Introducing Your Child to Sports
by Stef Daniel
It is amazing how many pee wee football, cheerleading, and t-ball leagues for toddlers are popping up all over the world. These leagues are designed to introduce your toddler to sports, as well as give them some of the preliminary skills they will need to be successful. There are many parents on the fence in regard to deciding whether or not their toddler is ready for a sports program. Ultimately, only you can make that choice, but keep in mind that leading your child to healthy and useful activities at a young age may spark enough interest and curiosity to keep them going in the activity for a long time.
When you look at your 3 year old, it is obvious that they probably do not have the large motor skills to consistently make a basket, hit a ball, score a goal, or become an All-Star MVP. But what they do have is the desire to have fun. Some toddlers may not be as social as others and will feel intimidated by playing a team sport at this age. Others may love to play with kids their age and feel totally at home running on a field with a bunch of other toddlers. For this reason, it is important to choose wisely. There is no need to push a toddler into sports if they are not interested.
For those kids that do want to be involved in sports, keep a very open mind. The object of any sports function for this age group is to help them develop key social skills like sharing, taking turns, and sportsmanship. They are also learning to follow directions, although you will find that most may, at any moment, run the wrong way or score a goal for the opposite team. No matter how they perform, as long as they are enjoying themselves and feeling like a small part of a larger whole, the sports endeavor is successful.
So which sport to choose? One of the best toddler sports is soccer. Toddlers are able to expel a lot of energy running and since they are constantly moving, they rarely get bored. In t-ball, for instance, there is a lot of waiting and unless a ball is hit, the players can remain stagnant, which is not good for a toddler. Basketball and football also require a lot of movement and shyer kids can have the opportunity to become more assertive as they vie for the ball. Cheerleading and gymnastics are also excellent choices for toddlers. Both of these sports allow them to be active, expel energy, develop control of motor skills, and help them feel like they are part of a team.
Another way to choose a sport is to use your toddler as a guide. Some are naturally excited to try one sport over another. At this age, no sport should be competitive. If there is a competitive nature amongst the parents involved, you may want to choose another league or area to play in. During the toddler years, the essence of sport is learning new skills, enhancing communication, promoting self-confidence, and developing of social skills. Most important though, is the sport should be fun and participation for the toddler should be voluntary. If they are tired one night and don’t want to go, there is no need to force them.
When choosing a sport for your toddler, keep in mind that their interests will change drastically over the years. It may be a good idea to expose them to all sorts of sporting venues and eventually they will probably choose one they like the best. As your toddler takes the field or shakes their first pom-pom, be sure to have the camera and recorder ready, as you are certain to have some hilarious outtakes and stories they will love to hear about when they are older.
What do you think? Introducing Your Child to Sports