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Game on! Finding the right sport for your little sport

We all want our kids to be healthy. And part of staying fit is staying active. Sports are a great way to keep kids moving while building their social bonds and building their self-confidence. As a child, if you were outgoing and loved soccer, that may now be your go-to choice for your child – but maybe they are more interested in swimming or tennis. So which sport do you choose for them?

“A great way parents can choose a sport for their child is to have their child choose it themselves. Parents who provide a tasting of lots of different sports will help their child narrow down their choices and choose one that is right for them. Getting over fears of failure and gaining confidence is the greatest challenge in helping children find a sport they like,” says Anastasia Gavala, a family life teacher and mother of five children.

Choosing a sport

First, to ensure your child will enjoy a sport, take any physical limitations into consideration. At your child’s next physical, ask their doctor if there are any particular sports that your child may not be physically ready to participate in yet or may be inappropriate to play at this time.

Once you feel that your child is developmentally ready to play a particular sport, there are a few things to note. Observe and assess what they are already playing on their own. Making a sport choice that is an extension of your child’s personal interests increases the chances of the sport being fun and rewarding for them.

If you are worried your child is too small to start a sport, keep in mind there are more kid-tailored sports now than ever before.

Cost of sports

Lessons, equipment, and athletic shoes can be expensive. Before balking at the cost, remember a child can experiment with a sport before a family needs to invest in traveling to tournaments or purchasing the latest high-tech fabrics.

Consider teaching young children hand-eye coordination by rolling a ball back and forth. Play out on your driveway with a couple of inexpensive racquets, even ping pong paddles will work, and hit a ball around. Even without a net, your child is still practicing skills used for many ball sports. The same is true for a team sport, like baseball. Kids can still have a great experience using an inexpensive bat and participating in a local community league.

Keep in mind that there are some sports that are more costly than others. Golf, hockey, and horseback riding, for example, are great sports to participate in but may not suit every family budget. If you are seeking more cost-effective sports for your child, have them try out a few with a lower price tag. Then your child can gravitate to what sport they prefer to play as opposed to being forced to play because more money was spent. 

Not naturally sporty

Some children prefer not to participate in sports, but don’t rule out physical activity completely. Start with getting your child active: going for a daily bike ride, skateboarding, skipping rope, shooting hoops on the driveway, etc., to introduce them to motion and coordination.

Or switch from team sports to individual sports (or vice versa) until you find the activity that fits your child and your family.

“Our 11-year-old son has autism and challenges in motor planning. He tried team sports but always seemed the odd man out, not really skilled, and less assertive than the other kids. Since then, we tried swimming and have since signed him up for year-round swim classes. It is an individual sport and it really is not about winning but instead about beating your last time. Swimming offers him more chances to be successful over and above any barriers that his challenges put in front of him,” says Jody Kulstad, mother of three children, all of whom are active in a variety of sports. 

A participating parent

As a parent involved with a sporty kid, chances are your schedule will be impacted, too. Making an effort to attend as many practices, games, or matches as possible sends a positive message to your child that what they are doing is worthwhile. It also gives you insights to when your child will need a pep talk or advice. Sports are a known way to build self-confidence, but some of that resilience is built by picking themselves up after a defeat. An encouraging parent can help. Remind your child that mistakes are simply opportunities for improvement.

20 Sports for Your Child to Try

Team Focus:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Football
  • Kickball
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Wiffle ball

Individual Focus:

  • Swimming
  • Bowling
  • Figure skating
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Frisbee golf
  • Skiing
  • Tennis
  • Indoor climbing 

Mali writes about art, culture, and parenting. She lives with her husband and daughter, Ivy.


See our related articles:

Non-competitive sports & activities for your pre-teen

Sports for all sorts: Team vs. individual 

5 benefits of team sports

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