Sports, and Exercise
no question that exercise is good for growing children, and
the earlier they start, the better. But is it advisable for
6-year-olds to play team football? Should you encourage an uncoordinated
child to take up gymnastics? It's important to remember that
it's OK if children are not interested in certain sports as
long as they pursue activities that help them stay physically
fit. The key is finding activities they like to do, that are
fun, and that get them moving! And don't overlook the other
benefits your child will be receiving from exercise - including
learning to share, making friends, and developing self-esteem.
Parents Can Do
Try to concentrate on your child's successes, rather than her
failures. Your child may not be able to swim well, but she may
be a terrific skater and basketball player. Praise what she
does well and provide plenty of opportunities for her to succeed.
Introduce new activities, especially if she shows interest.
Try to attend your child's games and meets as much as possible
to encourage her and provide support. Whenever possible, parents
should participate in fitness activities with their children.
When a family rides bicycles or snowboards together, parents
act as role models and everyone has fun and gets some exercise.
What could be better?
and Exercise for Ages 6 and Under
If a child doesn't want to do something or doesn't seem ready,
it's best not to push too hard. Just because the child next
door can ride his two-wheeler at age 5 doesn't mean your child
should be able to do it, too. Children develop skills at different
ages. Try not to draw too many comparisons between your child
and other children. As long as she is developmentally on target,
let her master skills at her own pace.
shy away from sports because they're afraid of failure or easily
frustrated. Again, you must look to your child for cues and
you should provide encouragement, but never force an activity
on an unwilling child. Wait 6 months and try again when the
child feels more comfortable!
Suggested Activities for Ages 6 and Under
and Exercise for Ages 7 and Up
Children should be at least age 7 or 8 before they engage in
organized team sports, most experts say. It depends on the child,
but many team sports are contact sports, and most children under
age 7 aren't ready for rough contact. For them, the risk of
physical injury is not the only concern. There's also the issue
of winning and losing. Emotionally, losing at sports can be
very hard, even for adults. At this age, it's more important
that children have the chance to play than worry about who won
and who lost.
agree that between the ages of 8 and 12 is the time to introduce
competitive sports. Competitive sports include baseball or softball,
soccer, field and ice hockey, tennis, swimming, gymnastics,
basketball, and football, among others. Parents should be well
informed about their child's chosen sport(s), including the
proper protective gear to be worn and injury prevention techniques.
Coaches can provide most of this information, but it's still
a good idea for parents to know, so they can help kids perform
well without getting hurt.
free weights or weight training equipment is not recommended
unless a child is following an age-appropriate program and is
supervised by a qualified professional.
running should be postponed until adolescence. Even then, track
programs for middle school-age children (sixth to eighth grade)
usually limit running distances to 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile at a
time. Age appropriateness for these activities varies depending
upon the duration and intensity of the activity. It is always
recommended that you consult your child's doctor for specific
information on Kids and Fitness