Finding The Right Sport For Your Child

December 22, 2014

Organized sports are a great way to teach children to love being active, but finding the right sport is hard for many parents. While some kids seem to excel at a particular sport early in life, others find that poor coordination and physical demands make athletics more challenging. As you encourage your child to get active and love sports, here are some tips for choosing the best sport.

Consider Your Child's Development Level One important consideration to make when choosing a sport for your child is your child's developmental level and age. According to Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, who blogs at MomsTeam, a blog for sports parents, choosing a sport also requires a look at the child's age and development. For younger players, the focus should be "skill building and development of the entire body," rather than specialization, she says. Dr. O'Keeffe also indicates that the length of the program is important based on the child's development. "Programs need to be structured to account for a child's development," she says. "Preschoolers can really only focus for 15 minutes before they need free play. Older kids can focus for longer periods of time. A good program will have a balance of structured and unstructured activities for all kids since kids of all ages need some unstructured play too." Consider the Child's Sports Style Many parents are surprised to learn that their children, even at a very young age, have a specific sports style. Dr. Marianne Engle from the NYU Child Study Center reminds parents that this must be considered in order to find a sport that fits the child's comfort level. For instance, some children are more cautious and fearful. "These kids often do very well in individual sports where they can improve at their own speed," she says. A sport like swimming, golf, tennis or gymnastics would be good for this child. Others are more assertive and can benefit from learning to play on a team. Hockey, basketball and baseball are all good fits for the more assertive child. Consider the Child's Physical Ability If your child has poor gross motor skills, a sport like tennis or basketball may serve to be more frustrating than fun. Dr. Nicole B. Sperekas of Parenthood.com reminds parents to keep physical abilities in mind. "Sports can generally be divided among gross and fine motor skills," she says. "Gross motor sports, such as volleyball, tennis, basketball and running, require good coordination of the arm and leg muscles. Fine motor sports, including archery, billiards and target shooting, require good eye/hand coordination and dexterity of the hand muscles." That's not to say children can't benefit from being pushed outside of their comfort zones, but sports should be enjoyable. Try to find something that works with your child's abilities while helping her gain new skills at the same time. The key, then, is to find a sport that will teach and challenge the child, without frustrating her. It can take some trial and error, but once you find a good fit, you’ll know it, and your child will learn to love being active.

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