Some Advice from Experts on How to Decide
Enrolling children in organized sports as young as 3 or 4 years of
age has become quite common in today's increasingly health conscious society.
Parents want to foster health and fitness in a way that's fun for their children,
while teaching sportsmanship and cooperation at the same time. However, if
you have ever watched a group of 4-year-old children playing soccer or teeball
and noticed a player daydreaming in the outfield or paying more attention
to his shoelaces than the game, you may wonder what is the appropriate age
for a child to participate in organized sports activities.
According to Dawn Buckingham, Director of Education for Children's
World Learning Centers, a leading provider of early care and education programs
in the United States, there are many factors to consider before enrolling
a child in sports. "Every child is unique," says Buckingham. "Because children
vary widely in their personalities and emotional development, what one 4-year-old
child may be able to handle, another one may not quite be ready to pursue.
It's important that parents take into consideration their own child's personality
and development, and not feel pressured by what other children who are the
same age are doing."
Parents should consider whether their child has the capacity to understand
rules and focus on the game for more than a few minutes. As children grow
older, they become more capable of working together as a team and have more
maturity to help deal with defeat. Even at this age, the focus should
be on helping the young child strengthen socialization, cooperation and teamwork
skills. Learning to listen to directions and learning the rules of games
and sports activities are two goals that can be accomplished. For the young
child, the emphasis should not be on competition.
Many pediatricians also have concerns about sports injuries to children.
Be sure to check with your child's doctor to discuss the specific risks of
various sports and whether your child is physically ready to play.
It also is a good idea to think about the purpose behind the child
becoming involved in sports. If the goal is to promote teamwork and cooperation,
there may be other ways to foster those attitudes. At home, have the child
assist in tasks that require more than one person such as folding sheets
or using a dustpan. When the job is done, be sure to say, "Great teamwork,
guys!" or "See how fast the job gets done when everyone helps!" Statements
such as these reinforce the value of working together and lay the foundation
for positive attitudes for future sports involvement.
Above all, the experience of participating in sports should be fun
for a child. Getting children involved in sports before they're emotionally
and physically ready can become a source of frustration instead of the positive
learning experience parents are trying to encourage.
Kidsgrowth.com wishes to thank
Children's World Learning for
allowing us to include the above article on our site. Children's World
Learning Center is the second largest provider of early care and education
in the U. S., operating 575 community-based learning centers in 24
states. Recognized for its developmentally appropriate curriculum and
commitment to national accreditation, Children's World encourages social,
cognitive and physical development, while allowing children to learn
at their own pace. The organization has been operating early childhood and
elementary educational programs for more than 30 years.