Gone are the days when kids would come from school, change into sweats and go back out to play till the sun went down. There are numerous interactive websites, video games and television stations that keep today’s children occupied for hours on end.
This has made spending time sitting still normal and okay for many kids. Compared to before when we would use words like jump ropes and football when talking about kids, we now use terms associated with medical conditions like diabetes and obesity. There have even been cases of rickets from children not going outside and getting vitamin D deficiencies!
This is not how the society should be living. Young children shouldn’t have to associated with conditions like these that develop over years as a result of unhealthy living practices. But how do you get your children moving again? Here are 5 sports that will help with physical stimulation and boost development in your kids.
Good Old Walking
While it may sound like a boring sport, walking is one of the most beneficial outdoor activities for kids. The best thing about it is that it isn’t hard. You can easily integrate it into their daily schedule. Encourage them to take the stairs rather than use the lift. Better yet, let them walk the family dog each day. That way, you get to exercise both the kids and pet.
It is a particularly helpful activity for children who don’t enjoy competitive games or extreme physical exertion. Keep in mind that walking can refer to anything from a peaceful evening stroll to hiking on weekends. Restrict kids younger than 2 years to simple walks with Mom or Dad. Hold off hiking until your kid is at least five years old. Whatever the case, walking is a great way to stay in shape, get in touch with nature and see the world.
Walking has several physical health benefits for children including:
- Helps with weight control
- Improves leg strength
- Helps kids improve coordination
- Helps with balance
When it comes to social benefits, walking has plenty including:
- Helps increase environmental awareness
- Walking is a good way to bond with family
- Gives kids a sense of freedom
- Improves self-esteem
This is one of the most popular sports among today’s kids. Those who have well-developed motor skills can start in-line skating as young as 4 years. But before you faint at the horror of your kid falling hard on the concrete, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:
- A helmet should be worn every time your kid goes skating. It should be neither too tight nor too lose. The helmet should be fastened properly to prevent it from coming off during a fall.
- In-line skates used should be comfortable and offer plenty of ankle support.
- Ensure that your kid wears wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads every time they go skating
- Choose a good skating location that is free of mud, snow or anything that makes the surface too slippery
If your child is interested in in-line skating, ensure that his first time doing so is with a professional instructor. Of course, he should wear the proper gear and the skates should have brakes.
The physical benefits of in-line skating for kids include:
- It helps improve balance and coordination
- It improves flexibility
- The sport is good for cardiovascular fitness
- It helps kids increase muscle strength
Socially, kids accrue the following benefits when they skate often.
- It gives kids a sense of freedom
- It also helps improve self-esteem with increased prowess
If there is one thing that kids don’t forget, it is learning how to ride a bike. When the training wheels were on, Mom or Dad were always there holding the back of the bicycle seat. And soon enough, I was off on my way – my first experience of freedom and independence. That’s what most of us remember, and the same is true for most kids.
Cycling is lots of fun but more importantly, it is a great way to exercise and work out. You can get your kid started as young as two years on a plastic, three-wheeled tricycle and introduce the two-wheeled bicycle with training wheel when he is a little older. The training wheel can come off after a few months when your kid has mastered a few skills. You now also get balance bike with 2 wheels but no pedals to make the transition easier.
For safety reasons, it is important that you hold off on bikes with hand brakes, mountain bikes and multi-speed bikes until your kid is at least 9 years old. In addition, you shouldn’t let anyone under the age of 8 onto the streets by themselves. Bike paths through the park or your driveway will work great.
Some of the physical benefits of cycling for kids include:
- It helps improve motor skills
- It helps improve leg strength
- Kids are able to improve balance and co-ordination
- Better cardiovascular fitness, thus warding off heart disease
- Helps with weight control, thus preventing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes
Social benefits of bicycling include:
- Improved self-esteem
- Kids gain a sense of independence and freedom
- It helps instill discipline in children
- It is a great way to bond as a family
- Increase environmental awareness
- It instills a sense of community
While it may not be the sport of choice for many kids, soccer is very popular in the world with millions of registered players. The best thing about it is that children as young as four years can participate in the sport, albeit on a smaller field and with a smaller ball. The fast pace of soccer makes it a perfect choice for kids who get bored easily and love competition. It also comes with numerous benefits including:
- Helps kids stay fit and healthy: Soccer is a great exercise that also enhances flexibility, improves strength, increases coordination, and improves cardiovascular health.
- Improves gross motor skills: This is particularly important for children whose motor skills are less than average. The sport strengthens core muscles, which in turn improves physical stimulation and health.
- Self esteem: Playing soccer improves your child’s self confidence. This makes them feel more comfortable and open when it comes to learning new things or performing in front of a crowd. Don’t forget that winning goals helps a great deal.
- Involves teamwork: Soccer is a sport that requires players to trust their teammates so as to succeed. Teamwork proves handy in other aspects of life including at home, school and later in life when they start working.
- Improves focus and concentration: Soccer also requires a lot of concentration and focus. This translates to other aspects where this skill is crucial to succeeding.
- Competition in soccer creates drive and motivation
- Being a soccer player, or any athlete for that matter, requires a certain level of responsibility not just to oneself, but also to the team members and coach. This creates a sense of responsibility and helps develop ethics.
- Promotes cognitive development by enhancing visual-spatial awareness as well as problem-solving skills in children.
Many children today have grown up dreaming of being great basketball players. Why not get them started at a young age? After all, there are so many benefits to be accrued by your kid including:
- Cardiovascular health: Have you ever ran up and down a 94-foot hardwood court for 30-45 minutes? If you've ever run that much, you'll know that it is a serious workout that demands plenty of cardiovascular exertion.
- Hand-eye coordination: Like most sports, basketball requires a lot of hand-eye coordination. Whether shooting the ball or passing to a teammate, your kid’s brain works just as hard as his body, which in turn helps improve hand-eye coordination.
- Lateral movement: Children who play basketball benefit from exceptional lateral movement, which improves their flexibility and agility with time.
- Cross-training: Playing basketball helps children develop skills that are vital in other sports. For instance, the timing it takes to jump and grab a rebound at the highest point is relatable to soccer. The vision it takes to find an open teammate comes in handy when playing soccer while footwork relates to cheerleading and competitive dance.
- Social interactions: Children develop a priceless bond with teammates, leading to friendships that last a lifetime. Kids also get to appreciate the importance of close relationships with others, on the court and in other aspects of life.
- Teamwork: Working together to achieve the same goals as a team requires teamwork, selflessness and sacrifice. Learning to work with others is a vital skill that goes beyond the field. Developing this skill in children at a young age sets them up for success in situations where collaboration is crucial.
Rather than wait for your kid to become older, get them in a sport that will foster development in various ways. From improved cardiovascular health and hand-eye coordination to instilling the importance of team work and nurturing self confidence, there are plenty of ways that your child can benefit from sports.