Introducing your child to sports is a healthy and sociable way to keep them active and cut their risk of obesity. When you have smaller children, in the 1- to 3-year-old range, most traditional sports aren’t really an option -- but you can still peak their interest. Running, swinging or even tumbling are perfect starting points for the toddler age group.
Some studios have classes for 2 year olds and, while this can be fun, when it comes to following the instructions and proper participation, they may be too young to grasp what's going on. About 3 years old is a good time to start introducing gymnastics. Once they hit 4 years old, they'll be more attentive and able to perform the moves required.
Gymnastics builds and improves your child's physical skills in such a way that it actually enhances their performance in other sports. Strength, agility, balance, and flexibility are some things you can expect your child to gain from taking gymnastics. You'll also see developments in their confidence and coordination.
If you're looking for a low impact sport, competitive swimming is the way to go.
According to HumanKinetics.com expert, Janet Evans, the author of "Total Swimming," swimming can be considered an all-in-one fitness package and, "When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility."
Your child should start with traditional swimming lessons. Understanding swimming basics and education in water safety is crucial. Upon completion of their lessons, they may still need a bridge program to transition from taking lessons to joining a team. These are called "pre-teams" or "stroke schools", they prepare children for team competitions by teaching them competitive strokes and running drills.
Soccer offers your child a way to get into top physical shape. During a typical game, the average player runs around seven miles as they try to score goals; the cardiovascular benefits are exceptional. The type of running involved is a combination of both sprinting and endurance running, giving this sport anaerobic and aerobic capabilities. Your child will benefit from an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat as well as improved coordination from using their feet to travel across the field with the soccer ball. This method of ball play is more than just a great workout for your child, it's also an excellent way to build a foundation for teamwork as well.
Baseball & Softball
These are also team-oriented sports. The way baseball and softball are played are similar, although there are some differences, such as bat size, pitching techniques, the number of innings and baselines. The basic physical requirements and the benefits present in both sports are the same. By participating in either game, your child will gain an increase in strength, endurance, mobility skills and improve their hand-eye coordination.
There are numerous physical benefits to playing tennis. Aerobic fitness, fat burning, cardiovascular health, and muscle strengthening are all perks your child will experience. Since frequent bursts of jumping, sprinting and lunging, followed by a recovery period are common, tennis can also be considered an anaerobic workout. This allows the muscles to use oxygen efficiently. Tennis will also improve their agility and balance because of all the direction changes the body is forced to make in mere seconds to hit the ball. Your child's mental focus will also be sharpened. Tennis involves swift decision-making and concentration.
Basketball is a popular and competitive way to keep your kids active. It can be played indoors or outdoors, on teams or at home in the driveway. Concentration, discipline, balance and endurance will continue to improve as your child continues to participate. This sport burns a great deal of calories and will strengthen your child's muscles. Like in tennis, focus and split-second decision making is common. Jumping, lunging and frequent changes in the body's direction are necessary to keep the ball from opponents and make baskets. Basketball is a fun, but intense workout.
- CNN:Choices For All Ages
- Human Kinetic.com: Why Choose Swimming
- USA Gym.org: Why Gymnastics is Great For Kids
- USA Swimming.Org: Swimming 101
- U.S. National Soccer Players: Youth Soccer: The Benefits For Your Child
- iSport.com: The Difference Between Baseball & Softball Read more at: http://softball.isport.com/softball-guides/the-difference-between-baseball-softball
- National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability: Softball
- United States Professional Tennis Association: 34 Reasons to Play Tennis
- 10 and Under Tennis.com: Healthy Kids Through Tennis
- Better Health Channel: Basketball- Health Benefits