With so many sources of entertainment for children these days, it can often be tricky to encourage your child to get off the couch and get some exercise. The benefits of playing sports for children are numerous, but how can you encourage them to play?
Reasons Sports Are Good for Kids
Playing sports has many different benefits for people of all ages, but especially for growing kids. The physical benefits are most obvious—most sports are very good exercise. Sports like running, soccer, and baseball are great cardiovascular exercises (any exercise that increases the heart rate). Many sports, for example, swimming, are also very effective for muscle development.
As well as the physical benefits of playing sports, there are also numerous emotional and psychological benefits. Exercise is proven to increase the mood and help stave off depression (a condition that increasing numbers of even young children are reported to be suffering from). Playing sports can also be great for a child’s personal development. For example, achieving a new best time on the running track can provide a sense of accomplishment. Team sports are also particularly good at teaching and nurturing social skills. As well as your child possibly making new friends through playing sports, learning how to work as part of a team is an essential life skill that they will need to use all the way through adulthood.
If you enjoy playing sports yourself, involving your child can be a great way of bonding.
How You Can Encourage Sports
Despite the many benefits of playing sports, many children are not naturally drawn to sports. This is not necessarily a problem—everyone is different and has different interests. However, it is important for your child’s development that they carry out some form of exercise. If your child dislikes a particular sport, why not suggest a different one? It is okay to dislike particular sports!
If your child does not show a natural interest in sports, it may be because they have not been inspired to. Showing them sports games on TV or taking them to watch local sports games can sometimes provide that spark of inspiration.
Sometimes your child may be put off sports by negative experiences playing them. For example, if they have been bullied at school while playing sports, struggled to play them to the same level as their classmates, or picked last for team games. If any of these is the case, make sure that they do not feel guilty or shameful. Make sure they know that they do not have to be the best at sports—they can play for their own enjoyment. Offering to play sports with them yourself in a comfortable environment (for example, playing catch with them in the backyard) can be particularly effective.
It may be the case that sports at your child’s specific school are taught badly or otherwise not enjoyable. In this case, you may consider moving your child to a school with renowned sports facilities and teaching.
As every child is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Experiment with different methods until you find one that works. Whatever you do, it is important not to force your child to play sports or berate them for not enjoying sports, as this will only cause further resentment and possibly the lifelong association between sports and conflict.