape of possibility.

So I'm thinking we should give tumbling a rest for now, or least after my punch card runs out next month. Maybe a local toddler dance class will be more to her liking. I already have found a possibility nearby. I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be the next fun challenge.

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