Getting the little ones excited about sports is something that every parent wants to successfully achieve. They don’t need to be future Olympians, but a healthy interest in sports is beneficial for the development of social and physical health at a young age. But how can we encourage children to participate in sports without becoming overbearing parents, or forceful? The answer – which we’ll get into in this blog – is based on gradual exposure. Most children are reluctant to participate in sports for 2 reasons: sensory overload and fear. Tackling these two pain points and introducing children to activities that suit their abilities, in a low-stakes environment, is essential to getting children interested in sports.
Starting your children in sport early is one of the easíest ways to ensure they continue this activity for life. Research shows that children shouldn’t participate in competitive sports until past the age of eight, as your child will struggle with the pressures of winning and losing before this. Sports like soccer, dance, gymnastics, and t-ball for children in this pre-eight age group will look very different to the gameplay you’re familiar with. They are designed to be focused on simple drills and playing around rather than competition, which is great for engaging children without fear.
Sports can be an intimidating prospect for many children, especially if they’ve had little exposure to physical activity before. Fear of failure, embarrassment, or injury can all contribute to a child’s apprehension about sports. To make sports less scary for children, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment. Encourage your child to try different activities and don’t put too much pressure on them to excel right away. Celebrate small victories and acknowledge their effort, rather than just focusing on winning or losing. It’s also important to provide the right equipment and ensure that your child is physically prepared for the activity they’re participating in. By taking steps to reduce the fear factor, you can help your child feel more confident and empowered to try new sports and activities.
Additionally, choosing between individual and team sports can play a big role. Some children may be more drawn to individual sports, where they can set their own goals and work independently towards achieving them. Others may enjoy the camaraderie and social aspect of team sports, where they can work with others towards a common goal. To help your child choose between individual and team sports, consider their personality, interests, and strengths. If your child is more introverted or independent, an individual sport like swimming or gymnastics may be a good fit. On the other hand, if your child thrives on social interaction and collaboration, a team sport like soccer or basketball may be more appealing. If your child is already a little anxious about participating or looking silly, an individual sport can be the next thing to try.
If your child is already reluctant to participate in sports, it’s important to understand their reasons and feelings towards it. Pushing them too hard may make them even more resistant to trying new activities. Instead, try to create a positive and encouraging environment. One way to do this is by offering incentives that can motivate them to participate, such as a special treat or outing if they attend a certain number of practices or games. You can also try to find a sport or activity that matches your child’s interests or personality, such as dance or martial arts for a child who enjoys creative movement, or swimming for a child who loves being in the water. Finally, lead by example and be active yourself. Showing enthusiasm for physical activity can inspire your child to do the same. Remember that the most important thing is to create a positive experience and help your child build a love for physical activity.
Ultimately, engaging children in sports can have numerous benefits for their physical and mental development, as well as provide opportunities for socialisation and character-building. To encourage children to participate, it’s important to make it fun and age-appropriate, while also being supportive and encouraging. Whether it’s through team sports like soccer or softball, individual activities like dance or martial arts, or low-impact options like swimming, there are plenty of sports and activities that can be enjoyed by children of all ages and skill levels. By focusing on positivity and creating a love for physical activity, parents and caregivers can help their children develop lifelong habits that promote health, confidence, and a strong sense of self.
If you are interested to learn about how we include sports in our program, get in touch with one of our centres now to book a tour and speak to one of our educators.