Sport contributes to an active family lifestyle. There’s nothing parents love more than getting outside with their children for a walk in the park or a quick game on the home basketball court. When it comes to children and sport, it’s important to encourage your child to participate in age-appropriate activities.
Children at different ages have different needs and abilities. Their bodies are also at different stages of development. With these differences in mind, children should start experiencing some sports at a young age and wait to participate in others until they are older.
Toddlers and preschoolers are too young for organized sports. Their attention levels and coordination are still developing, so unstructured, free play is best. Free play helps young children practice balance and improve muscle strength.
Don’t fear your child falling behind. Studies show that toddlers who play organized sports don’t gain sports performance advantage in the long-term over those that do not. Participate in activities like running, tumbling, throwing and catching, dance and swimming.
As children grow a little older, their attention spans and coordination improve. At this age, children have more developed vision and are able to follow directions. This is a great age to get your child involved with a co-ed, non-competitive team. You want them to learn how to work together with other kids without the pressure of winning. Sports like T-ball, gymnastics, tennis, soccer and martial arts are all good places to start. Practice together on your home basketball court or at the gym.
At age 10, a child’s vision is almost mature. Children understand sports strategies and can remember them. At this age your child can start to participate in more complex, skill-based sports like football, track and field, hockey, basketball and volleyball. Encourage them to put the home basketball court to good use.
Remember that puberty often leads to growth spurts, which can temporarily affect coordination and balance. Focus on the fun of sports, and discourage specializing in one sport. Specializing too early leads to stress and could burn out your child’s enthusiasm for the game.