These days, riding the swing, playing tag, building sand castles, or playing in the sandbox are not considered as forms of exercises, even by toddler standards. When you visit basketball or football clinics, you see kids that can barely walk learn how to kick or shoot a ball.
As a parent, it’s understandable that you want your little ones to start playing kids sports at an early age to improve their physical health. In addition, it may help them develop the skills to become young champions in their field. However, don’t you think that it’s a bit young for your kid to start training for the NBA or FIFA? Is it really important that your tot learns how to score a goal, even before learning how to stand properly?
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Kids and sports: How Young is Too Young?
Ideally, kids age 2 to 5 should not be allowed to play organized sports because they are still starting to learn the most basic motor skills.
Their balance and speed are quite limited, so no matter how many foot drills the coach asks them to do, they won’t be able to master it. Their ability to track movements is also not yet mature — that’s why it is hard for them to catch a flying object.
When can my kid start joining organized sports?
The ideal age for kids to start playing organized sports is around 6 to 9 years old. During this stage, a child’s motor skills have greatly improved and they can apply them for easy-level organized sports. However, they still need to work on their hand-eye coordination so it might be difficult for them to grasp basic athletic ideas such as strategies or even teamwork.
Some of the sports that they can participate in are martial arts, skiing, badminton, soccer, or baseball. Volleyball or basketball may be too difficult for them because it requires more complex motor skills, quick reflexes, and detailed strategies.
If you sign your child up for any sports activities, remember to keep the rules flexible so they will be encouraged to participate. Their sports equipment should be modified accordingly (e.g. smaller balls and rackets, etc.). Lastly, don’t focus too much on winning. The goal of these physical activities is to improve their motor skills so they can take on more complex sports.
So, are toddlers not allowed to exercise?
Not exactly. Although a toddler’s motor skills are not properly developed, they can still benefit from doing some easy physical activities. Swimming, running, and simple catching games can help improve their motor skills. All of these can be considered as active play wherein they do not have to think about teamwork or complex strategies.
Keep in mind that toddlers have short attention spans and learn best when they have the freedom to explore their surroundings and experiment with their toys. When doing exercises with your tots, do not give too many instructions.
Since toddlers are visual learners, it is best if you just show them how it is done. Also, don’t make them compete yet because they still don’t understand that concept. Your goals are to let them have fun and improve their physical health.
The importance of playing sports at a young age
Aside from free play, kids should indulge in sports while they are young. Not only does it help them stay in shape, but sports can also develop their interpersonal skills.
When they join a team, they have to interact with people from different age groups and walks of life. Some teammates will be good, but some will also be annoying. Joining a team helps them understand more about human behavior and make them more prepared when they interact with their colleagues in the future.
Competing and training can be stressful for kids, but it’s also a good thing because it teaches them to be calm under pressure. Once they get used to it, they can handle bigger challenges.
Sports can also help the kids find their self-esteem and worth. Everyone knows how good it feels to win in a competition after all the hard work you’ve done.
Sports can be a great way to channel your kid’s energy into something productive. It helps them become fit and builds their personality. Parents should find the right activity for their kid. For toddlers, it is best if you let them do simple activities first before letting them join any sports clubs.