Sports and children: Α beneficial but also necessary combo!

The time when children ran unrestricted and played carefree in neighborhoods and sandlots is gone. Nowadays, things have changed and there is rarely the time, opportunity, or safety for free play in neighborhoods. In addition, computers, the internet, and electronic devices have shaped new dynamics in the gaming world, as now, children prefer to play electronically. However, when the scientific community agrees that childhood obesity throughout the Western world is increasing dramatically, while physical activity is being reduced to a minimum, it is no longer optional but essential for children to engage in sports.

children sports
The benefits of sports in children

Physical activity is especially important and beneficial at any age. But when it comes to children, sports:

  • Contribute to the development of motor skills and neuromuscular coordination
  • Improve physical condition and encourage children to adopt healthy living patterns, which will follow throughout their lives
  • Reduce the risk of developing health problems, such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal developmental disorders
  • Help to maintain optimal weight
  • Reduce anxiety, relieve tension, and helps children to safely channel their energy
  • Socialize, set rules and boundaries, and contribute to the development and strengthening of self-esteem
  • Teache the values and virtues of cooperation, mutual respect, and acceptance
What is the right age for children to start?

In general, the time when a child is ready to start a sport is related to whether the appropriate, physical, mental, and social skills have been developed.

Although there are classes for younger ages, as well as sports for newborn babies (e.g. baby swimming, etc.), the age of 6 years is usually considered the safest and most appropriate for children to engage in sports. Between the ages of 6 and 9, most children have acquired basic motor skills, enabling them to follow instructions from a coach. Thus, they can choose simpler sports, such as track and field, dance, swimming, martial arts, tennis, rhythmic gymnastics, etc.

Sports like football, basketball, and volleyball, which require hand-eye coordination and quick decision-making during play time, prove to be a bit more challenging for these ages, unless they are adapted to the capabilities of this age group. By the age of 10-12 years, most children have acquired the motor and perceptual skills required by team and strategic sports, and therefore, are ready for complex activities.

Choosing the right sport: Criteria

The most important criterion for choosing a sport should be what children really like and find suitable for them. Sometimes finding out which activity suits children’s tastes and temperaments may require some testing. Give them the time needed and allow them to experiment. Finally, remember that children’s preferences change as they grow older and may show a strong interest in one sporting activity one year, choosing to try something else the next. Be positive and encouraging, emphasizing effort and enjoyment of participation, and never pressure them to continue a sporting activity they clearly do not enjoy, regardless of their age.

Other criteria you might consider is the coach’s approach (e.g. emphasizing success and winning or skill development and teamwork). In addition, it is advisable to get informed about the cost of registration, membership, or equipment to ensure that you can support children to engage in a sport on a regular basis if they wish to do so.

Either way, remember that the main goal of sports is to provide a valuable experience for children, so what matters most is that they enjoy their time.

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