Health & Wellness Child Developement
When to introduce kids to sports
When it comes to sports, starting younger isn't always better. After all, Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time, only learned how to swim at 7 years old! With so many options, how do you decide which sport to enrol your child in when they are not old enough to decide on their own? The best way to begin is to look for age-appropriate sports. As younger children are still developing their motor skills, what is appropriate for a 10-year-old won't be suitable for a toddler.
Here are some recommended physical activities for each age group:
Age 1-2 years:
- Toddlers should be encouraged towards play based learning instead of any specific sport as their muscles have not yet completely developed. Play promotes physical development and at the same time supports emotional, social and intellectual development. Playgrounds give ample opportunity for your little one to have fun and develop their physical abilities. Look for playgrounds with a safe ground surface such as soft rubber or mulch.
- Stick to playground equipment that is less than 1m in height. Swings are safe if they have been designed for toddlers and have straps that will prevent them from slipping or climbing out. However, wait until your child is two to let him go down a slide on his own.
Age 3-5 years:
- Toddlers and pre-schoolers do learn a lot of basic movements but are still too young for any kind of organized sports. It is okay if your child does not show much interest in sports or any kind of organized physical activity- it is not correlated with future sports performance!
- During this age, toddlers should get involved in more unstructured play like swimming, running, jumping, climbing, playing with a ball etc. However, in case your 3 or 4 year old is showing preference for a sport, you can encourage them to learn it, making sure they don't strain themselves.
Age 6-9 years:
- As your child is getting older, her vision, physical strength, agility, balance and coordination is getting better with each passing day. She will also have a higher attention span to learn from group instruction, making it possible to introduce her to team sports.
- While team sports and individual sports have their own advantages, one isn't better than the other. What matters more is your child's preference.
- Let him try out different things: the best sports for this age focus on motor skills like skating, cycling, and martial arts, as well as sports that can be adapted to have simpler rules and like badminton, tennis, soccer, cricket.
- Don't be pushy or over competitive as this can drive kids away from sports. After all, kids can be extremely different in terms of physical ability as they're growing at different rates.
- The focus for formal training or coaching should be on proper technique and movement as their bodies are still developing and too much stress can lead to some permanent damage.
Age 10 years and above:
By the age of 10, your child is ready to take on more challenging sports like rugby, basketball, hockey and volleyball, as they have the cognitive ability for more detailed sports strategies, quick decision making, and teamwork. By this age, they may tend to naturally develop an interest towards one or two sports. At times, limiting your child in one sport can prevent them from testing their skills and abilities and discovering other activities. Keep letting them explore, but don't feel they always must be enrolled in something.
Before involving your child into any kind of sports, consider her age, maturity, and physical ability. Be encouraging, empathise with your child's efforts, and focus on their improvement and learning. Whichever sport they take up, its a great step towards the long-term goal of having a fit and healthy lifestyle.
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