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Tumbl Talk

What do I do with a "sprinter" in my preschool class?

Posted on 3/7/2017
If you've ever taught a preschool gymnastics or recreation class, you know what we're talking about. The one child who is full of energy, and wants to be every where at once! They are a joy, but also sometimes hard to wrangle. We've asked some of our experts in the industry how they handle situations like these. 


Patti Komara:

In a class when you have a child run away from the parent/tot group, let him run. You should have had the "intro talk" with the parents to let them know when that happens, follow the child and find a "teachable moment". If he runs over to the trampoline, allow him to go there, jump a few times with instruction from mom and then Mom says, "Ok Liam, let's go see what the other kids are doing." If this is in a 4-5 year-old class and you do not have a helper, you need to be sure he's safe, so you must go get him. If he's off playing in the chalk and creating chaos, don't hesitate to ask mom's help. Do not allow one child to steal too much time from the other students who are behaving. If he's close enough, just call his name and ask him to come back. Tell him if he comes back, he can be first on the Tumbl Trak. (pick his favorite activity) From that point on, make him your little "helper" and keep him close to you. If he causes trouble and must have a time out, make it just one minute. Also, if mom has to come out due to a crier or one who is behaving, tell the mom, "Oh, don't worry that Jake didn't participate. He was actively learning. On the way home, ask him what the kids were doing. You'll be surprised how much he knows. We won't change you for today and not until he fully participates." You want to make the mom feel better about the experience and want to come back. If you handle it this way, most moms will tell all their friends of your kindness.


Randy Parrish:

The “SPRINTER” is that little rascal that sprints from your class and runs under a team girl or boy doing a double full on floor.  What can we do to prevent this from happening for the safety of all gymnasts in our gyms?  Here are a few things I have tried and have had some success with.  Not 100% but over time you will fine tune your skills.

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures!!!  Set up a great traffic pattern for entering and participating in class is your first line of defense.  If they still sprint I use the following techniques.

1)  I tell the little gymnast in my class that their carpet is their ticket for all the "FUN" rides.  If they leave your class then I take their carpet and I do something super fun like a ride on the parachute, a cool tunnel or slide into the pit, etc.  I explain to them the reason they missed the ride is because they lost their ticket. :)

2)  If you have a great lesson plan and you still have a sprinter I make them the leader and give them responsibility without them always going first:)

3) Super FAST SPRINTERS I use a coach in training and assign them to the SPRINTER:)  This can be a Jr staff from your classes or team that is showing responsibility and leadership skills that I want as a future staff member.

4) I set up with the parents ahead of time that if they sprint, I will bring them immediately to the parent and the parent takes them home immediately:)  Definitely NOT to McDonald's Play Land

5)  If I use a lot of energy and I keep them moving I usually don't have many sprinters.  If it’s a boys class you must run them through an easy obstacle course of tunnels, over & unders, and "Run Forest Run".


Linda Thorberg:

Preschool Director, TAGS Gymnastics

Flipping Education co-owner

Many times new children in class do not understand structure or boundaries. We make our rooms look inviting and fun on purpose and you can’t blame them for wanting to wander from the group to check things out.

Most of the time three year olds are the culprits that “sprint” away from the class. It is appropriate at three to teach children how to take turns and stay with the group. Some things to help:

  • Always say their name first before you try to get them to respond. They won’t listen to what you are saying until they hear their name.

  • Keep your stations close together. If you give them too much space, you will probably lose someone. Remember 3 years old, 3 stations.

  • Use the “if then” approach. If you try this now, then we will get to go to the pit.

  • Children like to know what to expect. If you let them know your order of events, “We are going to tumble then bars and then we will get to go to the trampoline.” Older children will cooperate better when they know this.

  • Out of sight, out of mind. If young children see something that they want to do, they will naturally want to go there. If you don’t plan to use a prop or piece of equipment, try to keep it out of site.

  • Of course, safety is our most important requirement in a class. We must keep them in our line of sight and with us at all times for their protection and others as well. There will be times when a child is just too young for the class or cannot handle your structure. You as a teacher must make that call with a positive and professional discussion with the parent. Give them options of a different time of day, different day or smaller class if you can.