When you think of CrossFit, you probably think of barbells and tire flips. What about hula-hoops and summersaults? More and more CrossFit locations are offering classes for children as young as preschool age. Programs like CrossFit Kids can teach healthy lifestyle behaviors and allow kids to have fun while participating in physical fitness. At the same time, it’s important to match your child’s activity to their interests, leave space for unstructured activities, and keep safety as the top priority.
First things first
Before starting any fitness program or sport, every child should be medically cleared to participate in that activity. As long as they are healthy enough to participate, children can begin a program such as CrossFit Kids as early as age 3. CrossFit Kids includes 4 different programs for preschoolers, older children, adolescents and teens. As the child grows into each stage, the exercises in the workouts change at an age-appropriate level. The following information focuses on pre-school aged programs.
Matching the activity to the child
In a CrossFit class for preschool kids, the exercises are presented like games. Weights are not used. Things like hula-hoop, frog jumps, and summersaults are examples of activities the little ones enjoy. As children age and have more specific goals for sports or other extracurricular activities, coaches can tailor their workouts to their needs.
There are also a variety of other programs which may fit your child’s personality such as yoga, Gymboree or swimming. Interest is important for active participation and setting the seed for exercise and healthy lifestyle habits.
Structured and unstructured activity
Preschoolers benefit from both structured and unstructured physical activity. Developmentally, preschool aged children are learning how to use and move their bodies in space. They benefit from all different types of movement which help integrate their various sensory systems. CrossFit Kids has specific goals and aims to improve accuracy, agility, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, power, speed, strength and stamina. As a child grows, this can translate to overall improvements in sports performance, strength, and fewer sports injuries. Structured play, such as Crossfit Kids, yoga or karate, also helps to prepare children for school by providing them with the opportunity to take turns and follow basic rules
Unstructured play helps children use their imaginations and learn to communicate with their peers independent of adults. Typically developing children are born with the motor plans and movement sequences for basic movement such as jumping, climbing and balancing. Children develop best when provided with opportunities to problem solve and experience these movement patterns in a variety of settings.
Being an educated consumer
When choosing a program like CrossFit Kids for your child, visit a few places and watch a session before signing up. That way, you can see how the children and the instructor or coach interact. Watch to see if they modify exercises for young participants as they go along, and if they seem attuned to each child’s ability level. Talk to the coach and inquire about their education and experience. Ask how they assess a child’s quality of movement before they ask them to participate in higher level activities. If you decide to sign your child up, be present not just for the first session but throughout the process.
Jeanna LeClaire Hill is a doctor of physical therapy and certified athletic trainer at HSS Spine & Sport in Jupiter, Florida. Jeanna graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training, going on to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. She is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, co-owner of CrossFit Waterway, and a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coach.