There are many benefits of physical activity for young kids, and kids of all ages. Physical activity is a great way to develop fine motor skills, as well as social skills. Fine motor skills are a prerequisite for learning and mastering the movements and coordination required in sports. When kids start these activities early (at a young age), they are better able to acquire the skills necessary to achieve higher levels of success. More importantly, when you encourage your children to start these activities when they are young, they still have that fearless mindset that allows them to be able to explore these activities without the fear of getting hurt. Sure, as their parents, we have to worry for them and try to make sure that they are learning in a safe environment, but their fearlessness is an asset.
Between the ages of 3 and 6 is a good time to start paying attention to what sports and activities your child is interested in. During this period, if a child’s interest in a certain sport or activity goes unnoticed, they may have a difficult time achieving higher levels of these skills later in life. (This differs with every child, of course.) At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find activities that your child enjoys doing. If they aren’t having fun, then it isn’t worth it. I think we all just want our kids to be happy.
Here are 10 ways boys and girls of all ages benefit from gymnastics from the USA Gymnastics’ Guide:
1. It’s fun
2. Develops strength
3. Develops flexibility
4. Develops coordination
5. Teaches listening skills
6. Gains self-esteem and confidence
7. Provides social interaction with peers
8. Teaches goal setting
9. Develops cognitive abilities to help in the classroom
10. Develops skills to enhance other sports
Gymnastics will also help enhance a child’s social skills. During a gymnastics class, children will able to observe, practice waiting their turn, follow directions, respect each other and listen. All of these skills are very important for a child to practice to enhance their social skills. As a child achieves new skills and is encouraged by their coach/instructor, they increase their self esteem, gain a sense of control over their body’s movements which then increases healthy self empowerment and body awareness. These are valuable skills for young children to learn.
The minikickers soccer class my daughter is signed up for advertises that they aim to use soccer as a medium for children to develop their balance, agility, coordination, color recognition and numerical learning, along with increasing their confidence and social skills. These are just some of the benefits of being involved in sport activities. Each sport offers unique skills and benefits to children, along with keeping them active and healthy.
Take the time to ask your children what interests them. If they say they would like to take a karate class, look into signing them up for one at your local karate studio or through your local park district. As parents, we sometimes want to pick and choose what activities we’d like our kids to be interested in, but it’s important to get their input and let them pursue their own interests. Let your child find their own passion for sports and other activities. There are a wide range of activities young children can get involved in. Just do the research for activities in your area. Most areas seem to offer dance, softball, gymnastics, soccer, karate, crafts, basketball, swimming, tennis, etc. Some areas may even offer things like horse riding lessons, junior farmer camps, nature classes, and baking/cooking classes. When kids are really young, usually under 3-years-old, most classes will require parent participation. This a great way to bond with your child.
Some tips for exposing younger children to sports and other activities:
- Provide a wide variety of experiences that improve object handling skills and promote hand-eye coordination.
- Focus on gross motor skills at first, such as standing, balancing, walking, running, etc. Remember that skill learning takes time, practice and repetition. Choose some activities that are directed, and others undirected. An undirected activity would be one where a child is free to use their on imagination or do free play without being directed to do it a certain way.
- Focus on activities that your child shows a natural interest in, and encourage them.
- Provide plenty of positive reinforcement to encourage self esteem to reduce the fear of failure in physical activities.
- Check with your local parks and recreation district to find affordable sports and activities for your child. You can also look into local studios, companies, and gyms that specialize in a certain sport or activity, such as a dance studio or your local aqua center.
- Make sure the activity you choose is taught by coaches/instructors that are good with kids and have a good reputation in your community. Above all, we want our kids to have positive experiences.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any activities my daughter has been involved in. I would be happy to share our experiences with you. Over the past year, we have attended storytimes at local libraries, taken a dance class, and she is currently taking gymnastics and soccer. I strongly believe that if your child doesn’t enjoy a particular activity, don’t force them to do it. These experiences should be about having fun while doing something new.
Kayla at the library after storytime.
This was taken last fall during her dance class.