When and Why Should Kids Start Playing Sports?

Featured image of kid playing basketball

It is not a secret that every child is a story of their own. Individuals develop at different rates, though there are certain common denominators that can render developmental matters slightly easier to understand. In other words, you can tentatively pinpoint the age when your child is ready for sports.

On the other hand, you should consider the breadth of what falls under the umbrella term – sport. Physical activity is without a doubt beneficial for a child of any age, and once you start bringing rules into the conduct, you might be dealing with something that can be defined as ‘sport’.

No matter how you cut it, children should not be exposed to any sort of activity that they don’t enjoy and for which they are not ready: in terms of mental, physical and social skills.  However, kids playing sports can denote different things depending on age…

Before 6

The attention span, motor skills, and balance can present the stumbling blocks for some girls and boys up to age 6. While this means that organized, group sports might not be their cup of tea just yet, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be encouraged to participate in physical activities that can ‘mature’ into crucial skills for more complicated athletic concepts. Here’s an example:

While your child is not suited for the nuances of football or soccer, you can enroll them in clubs that will teach them how to swim right and run properly. You’ll notice that, as soon as they learn how to toddle, kids will find the behavior of ‘animated’ adults captivating, and try to mimic it. This is an excellent time-window to teach them proper throwing and catching.

All in all, this is an age when physical and sport-like activities can be encouraged through active play.

Ages 6 to 9

Between ages 5 and 6, children reach a new developmental stage and become naturally equipped to tackle more complicated physical requirements.

This is a good age to enroll them in an organized sports club – football, basketball, martial arts, tennis, etc. – and most parents typically do this. In other words, this is generally accepted around the world as an age for ‘first steps’ into serious athletic commitment.

As it has been implied in the introduction, there are many disciplines to pick and choose from, so don’t forget to give your child some options that are not initially apparent – such as gymnastics, skiing, volleyball, hockey, golf, etc.

While some of these sports might appear to be too complicated for your six-year-old girls and boys, keep in mind that they usually have ‘inaugural’ levels of difficulty, adapted for a younger age.

At the end of the day, this is the perfect age to teach your child that they should take up sports to hone their skills – both physical and mental – and not fixate on winning.

Ages 9 to 12

A lot happens to boys and girls who turn 9. By this time, most children have reached pique condition for the majority of sports. Their hand-eye coordination developed fully and they could perform complex motor skills in the blink of an eye. They also have a refined sense of teamwork and strategizing.

While playing for the goal remains an important aspect of any competitive sport, fun is still prioritized over winning. This is exacerbated by the fact that most kids would rather play longer and lose then shorter and win. Keep this in mind at all times. Too many parents teach their children to focus on nothing but victory, which can lead them to develop an unhealthy frame of mind.

Image of three boys playing soccer

The Benefits of Kids Playing Sports

It promotes healthy physical development

Too many children lead sedentary lifestyles. Convincing them to venture outside and participate in organized sports with friends can be a truly heroic feat, but you should never give up because it will help them build resilient bodies with natural muscle mass.

Better social skills

The digital realm has seeped into every aspect of our lives, and children tend to be most affected. Sports can counteract the detrimental effects of computer screens on social skills and help your children develop into well-adjusted individuals. Group sports can be particularly helpful.

Far-reaching mental stability

Can you envision your child as an angry, neurotic individual one day? Athletic activity can significantly reduce the chance of this ever occurring.

Involvement, collaboration, and patience are the key aspects in sport and they can be seen as ‘mental muscles’ your child develops during regular training. Participation in the sport will turn them into emotionally balanced and confident individuals. At the very least, the sport can become an outlet for a child to ‘vent out’ all of the growing pains.

This means that your child will become very adept at building stable relationships with peers and family members. They develop empathy. Furthermore, it instills the respect of authority, which is reflected in the rules of the game and embodied in the coach. 

It is a good ‘platform’ for your child to learn how to navigate the system of rules – which is a tool that can help them immensely one day in the workplace. Yes, sport can aid your child on the road to becoming a better person

Increased stamina and agility

Apart from stronger muscles and sturdier body, your child will also increase their stamina and agility. They will become able to endure long periods of physical and (consequently) mental stress.

Their body composition will change for the better and every inch of their anatomy will have access to ample oxygen through a developed network of blood vessels. They will be able to stretch more and be attuned to their physical capabilities better. This is an investment into a well-proportioned body in the future.

Image of cute girl with purple ball

While you shouldn’t force your child to partake in sports, you should keep in mind that the benefits are numerous. It can help your child develop social skills, motor functions, balanced character and, above all else, discover something that they truly enjoy.

However, the beginnings can be rocky, so enrolling your child into a sports club can be a tough tightrope to walk on. While they may protest in the beginning, you should encourage them to try anyway; even insist on a few weeks of outings before you relent.

There is a great chance your child will discover, at the very least, an aspect of athletic activity that they enjoy, which can cascade into a lasting positive impact.  

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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