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The Best Sports for Children

Mar 26, 2013 12:58AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

 

Sports provide one of the best outlets for the limitless energy that kids seem to have. As an extracurricular activity, they have a lot to offer children beyond the chance to burn off excess energy. Joining a sports team helps your child stay healthy and active, learn and practice sportsmanship, and improve social skills and concentration while developing a hobby that can be enjoyed throughout life. Letting children compete in a safe, fun environment develops their perseverance, work ethic, kinesthetic intelligence (knowing how to move one's body), and coordination. To ensure your child’s successful introduction to a sport, consider his or her size, age, ability level, personality, and interests. Here are overviews of several choices to offer children, including some of the skills needed and what each has to offer.

Baseball/Softball

Known as America’s favorite pastime, these sports build hand-eye coordination, teamwork skills, and sportsmanship. Additionally, they offer a variety of positions that use specific skills, like pitching and fielding. These sports are great for children who are patient enough to appreciate the slower pace of the game and for those who are team oriented. Kids can start playing baseball and softball as young as 5 years old with tee ball, and then move up in the leagues all the way through age 18. Many high schools offer varsity and junior varsity teams as well.

Martial Arts

Martial arts offer kids an excellent opportunity to learn athletic skills, self-defense, values, respect for himself or herself and others, and self-discipline. They also learn when and where kicking, punching, and wrestling are appropriate—and when and where they are not. There are a variety of styles to choose from including Karate and Tae Kwon Do, which focus on learning to defend oneself against an attacker using kicks, punches, and blocks in a standing position. They focus on concentration and developing flexibility and strength. Grappling includes styles like wrestling and Jiu Jitsu, where the focus is defense and offense from the ground. A benefit to wrestling is that it can be continued throughout high school in a junior varsity/varsity capacity. These sports are great for kids who are eager to learn and want to practice with a team but prefer to compete individually.

Soccer

This is an easy sport to start learning and playing at a young age. Although soccer is simple and fun for youngsters at first, there is a lot of room for growth in terms of strategy and advanced skills as they grow older and develop more skill. Start your kids on recreational teams as young as 4 or 5 years old. Soccer teaches coordination, teamwork, endurance, and agility. It is an excellent choice for high-energy kids who enjoy team play. Again, there are a number of positions to try out, both offensive and defensive, until you find the right fit for your little athlete. There are unisex and co-ed teams, and many leagues offer games through the spring, summer, and fall, with indoor leagues in the winter. As your child’s skills improve, consider travel leagues and summer camps that are more competitive as well as varsity and junior varsity teams at most high schools.

Swimming

Swimming is not only an excellent form of exercise but also an essential life-saving skill. Kids can begin taking lessons as young as 4 years old at most Y’s. Once children can swim the length of the pool unassisted, swim teams may begin accepting them. This can progress into competitive swimming where kids have the option of competing on a team in both relay and individual events. Swimming teaches coordination and motor skills, and provides both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. The team environment teaches kids to work together for a common goal, and opportunities to compete in relays and individual events teach sportsmanship. Aside from competition, through recreational teams and school teams (high school, university), swimming can segue nicely into a job once your child hits his or her teens. With swimming skills and a CPR course, kids can get a summer job as a lifeguard at local pools or beaches. This sport is best for those who are self-motivated and love the water. And if an indoor pool is available, swimmers can do their thing year-round.

What sports do your kids play, and what do you think they learn from them?

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