It’s no secret that physical activity is one of the most crucial aspects to a child’s upbringing. Not only does it promote their health and wellbeing, but it helps them to learn self-awareness and teamwork skills too. When parents find out that their child might not be interested in sports, it’s easy to be concerned – or even a little bit disappointed, too.
But according to government data on physical activity, children in the UK are likely to become less active after year 2. Whether you’re planning a family or raising a child who’s stubbornly determined not to play, it’s always worth learning about the best ways to encourage children to get involved with sports.
What are the benefits of sport for children?
Exercise is invaluable for a child’s development, both physically and mentally. The first few years of life involve significant change and growth of the bones, muscles, and everything inside us.
Both at home and at school, exercise should be part of your child’s daily routine. The NHS recommends that children aged 5 to 18 should aim for at least an hour of moderately intense physical activity each day, or equally spread out across the week.
Sport is an accessible, enjoyable, and memorable way for your child to move their body, boost their mood, and make new friends too. So, how should parents try to encourage participation?
How to get children into sports
Having fun is the most important part of playing sport, especially for children. Skills develop over time, so the first introductions to games should be seen more as team- and character-building exercises. If your child is nervous around new people, start by playing with just you and your family. Once they start to build confidence, you can introduce friends and more players.
Plan according to age
Children at different developmental stages might not be able to play together well. While it’s possible to create a group setup suitable for a wide range of age groups, it might seem less daunting for your child to try a sport that’s suitable for their age.
For pre-schoolers, getting children into sport as early as possible could help to establish strong foundational patterns. For toddlers, a brisk walk through the park or the chance to charge around a soft play centre could make effective building blocks.
Find inspirational role-models
Whether you’re mad about tennis or you’re a season ticket holder for your local team, role models play an important role in keeping the momentum going. When your child has someone to look up to, sport becomes about much more than their own progress or ability.
Once they’re a fan too, you can help to keep the passion going. For example, buying Liverpool FC merchandise as a special gift could help your child to express their love for sport through their clothing or bedroom.
Focus on praise
Rather than waiting for your children to make significant progress in their sport or activity, try to concentrate on rewarding their efforts and consistency. Praise is about encouraging a willingness to learn, allowing your children to pick up where they left off after mistakes or setbacks.
Always try to show your child that you’re proud of them, even if they’re not successful. Keep supporting their efforts to encourage determination and enthusiasm – and even get involved yourself if you’re physically able. Supporting your child during practice is a fantastic way to strengthen your bond, too.
Exercise is vital for your child’s personal and physical development – and sport is just one way to secure it. Try to support their own emerging passions and keep the encouragement strong even after failures.