Physical activity is vital to child development and a great way nannies and parents can keep children active is to involve them in sports. Children’s sports keep young bodies strong and also help growing minds. Children interact with the world through physical touch and play. They touch things with their hands and feel the exhilaration sensation of running. Sports enhance this learning. Principles like teamwork, friendship and fun naturally arise from sports, and they form neural connections that contribute heavily to a child’s emotional and intellectual growth.
Some children are natural athletes and gravitate towards a particular sport. Others need encouragement. No matter the age, there are sports that will benefit a child. Playing sports can provide a foundation for a lifetime of physical fitness and handling things like stress and social situations. To encourage continued lifetime activity, help your child find sports that they truly enjoy.
The initial step to getting your child interested and involved in sports is choosing the right one for their interests. Understanding your child’s likes and dislikes is key. With younger children, they may say they like something to try to please you, but their actions tell a different story. If you love swimming, your 3-year-old may say they like swimming, but be really reluctant to get in the pool. This may be a genuine dislike of getting wet or a fear of the unknown. Slowly try to make the child more comfortable around the water, but keep in mind that this may not be the sport for them.
Parents naturally want to introduce their kids to the sports they enjoy the most. As the child grows, pay attention to your child and make sure they are continuing to have fun. Unfortunately, not every child will gravitate to the sports their parents prefer. You must be ready to accept it and move onto another option.
Explore Different Sports
If the child doesn’t really show an interest in a specific sport, try out different options. Set up a back yard track and field event to see if they enjoy running, vaults or other events in the meet. Arrange small games of baseball, football, soccer or basketball at the neighborhood park to see if this sparks any interest. Have the child attend a demonstration gymnastic or karate event.
Once you have determined which sports interest your child, play with them. If they are interested in baseball, get them a mitt and toss the ball in the yard. Begin batting (with a tee for younger children). Help them learn the game and understand the rules by watching games on tv or attending in person and discussing the plays.
Once your child has expressed interest in a sport or sports, how can you keep them interested? While you want to provide healthy encouragement to your child and teach them about commitment, don’t overdo it. Watch for burnout. Alternate different sports in different seasons and stress that sports should be fun.
Lead by Example
You can lead by example. If possible, join a recreational team to model the behavior you desire. If not, maybe pick-up games are available in your area. Child form their concepts of normalcy by observing the adults around them. If they see you regularly participating in sports, they will assume that is the norm for everyone. Once the child is old enough to understand teamwork, register them in a local league. Use teamplay as an opportunity to teach the child about discipline and commitment.
Depending on the child’s sports interest, participate with them if you can. If your child shows an interest in karate, join a white belt class and learn the moves with them. If your child is into biking, get bikes for the entire family and have biking outings regularly. If your child chooses a team sport and you have the skill set, volunteer as a coach or umpire/referee. If you can’t participate in the sport itself, be a team parent and/or consistent fan.
If a child begins to think of sports as a chore, they will lose interest quickly. Keep the activity fun. You may see great potential in your child, but keep in mind that a very small percentage of children become professional athletes. Don’t apply too much pressure on your child, especially when they are young. If they enjoy the sport, they will more readily learn the skills and rules. Keep it light and keep your sense of humor. If the keeper falls on his rear trying for a ball – don’t bemoan the score, but joke “I liked the play where you tried to stop the ball while you were sitting down – maybe we can work on that move”.
Make Practice Fun
When practicing with your child, don’t make the session all about improving skills. Children, especially younger children, have shorter attention spans and will balk at prolonged skills practice. However, if your basketball player begins throwing the ball in the air and catching it instead of aiming for the basket – make a game of how high you can throw the ball and still catch it. Reinforce the idea that sports are something to look forward to and that the primary goal is to have fun.
Another way to keep a child interested is to invite his friends over so they can play together. If there isn’t a local neighborhood park with sports facilities, think about your home. Do you have a large yard for soccer or baseball? Can you put up a basketball hoop build a track with lanes and jumps? Be creative. When your house is a meeting place for your child and their friends, it makes playing sports that much more special and memorable.
Keep your attitude positive. Child want to please their parents and if they don’t play well, they may think they are a disappointment and lose interest. Make sure to stay upbeat – smile frequently and don’t let the mood turn dark. Don’t let children associate sports with being a disappointment to their parents or their coach. Make comments like: “it looks like you were having fun out there today,” or “all I care about is that you tried your hardest and you had fun.”
No one likes feeling like they failed and children are no exception. If your child seems to enjoy a sport, encourage them by telling them what they are doing well. Even if a child works excels at a sport, when it stops being fun, they are unlikely to continue pursuing it. The goal is fun.
If you are a nanny who loves sports, check out the Nanny Institute’s class on how to support child athletes.