Getting enough physical activity throughout the day has a host of benefits for your child’s development. And enrolling your kiddos in sports is one of the best ways to make sure they get it. Group activities that involve regular physical exercise help with everything from developing motor skills to encouraging social interactions with peers, and, of course, building strong muscles and bones. Even more, doing sports can have great advantages in terms of developing discipline and a number of soft skills that may come in handy later on in life.
But how do you choose the right sport for your kid? Is there a way to weigh the pros and cons of each type of activity? Do you go with soccer or dance? Or do you let your little one choose what speaks to them the most?
Read on for our best advice on helping your child choose the right sport.
When is the best age to start with sports?
The first thing to remember is that physical activity isn’t something your children will just start doing once they reach a certain age. It’s actually something that you should be encouraging from day one.
Even if you’ve got a toddler, you should be looking for ways to include lots of movement in your daily routines. For the most part, that means playing and family activities that get them outside. And it can be anything from taking a walk to going to the park, dancing, or even doing chores around the house. This will ensure that they’re developing properly and that their bones are becoming strong and resilient.
So, you may be wondering, when are kids ready to take up sports?
Well, that depends. Some children have the attention span and motor skills needed to join a class once they’re about three years old. Most, however, will need to wait until they’re between five and six. At this age, they’ll be ready to listen to and copy a teacher and will have a long enough attention span to follow a 30 to 60 minute class.
What this means is that you shouldn’t rush. Do as much as you can as a family, consider joining a mommy-and-me class, and make sure you’re going at your own pace. It will be much more rewarding than having to deal with a cranky toddler and an unhappy teacher.
Choosing the right sport for your kid
One of the biggest challenges is the fact that you might have to spend time finding something your little one actually enjoys.
With some kids, things will go more easily. They’ll be interested in a particular activity and will be less likely to want to stop once it becomes difficult or starts requiring serious commitment. But many kids won’t find their favorite pastime so quickly. This is where your role as a parent comes in. You will want to make suggestions based on your child’s interests and temperament, but leave the final decision up to them.
From a physical development point of view, there are numerous choices to look into. For little kids, gymnastics, karate, swimming, and soccer all work perfectly. For those older than five, you can look into baseball, dance, tennis, basketball, horseback riding, or even golf. Any of these will offer a host of benefits, and even more importantly, will help children channel their energy into something healthy.
Give them a few months to try the sport out. For some children, the first couple of weeks might be tough, but once they become more comfortable in the surroundings and amongst their peers, they’ll be likely to actually enjoy the activity.
If you’re planning on purchasing expensive equipment, hold off until you’re sure you’ve found something that will stick. And even then, do thorough research before making an investment. Yes, a pitching machine in your backyard can be a great way for your kid to practice their skill at home. But make sure you know their exact needs before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on it. Playing catch is an easier way to help your kiddos practice without such a serious commitment.
Prioritize a healthy approach to sports
The one thing that happens to a lot of parents is that they get carried away by their child’s potential. Yes, it would be amazing if your little soccer fan turned out to be the next Cristiano Ronaldo. But putting pressure on them to excel in sports may actually be counterproductive.
The best way to ensure a healthy approach to sports is to encourage your child to enjoy the activities they’ve chosen. Talk to them about the importance of leading an active lifestyle, and don’t let them become obsessed with winning. Instead, emphasize the positive aspects of participating in sports, such as making friends and having fun. Inspire them to do their best and be committed to their team, but not to the point where it makes them unhappy.
Helping your kid choose the right sport shouldn’t be a chore. Talk to them throughout the process, and look for an activity that will be fulfilling as well as beneficial to physical development. In the end, it won’t matter what they’ve chosen— whether it’s basketball, baseball, track, hockey, or ballet. What matters is that they’re happy with their choice, they’re getting a sense of accomplishment, and they’re moving around so that they grow up into healthy and happy adults.
How do you encourage your kids to get physical activity? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more ways to make sure your kids move enough during the day? Read this article next on five ways to ensure your kids are getting enough physical activity!
About the Author
Hannah Thomas is a gardening and environmental enthusiast. Garden is the place where she feels most comfortable, that’s why there are always a lot of books and empty coffee cups on the back porch.