Involving Kids in Playing Sports

Michele Meleen

Kids Playing Sports

No doubt about it, getting your kids playing sports is a great way to teach valuable life lessons. Through playing sports, kids develop skills in leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork, and diligence. On top of that playing sports is a fun way to get plenty of exercise that the growing body needs.

How Young Is Too Young?

The key question is not really whether the child is too young, but whether the activities are age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate. This will vary both from child to child and from sport to sport. When your child is very young, look into programs that are fun and build gross motor skills. Soccer, cheerleading, and dance are common sports open to toddlers and preschoolers.

Choosing a Sport

The best way to choose a sport for your child is to ask him what he'd like to be involved in. Kids can try out different sports before ever deciding which ones to stick with for the long-haul. If your child simply has no interest in certain sports, it's best to pass and let your child make the final decision.

Think Outside the Court

The definition of sports is broad and can even include independent activities that are competitive. Consider what athletic or active games your child enjoys then brainstorm sports related to those interests. From child ninja warrior obstacle courses to competitive gymnastics, the possibilities are endless.

Learn About Sports Together

Kids can't really understand what a sport looks like or how it's played without seeing it first. Make a point at home to watch different kinds of sports on TV. Take your child to cheer on local school or semi-pro teams so they get a feel for the atmosphere and what the sport might look like for people closer to their age. Read age-appropriate books about sports you can't watch.

Try a Sports Camp or Clinic

Many colleges, professional teams, and semi-pro teams host sports camps or clinics as part of their community outreach program. These are great opportunities for your child to try out a sport without committing to a team. She'll also have the chance to learn from professional coaches and players which can make the whole experience more informative and fun.

Join With Friends

Kids in elementary school often want to do whatever their friends are doing. While you want your kids to develop their own identity, you can use this angle to get them started in sports. Talk to your child's friends' parents and find out if they are signing their kids up for sports activities. Let your child know which sports their friends are considering and go together as a group to sign up if all your kids want to join the same program.

Finding a Sports Program

There are a variety of places to look to get your kids playing sports. The first, and perhaps best, place to look is your local Parks and Recreation Department. In addition to hosting town leagues, the Parks and Rec Department typically has information on local opportunities. You can also check your local schools, pools, summer camps, children & family gyms, or kids play areas.

Parenting From the Sidelines

One of the hardest parts about watching your kids playing sports is to keep your parenting, or rather coaching, to a minimum on the sidelines. Remember to let coaches and referees do their jobs by keeping criticism quiet. Parent pressure is one of the top reasons kids quit sports. Show your child what good sportsmanship looks like by offering praise after practices and games.

Preventing Injuries

At the forefront of every parent's mind is the fear that their child will be seriously hurt by playing a sport. No sport is 100% safe all the time-there is an inherent risk in everything. However, you can minimize injury by making sure your child has proper clothing and equipment that fits him as it should. Also, make sure that your child has enough water and is properly trained before advancing to a more difficult level of play. Taking these precautions will minimize the risk of injury.

Rewarding A Good Effort

Rewards help reinforce different concepts and behaviors in children. Encourage your child's coaches to give out sports awards and certificates that encourage all players or print your own to give to your child as evidence of your pride in their effort. This recognition and praise can help boost a kid's confidence.

Enjoying Sports as a Family

Afternoon sporting events can be a great family activity. You can attend sporting events together as spectators, invite extended family members to watch your child play, and even play sports at home in the backyard to encourage participation. If your child feels confident and excited about playing sports, he's more likely to play.

Michele Meleen
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Involving Kids in Playing Sports