Just as the benefits of exercise for you go on and on, the advantages of kids who participate in sports are seemingly endless. It is excellent for health; kids burn tons of calories and can prevent childhood obesity and its related health risks. It is also beneficial to their social growth. From ego checks and learning to win and lose gracefully to having positive role models and developing patience and a good work ethic, there is no doubt that sports can be an influential part of a child’s life. And it’s fun! Never discount the importance of fun. What is the best age for your child to join sports?
The quick answer is “now!” Children of every age can engage in physical activity. During the first years, they spend time learning how to move their bodies, roll over, stand up, walk or rock on their rocking horse. After they have the basics down, they can branch off into more challenging activities. From ages two to about five, most children are too young to play organized sports. They are not likely to understand – or feel the need to abide by – all of the rules or have the attention span or social development necessary to be part of a team. That’s fine; put your coaching whistle away and play. Play is an excellent “sport.” Try:
More organized, disciplined sports can be started at around age six (give or take, depending on your child’s readiness level). This is when your child has developed a longer attention span and can understand teamwork and game objectives.
He also has more control over his body and has a greater level of coordination, which sports can develop even more. What are some good choices for your budding sports star?
Sports can offer a very rewarding experience for all children – but what if they do not enjoy them? What if they do not want to sign up for soccer or dance class? The first step is to find out why. Maybe they are nervous about playing in front of other people or worried they won’t know anyone on their team. Talk to them to see if you can determine why they do not want to play.
If it is something as simple as being nervous or not knowing what to expect, encourage your child to go and check it out. Tell her she doesn’t have to participate on the first day, unless she wants to; she can just watch and see what goes on. This can be very comforting for children – and it can motivate them to play as well. KidsHealth.org has some suggestions for handling these types of situations.
And if they just plain don’t like sports? That’s fine, too. There are plenty of other ways they can get the physical activity they need, as well as social interaction. You can do family activities, like bike riding, snowshoeing, climbing, hiking, or playing around in the backyard. Things like playing board games or having friends visit can help build social development. Just because they don’t like sports now doesn’t mean they won’t next year. Be patient and keep encouraging activity, no matter what it is. You may find that next year, they’re ready to sign up for the team. If they do decide to participate, treat them with some kids snack baskets for after the game for the whole team.
Sports and exercise do much more than build a healthy body; they help create good lifelong habits, develop important social and motor skills, and provide kids with a chance to run off some of that energy.