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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

Tumblin' Tots

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Rory Jaynes tests her strength against instructor Sarah Glenn.
SIKESTON -- She was a little wobbly, but 3-year-old Molly Claire Mays slowly made her way across the balance beam. She smiled with pride as she reached the end of her journey.

And when 3-year-old Rory Jaynes jumped from the bars -- with the help of her instructor -- she raised her arms and shouted, "Ta-da!" as her feet hit the ground.

Molly Claire and Rory, along with Blaire Gordon and Madalyn Weems, have come a long way since they began participating in a gymnastics class for preschoolers last August.

"When they first started they couldn't even hop like bunnies," admitted Molly Claire's mother, Joyce Mays, as she watched the girls jump across the trampoline like bunnies during a recent practice.

Often times children don't know how to skip or walk in a straight line or even stand on one foot when they enter kindergarten. So to help with children's basic coordination, Midwest Gymnastics in Sikeston offers a course for preschoolers.

Molly Claire Mays swings through the air.
Once a week instructor Sarah Glenn and the four students come together for 45 minutes of nonstop activity. The class begins with stretching then they switch to a different activity about every five minutes.

"My main focus is the basic learning of how to stretch and run and jump and skip and growth motor skills. We just do a little bit of everything, but on a smaller scale," said Glenn, who is also a gymnast.

Activities typically include using the balance beam, mini bars and big bars, the floor and tumble track and long trampoline and the girls' favorite -- a pit filled with foam squares.

By the last session, which ends when the school year does, the girls will have learned how to hop on one leg, jump with their legs straight, do somersaults and among other things, follow directions.

"When we first started they were running everywhere," laughed Joyce Mays. "Now they may still get up, but they stay in the same area of the activity they're doing. And when they move on to another activity, they walk in a straight line like follow the leader."

Madalyn Weems turns a somersault.
Mays noted she thinks the weekly gymnastics has strengthened her daughter.

"She loves it. She practices at home and if we're anywhere there are lines, like parking lots or curbs, she'll try to walk across them," said Mays.

With childhood obesity at an all-time high, gymnastics is a great way to introduce children to activity, said Deanna McGill, a gymnast and owner of Midwest Gymnastics in Sikeston.

"It just keeps them in constant movement for 45 minutes and a lot of them stick with it after this class. Of course, classes will go up to one hour and then two and so on as they get older."

In addition gymnastics benefits children with any athletic sport and basic coordination as they get older, Glenn said.

McGill agreed. "I've had a lot of soccer coaches tell me they can tell when their players have been in gymnastics," she said.

Midwest Gymnastics opened in November 1981 and gymnast/instructor Deanna McGill purchased the gym in 1994. For several years, she's been offering the preschool session with Glenn teaching the classes for the past six years. "We promote self esteem," McGill noted. "And Sarah's good about being positive."

Glenn, who is a kindergarten teacher, admitted after teaching students all day at school, her job of instructing the preschoolers does take patience.

"It's fun! It's a stress reliever for me," said Glenn, who has also taken a preschool training class in St. Louis to help with teaching the youngsters.

Sometimes the girls are having so much fun they don't want to leave when class is over, Glenn said.

Parents, who typically stay for the practices, also admitted they like the small-group atmosphere. Glenn tries to match the number of students per age. So if she has 2-year-olds she will only teach two students.

"Mine is the athletic type," said Corrie Gordon about her 3-year-old daughter, Blaire. "Actually they're all very active, and this channels their energy."

Gordon said she took gymnastics when she was a child and thought it would be good for her daughter, but she didn't know of any classes.

"I teach with Sarah and I always complained there weren't classes for working parents with toddlers because they're always during the day. And then Sarah told me about the class," Gordon recalled.

Katie Weems and Christy Jaynes said they enrolled her daughters for the social interaction. And Jaynes pointed out the class helps keep the children active, especially during this time of year when it's often cold outside.

"It builds her coordination and she's able to handle herself better," noted Molly Claire's dad, Glen Allen Mays. "It's structured fun."

Parents interested in enrolling their children in an upcoming preschool gymnastics class should call McGill at (573) 471-5596.