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Is Your Child Ready For Organized Sports?

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. 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.


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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