Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mastering The Perfect Somersault

Recently, I posted about having received Gever Tulley's book Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) as a gift from Max, and mentioned the plan to spend our summer session giving as many of those things a go as feasible in preschool.

We threw spears, we tried licking 9-volt batteries, and then we broke glass. This time we set out to master the perfect somersault.

I know what you're thinking, What is this doing on a list of "dangerous" things? At least that's what I thought. Like playing with a vacuum cleaner or throwing a rock, turning somersaults seems like one of those things that children just do in the natural course of being a child. Indeed, one can get hurt, I suppose, by attempting a wild, crazy improper one, but this is about doing a "perfect" somersault, the keys to which are placing your hands on either side of your head to bear your weight (rather than having it on your neck), tucking your chin and curling your back.

We placed a couple gym mats on a slight downhill slope, and provided instructions, but, of course, there is a lot of imperfection that must precede perfection.

Remember, the activity isn't to turn a perfect somersault, but rather to "master" one, which for some of the kids was a process of many steps, but eventually we started nailing them.

Not everyone wanted to use their turn on the mats for somersaults and while we encouraged them to give it a go, it was their time for doing the thing the mats inspired in them, be it just jumping up and down . . .

. . . or rolling . . .

. . . or attempting a more advanced maneuver like a cartwheel.

There were several parent-teachers supervising this particular dangerous thing, so I went about playing elsewhere for a time. When I later returned, our somersaults had apparently been mastered, because they had been given up in favor of a game that involved rolling the adults down the hill.

At the end of the day, I know that at least a few kids managed their first real somersaults, but even if we fell short of mastery and perfection, we experimented with being upside down, sideways and in positions otherwise not perpendicular to the ground, which is, after all, the point.

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1 comment:

Amanda Lynn said...

We just worked on these about a month ago in my class. I was amazed that within about 10 minutes I had three children who were able to do them with on their own successfully without any spotting! Over the following two weeks many others too mastered this skill. My group of children are between 22-30 months old so this did come as a surprise to me. We practiced ours on a wedge mat and I do believe a good portion of those two weeks was spent giving a hand on the mats. We used the terms hands up, head down and roll in my class. Some needed a bit more detail such as your head needs to be next to your feet (those who didn't do this ended up sliding head first down the ramp in most cases) or some needed a reminder to push with their legs to create succeed in the roll portion. This post makes me wonder how many other activities in this book I would be able to do with my group of young twos, I look forward to reading more post on these activities.