In today’s world, Sports play a crucial role in the overall development of our children, both for physical and mental health. This has impacted the thinking in our schools too, with most schools (specially the international ones) treating sports as a mandatory activity, and not just as a break from the academic pursuit.
So while all sports have their individual benefits, it is also important to expose your child to a sport at the right age. At the same time, the personality of your child should also play a factor in selecting the right sport. Let’s look at some factors to be considered to raise a sport-loving and healthy child.
The Age factor
Selecting the sport for your child needs to be age appropriate, else it can be detrimental to your child’s confidence and well-being. In the toddler days, children are just learning to run, jump, and have a good time. If your toddler loves to play with water, any activity which involves water (for example, splashing in a bath tub) can be a good start. By the ages of 4-5, such children can be exposed to sports like swimming. Cynthia LaBella, a paediatric sports specialist for children observes, “Mature running skills come between the ages of four to five.” Hence, at this age, sports like running, skipping, and swimming, which are useful for developing basic motor skills can be considered.
According to Cynthia, “mature throwing and catching skills only develop by the ages of 6-8.” Hence, sports like basketball, baseball, and throw ball are not recommended before these ages. Post this age group, most children are equipped with the necessary skills to play complex sports including team sports like soccer and ice hockey.
In the teenage years, children are mostly influenced by the sports played by their peers. By these ages, healthy children are able to bear the physical rigours and demands of team sports such as soccer. Teenagers can benefit from a solid foundation in fitness training at this age. Sports such as soccer, tennis, and golf are good choices for improving your child’s fitness levels.
The Personality factor
Besides age, your child’s personality can also be a deciding factor in selecting the right sport. If your child is of a reserved nature, solo sports like skating, gymnastics, and cycling can be the right choices. You can gradually encourage your child to play team sports, which do not involve large team sizes.
For an outgoing and friendly child, team sports like soccer, hockey, and volleyball are recommended for developing team bonding skills and camaraderie.
The Fun factor
In the pursuit of both academic and sporting achievements, it is important to keep reminding ourselves (as parents) that children need to enjoy themselves while engaging in such activities. An easy way to determine this is to observe if your child is excited and looks forward to his (or her) sport time. If your child consistently looks disinterested or stressed out at the end of games, it is probably time to advise your child to try playing other sports or with another team.
Cynthia advises parents to “check with your child frequently to be sure if he is still enjoying the sport.” Always remember that children should play sports to have a good time and feel good about themselves. Conclusion
Every child is unique and special in their own way. Parent are the best judge of what is right for their children, including the sport that they play. Encouraging your child in whatever sport they choose, can be the best motivation factor for your sport-loving child. Forcing your child into playing a sport or stressing too much on sporting achievements can have negative repercussions on your child’s long-term interest in sports.
– By Rajesh Shetty