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Somersaults, Swings and Strollers

By Nancy Firor · May 20th, 1999 · Working Parents
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"Excuse me, is that your little boy in the blue shirt?"

The woman next to me has been talking to another mom and didn't see her son roll over sideways, twisting his neck because the tumbling teacher didn't spot him during a somersault.

"Yes it is," she said. "What's wrong? Oh, that happens all the time, it's OK."

Two minutes later, my son does the same thing. I'm new to this and prone to overreact. The only one I know who overreacts more is a friend who once made a late-night trip to the emergency room because of a lump she discovered on her son's chest, which turned out to be his sternum.

So, because my son isn't complaining, I stay silent. But I wonder if this Saturday morning toddler/tumbling/gymnastics thing isn't being hyped.

"It has really improved their confidence and made them develop their coordination much faster," said the friend who got us started. "Excuse me, is that your little boy in the blue shirt?"

The woman next to me has been talking to another mom and didn't see her son roll over sideways, twisting his neck because the tumbling teacher didn't spot him during a somersault.

"Yes it is," she said. "What's wrong? ... Oh, that happens all the time, it's OK."

Two minutes later, my son does the same thing. I'm new to this and prone to overreact. The only one I know who overreacts more is a friend who once made a late-night trip to the emergency room because of a lump she discovered on her son's chest, which turned out to be his sternum.

So, because my son isn't complaining, I stay silent. But I wonder if this Saturday morning toddler/tumbling/gymnastics thing isn't being hyped.

"It has really improved their confidence and made them develop their coordination much faster," said the friend who got us started.

The latest studies, however, show no difference in the development of toddlers who tumble and those who don't, said Dr. Eric Wall, director of sports medicine at Children's Hospital Medical Center.

But, he said, there's certainly nothing wrong with doing it for fun, given that safe equipment and procedures are being used. For toddlers and preschoolers, tumbling appears to be quite safe as Wall says he has not seen a gymnastics-related injury in a child under the age of 6.

"Looking at the risk of injury (for gymnasts overall) the risk of injury is not increased over free play," Wall said.

But there are some gymnastics-specific injuries in older children that parents should be aware of.

Falls off of beams sometimes mean wrist fractures, he said, and gymnasts in the 10-12 age group are more prone to stress fractures in the lower back. So any young gymnast who experiences back pain that lasts more than three weeks should see a physician, he said.

Growing gymnasts also are at risk for overuse injuries, including injuries to growth plates or areas of cartilage in the bone, and some research suggests that such injury might lead to reduced growth of the radius bone, which spans the forearm, Wall said.

"Mild to moderate pain in a growing athlete is a warning sign that they need rest ... ," Wall said. "In gymnastics, they tend to push pretty hard in the younger ages. ... It's the only sport where you peak in puberty."

I know I differ from some of my parent friends in that I don't like to hear the word "push" in a conversation about children's sports.

With summer almost here, I think we'll switch to swimming lessons.

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Shopping for a backyard play set to kick off summer? Should it be one of those systems made of huge wooden beams? Should it be less expensive metal? Or should you go for broke with the rustless, more maintenance-free systems made of high-quality wood, sanded and painted?

Obviously, the choice is a personal one, based on your budget (the price range is anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 or more and higher) and your child's interest level in this type of recreation.

I just have one thing to add: Beware of the store in which three different salespeople give you three different prices for the same system. Also be aware that the manager of such a store might refuse to do business with you if you call the system's manufacturer directly to verify the price.

But compare prices before you buy anyway.

···

With its doors barely open, Newport Aquarium operators already have received complaints and "some" membership cancellations as a result of the aquarium's no-stroller policy.

Obviously, no parent -- working or otherwise -- who actually has taken more than one young child on such an outing came up with this one.

Lisa Popyk, public relations manager for the aquarium, said she didn't know who thought of the policy, perhaps a developer or partner.

The policy, she said, was implemented for safety reasons. Strollers can cause bottle-necking and keep people from getting out of a building in a hurry in the event of an emergency, she said. In addition, children in strollers will be too close to the ground to see into the exhibit.

"Most people are very excited about (the policy) and have been very receptive," Popyk said.

To help parents adjust, Popyk said the aquarium is making baby backpack carriers available, to be returned after use at the aquarium.

That might not be much consolation for the parent who visits with a 13-month-old, who is barely walking let alone walking distances, and a 2 1/2-year-old, who gets too tired to walk any farther.

But the Cincinnati Zoo -- which could not be too elated with the new competition -- would like everyone to know that strollers still are welcome there. The more, the merrier.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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