According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the past 30 years. In fact, the obesity epidemic has gotten so bad that one out of three children in the U.S. were overweight or obese as of 2010. Obesity does not have to be a lifelong sentence for poor health, however. Playing active sports is a great way for children to stay healthy, make friends and have fun.
The Importance of Sports
In today’s age of fast food, video games and cell phone use, sports are more important than ever. According to Livestrong.com, sports offer children a number of benefits in addition to physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
- Sports help children make friends and learn social skills as they work with their teammates to achieve a common goal. Children communicate on and off the field about a wide-range of topics not limited to the sport at hand. They learn to take turns and encourage others to do their best.
- Sports also help children develop healthy self-esteem as they work hard to reach goals they set for themselves. Sports allow children to take pride in their hard work and measurable accomplishments. They also give children a sense of security and belonging within the team family.
- Though sports and academics can often compete for a child’s time, playing sports actually helps a child’s academic performance. The skills learned on the field, including perseverance, concentration and goal-setting, can help children succeed in the classroom as well.
Choosing the Right Sport
- Choosing the right sport for a child is easy when the child is already interested in a particular one. If the child does not seem interested, however, it may be up to the parents to come up with a few good options. Here are a few guidelines to help parents find the best sports for their children:
- Take the child’s interests and abilities into account: Children who love playing in the water may want to sign up for swimming. Children who have lots of energy and who are always running around may love an active game like soccer. Children with an interest in superheroes and fighting bad guys may be interested in martial arts.
- Take the child’s age into account: Smaller children need easier sports and activities, while older children need activities that will give them more of a challenge. Toddlers can benefit most from unstructured playtime spent running, throwing and jumping. Children between ages six and nine are usually ready for fun team sports such as T-ball, tennis or gymnastics. Adolescents are best suited for sports with complex strategies such as football, basketball and volleyball.
- Give children a chance to try out a sport before committing to it: Children may not know which sports they will enjoy before they are given a chance to try them out. Some sports, such as tennis, swimming and running, can be practiced together as a family. Other sports, such as gymnastics, football and martial arts, can be experienced through an inexpensive seasonal program offered by a local parks and recreation department.
- Consider the commitment: Each sport has varying levels of commitment in terms of money and time. A family already pressed for time may not want to sign their children up for a traveling hockey league or a soccer team that practices several times a week. Also, some sports are more expensive than others. Sports such as hockey and baseball may require players to buy a lot of their own equipment, which can be a pricey investment if the child does not end up sticking with the sport.
How to Help Children Succeed in Sports
Once children find a sport they are interested in, there are many ways parents can help their children succeed in their particular sport of choice. Parents should make sure children have all the necessary equipment for the sport and that the equipment is in good shape. They should make sure they bring their children to all practices and games on time so the children will have a chance to play and improve their skills. Parents should also make sure their children eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep so they will be healthy and alert enough to play.
With all of the benefits sports offer to children, it should come as no surprise that so many families stay busy involving their children in so many different sports activities. Finding and playing the right sport is a great way for children to stay happy, healthy and active.