Physical activity is a very important part of the development of any child. Unfortunately, only approximately 25% of all children engage in the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Although free play is an essential component of a child’s physical and mental development, participating in individual or team sports can also prove to be extremely beneficial.  While some children are naturally interested in sporting activities, others require a bit more coaxing. Here are a few tips to help get children excited about participating in sport.

Make sure it’s fun

It is no secret that children are not very fond of anything that resembles a chore. When adults are too forceful when it comes to encouraging children to participate in sport, what is meant to be a fun activity can soon feel like a job. Instead of applying too much pressure, try to keep things light-hearted and fun. Even if a child does excel at a certain sporting discipline it is important that they never stop enjoying participating as it will have a direct impact on both the effort they put in and their inherent ability. There are a number of ways to make sports fun for children. This includes creating mini-games out of the sport, encouraging the children to invite their friends to join, and not ever allowing your disappointment to show.

Encourage independent choices

Adults may, although unintentionally, steer children to participate in a sporting discipline of their own choosing. This is often a sure-fire way for a child to lose interest in any form of physical activity altogether. Instead, it is important that children are allowed to pursue their own interests and discover what sporting activities they enjoy. Just like with toys that are aimed at either boys or girls, gender stereotypes have been reinforced by sport that has been specifically targeted at a specific gender. Historically, males have been more inclined to participate in masculine sports while females have gravitated more towards feminine sports. Today, however, many sporting disciplines such as soccer, basketball, and BMX riding have become increasingly gender-neutral with both boys and girls not only participating but also competing professionally, in them.

Lead by example

Children who frequently see their parents and peers participate in physical activity are more likely to develop an interest in sport than those who don’t. There are many ways adults can lead by example and demonstrate a healthy relationship with sport which goes beyond being a passionate spectator. Whether you join a casual sporting club that meets over weekends or compete at a professional level, your children are bound to be impressed by your sporting efforts. There are also things you can do together as a family that can foster an interest in sport such as going for runs together, playing soccer or baseball in the park, swimming, or joining a family-friendly gym.

Physical activity is paramount to a child’s healthy development. By encouraging a child to participate in sport, both their physical and mental well-being can be boosted.

By Jess Walter

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