“Loving a sport will teach children vital life skills — discipline, motivation, commitment, and cooperation.”

Organised sports can help children grow in many ways, including harnessing their ability to work in a team and improving their motor skills. These days toddlers can sign up for activities ranging from yoga to soccer. But before signing up a small child for sports, parents should consider their personality and developmental level to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

When is the best time to introduce sports?

If your child is emotionally and physically ready, there is no reason to put it off. But it’s also important to pick the right sport or you may risk putting them off sport for good.
Children only start developing the appropriate motor skills and attention span at age 6 or 7, but toddlers can still take part and learn to have fun and be active without the pressure of competing. So look for a sports club or league that emphasises fun, teamwork and basic skills. It will also help pre-schoolers develop social skills and hone their attention span.

Managing your Expectations

Be realistic and honest about your expectations and commitments. If the club expects more hands-on involvement from the parents (e.g. coaching, food preparations, etc), you have to be prepared to handle that commitment. If you need a club that can take your child off your hands entirely for few hours on the weekend, then so be it. Don’t burn yourself out or the experience will be a dreaded one for both yourself and your child.

Choosing a sport

Toddlers are hard-wired to learn through play. They don’t possess the motor skills to consistently score a goal, make a basket or complete laps. They have yet to develop the appreciation for the benefits of building a skill or the idea of being talented at something. Make sure the sport activity that you choose for your toddler allows them to burn off their energy and develop athletic skills without making it seem like a chore. The goal is for children to learn from the experience while having fun to create a positive introduction to sports.

Some toddlers may not be as social and will feel intimidated playing in a team. While some are comfortable running on a field with a bunch of strangers. There are also those that have no interest in sports at all. Hence why, it is important to choose a sport accordingly to your child’s personality and to always keep an open mind. Don’t be pushy if they are not interested. It may be that it’s not the right time yet.

Your Main Goal

No matter how they perform, as long as they are enjoying themselves and feeling like a small part of a larger whole, the sports endeavour is successful.

Don’t forget your main goal for letting your child play sports in the first place: for social, emotional and physical development. Don’t put emphasis on winnings or rankings as they may get stressed out and fear letting you down. Instead, show interest in their overall experience and not how they performed.

Let your Child Have a Say

So your child have tried out a few sports and probably has his own preference by now. Let him decide which sport he enjoys the most (not necessarily good at). That way, he will commit to the sports out of passion and motivation, rather than forced obligation.

Avoid Burnout

With school, weeknight practices and weekend games, it’s easy to wear your child out if you don’t take preventive measures. Look out for these signs of burnout in your child.

  1. They stop talking about the sport.
  2. They make excuses to skip practice or games.
  3. They show no excitement or enthusiasm especially before a competition.
  4. They seem tired all the time and not sleeping well.
  5. They show signs of depression – loss of appetite, nausea, and headaches.
  6. They avoid any team activities out of the field.

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