Signing Kids Up for Sports
The Benefits of Sports
Organized sports can help kids grow in many ways. From soccer to fencing, sports offer chances for kids to learn and master skills, work with their peers and coaches, and challenge themselves in a safe environment. They learn the value of practice and the challenge of competition. And on top of all that, sports provide natural and fun opportunities for kids to get regular exercise.
But before signing kids up for sports, parents should consider a child's personality and developmental level to help ensure that being involved in sports is a positive experience for everyone.
When Should Kids Start Playing Sports?
As you think about signing kids up for sports, consider how emotionally and physically ready they are to participate. Signing up too early can end up being frustrating for everyone, and can turn kids off from sports for good.
Although there are sports programs designed for preschoolers, it's not until about age 6 or 7 that most kids develop the appropriate physical skills or the attention span needed to listen to directions and grasp the rules of the game. While preschoolers can throw and run, it usually takes some time before they can coordinate the two skills. And it usually isn't until kindergarten or first grade that kids grasp concepts like "taking turns" that are crucial to many sports.
That doesn't mean kids can't play sports when they're younger. Sports can be fun for toddlers and kindergartners, but they should be less about competition and more about having fun opportunities to be active. So even if young kids inadvertently score a goal for the other team or spend the entire game chasing butterflies, as long as they're enjoying it, that's OK.
If you do decide to sign your 5-year-old up for a team, be sure to choose a league that emphasizes fun and basic skills.
Choosing the Right Sport
If kids show an interest in a sport, try to let them do it. You may be worried that your child will get hurt, particularly in a contact sport like football, but as long as the coach requires players to use the correct safety gear, your doctor OK's it, and your child is matched up with other kids of the same size and ability, go ahead. Even if the sport doesn't turn out to be a good fit, your child will learn much from the experience.
When choosing a sport, consider your child's unique temperament. Some kids are naturally inclined toward team sports, while others may feel more comfortable in activities where the focus is on individual efforts. There's something for everyone — from soccer and baseball for team-oriented kids, to tennis, fencing, karate, dancing, and swimming for kids who'd rather go solo.
Don't be surprised if it takes a few tries — or a few seasons — to find the sport that's right for your child. It often takes time for kids to figure out which activities they enjoy.
Some kids may just not be interested in team sports, but they can still keep fit by engaging in other activities that don't emphasize competition. No matter what they choose, kids should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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