Your 5-year-old neighbor is playing soccer and now your son, just one year younger, is begging you to sign him up too. You worry he’s too young. What should you do?
When determining which sport is best suited for your children, look at their levels of interest, attention spans, skill levels and maturity. If a child has not yet mastered basic motor skills, asking him to “catch the ball” or “run faster” could be damaging to his or her self-esteem. However, by choosing the right athletic activity for your child’s level of development, you can help increase his or her confidence.
“Recreational activities, such as soccer and tee-ball, are good for children ages 3 to 6 years old,” says Russell Hoffmann, PhD, child psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and vice president of learning and development at BJC HealthCare. “These activities teach children basic skills and teamwork and allow them to have fun.”
Competitive events such as gymnastics and track are geared more toward outcomes, such as keeping track of wins and losses and personal performance. Typically, older children do better with handling the critical feedback involved with these sports.
“One of the best gifts a parent can give a child is the love for an activity or sport he or she may have for the rest of his or her lifetime,” says Dr. Hoffmann. “Parents need to consider the long-term benefits and focus on positive support. With proper encouragement your children will grow to love sports, or decide they would rather pursue other interests.”