Guest Post contribution by Zara Lewis, mother of three (two kiddos and one dog), designer, and freelance writer. She writes regularly for High Style Life, a lifestyle blog.
There’s no doubt that physical activity is important for your child’s health and development. Both individual and team sports have their benefits, from learning about commitment and developing social skills, to becoming a team player, handling failures, and building character. Playing sports helps your child develop strategic thinking and it supports their overall growth. The only question is, which sport should they pick?
Encourage your child to try out different sports
In order to enjoy a certain sport, your child has to find one that’s compatible with his/her temperament. Determining your child’s personality isn’t always easy though, especially in young children who are just starting to form their own identities. Introverts and extroverts enjoy different types of activities, so it's smart to support your child in trying out various sports to discover the ones that best suits them. Psychology seems to point towards a majority of kids enjoying team sports, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't encourage your children to pursue individual sports as well.
The first step towards finding the perfect activity is exposing your child to them (i.e. how can your son know if he likes basketball when he's never watched or played the game before)? Your child needs to experience what it feels like to stand on the court with his teammates, to understand the rules of the game, to learn the concept of competition, and to witness the importance of individual effort and persistence, before ruling out that a certain sport is not for him.
Soccer, basketball, volleyball, football: perfect for extroverts
Team sports are perfect for driven, competitive, and outspoken children. On the court, surrounded by their peers, they’ll feel energized and will learn a lot about the importance of cooperation and contribution towards a shared goal. Your child will also learn firsthand about competition through team sports and will experience the pressure and resilience that comes with winning and losing.
Soccer is a very popular choice as a first team sport for young kids. It improves children's motor skills, aids in supporting healthy interactions amongst teammates, boosts cardiovascular health, and help children learn to focus.... all while having fun! Basketball, volleyball, and football are also great choices for children who are a few years older. These types of sports promote strategic thinking, aerobic endurance, enhanced hand-eye coordination, and assist in improving interpersonal skills.
Keep in mind that team sports are not solely for extroverted children. There is a very subtle (but important) difference between supporting an activity that complements your child’s personality and helping them to try-out new experiences by gently pushing them outside of their comfort zone. Carefully stretching your child's limits at an early age can be beneficial for them by allowing them to explore and find what it is they truly are interested in, while doing so in a safe and supportive environment.
Swimming, cycling, tennis: perfect for introverts
Introverts usually enjoy sports where they can comfortably be themselves in either one-on-one or smaller group settings. Large groups can be overwhelming and draining to some children, resulting in unnecessary stress, which certainly won't make things fun.
Swimming is a great full-body exercise that kids (and adults) both enjoy. The tempo is easily adjustable, making this sport suitable both for beginners and seasoned pros. It is also the number one exercise for asthma patients as it improves lung function (a huge bonus if your child has trouble keeping up with his/her peers in traditional sports).
Another individual sport is cycling, which is easy on the joints, but still improves cardiovascular health and promotes muscle building. Serious cycling is a sport best reserved for older children, but kids as young as 3-4 can start riding bikes as a way to enjoy time outdoors and release some energy.
Tennis is a great individual (or small group) sport that promotes strong muscle and bone growth., and is suitable for children as young as 4. Like swimming, tennis is a full body workout and helps to improve hand-eye coordination.
The importance of respecting your child’s choice
When you’re a devoted parent it can be hard not to pressure your child into playing a sport that you love, rather than what is best for them. Resist this urge and really take the time to help them explore their options and find what it is that they are passionate about. The most important thing is to support you child's choice and to be a motivating factor who helps guide, push, and cheer them on along the way.
No matter what type of sport your child chooses, the bottom line is that they should enjoy themselves. Sports are fun! And in addition to the numerous health benefits, your child is learning great life lessons and building friendships along the way.