Socialization & Exercise Tips for Kids During Covid-19
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic socialization and exercise with children has been extra challenging. Today we catch up with Katie Ward, a gymnastics coach, who has some great advice to share on both topics.
Katie has been teaching gymnastics at the Seattle Gymnastics Academy since 2010, and raising a son for the past 2.5 years. Katie adopted the pod lifestyle years before the pandemic, buying a duplex with her sister. After the pandemic began they expanded the pod to include their mother.
Q: Katie, you’ve been teaching gymnastics for 10 years. What have you learned about socializing children during this time?
A: I’ve learned that socializing children cannot happen in a bubble, and this past year has really exposed that. Developing personality, character and perseverance through life’s challenges requires the input of parents, peers, instructors and teachers alike. Inside our homes, with our family, we develop a certain paradigm for how we see the world and how we fit into it. Socialization is vital for creating and constantly evolving this paradigm. It allows children to develop into well rounded adults who have a strong sense of self, empathy, and community.
Q: Has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your approach to teaching? How have you adapted your teaching style through these tumultuous times?
A: So much of my physical approach to the sport has changed during this past year and my non-physical approach has developed and become stronger. Beginning with the shut down of the gym last spring, all of the coaches hopped onto Zoom and endeavored to coach gymnastics virtually. This required a full 180 on our typical, tactile approach to the sport. We spent more time discussing and describing what and where the athlete should feel the exercises; connecting dots with the athletes on how little exercises and small drills make up larger skills.
There are a few different styles of learning: tactile, visual and auditory are the primary ones we focus on in the gym. This year has forced me to hone my visual and auditory coaching skills. Since we need to keep our distance and be more hands off, I need to be more articulate and find ways to demonstrate skills for visual learners. Additionally, with little ability to spot and shape the athletes, I’ve needed to grow in my ability to deconstruct skills into smaller pieces that the athletes can accomplish on their own and help draw a map to the final skill.
Q: What is your favorite gymnastics move for beginners that parents could work on at home? Can you walk us through a quick overview of the steps?
A: The handstand!
It is the core and foundation of the entire sport and is very approachable to work on at home. The main point to focus on at home is supporting your body weight on your hands.
To train weight support, I’d suggest 2 exercises:
- Box Handstands:
In a box handstand, you will elevate your feet to create a 90 degree angle at your hips (so your body creates one corner of a box). This allows you to train a vertical position from your wrists to your hips while keeping the weight of the lower half of your body on the object where you place your feet.
- Wall Walker Handstands:
The wall walker handstand begins adding more weight from your lower body by elevating your feet above your hips.
Q: Do you have any advice for people with sensory processing disorders?
A: I am not an expert in this area, but I have encountered many athletes with sensory processing disorders over the years. Be sure to inform your child’s coach about these types of challenges. There are many accommodations that can be made to support your child’s learning style. For example, giving the instructions separately and/or one-on-one so they don’t get lost in the midst of gym sounds and visual stimulation. Aim for classes outside of the prime after school hours when the gym is typically at capacity and is the loudest.
Right now I have an athlete with an auditory sensory processing disorder. She comes in for one-on-one lessons with me on Fridays. We spend an hour reviewing my lesson plan for the next week so that she is more prepared mentally and physically when she comes to the gym for practice with her group.
Q: How is pod life treating you? What is your favorite part of this lifestyle?
A: I just can’t say enough about how grateful I am for my pod. Between my sister and me, we have 3 kids under the age of 7 and it’s invaluable that they’ve had the ability to socialize with each other this past year. For the adults, being able to have “date nights” in our own home, or game nights after bedtime has absolutely impacted our mental health for the better.
Katie is actively teaching at Seattle Gymnastics Academy (SGA) in Ballard (Seattle, WA) with strict Covid-19 protocols in place. You can sign up for classes now at seattlegymnastics.com.
Katie is in the process of building a gymnastics coaching blog. We’ll update this blog post with the link when it becomes available.