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Children and sports: Choices for all ages
Children's sports promote fitness and prevent obesity, but not all children thrive in formal leagues. Help your child find the right sport and venue — school, recreation center or backyard.By Mayo Clinic staff
Want to give your child a head start on lifelong fitness? Consider children's sports and other kid-friendly physical activities. With your encouragement and support, chances are a few sports will spark your child's interest. Fan the flame by taking your child to local sporting events and sharing your own sports interests with your child.
Consider age-appropriate activities
Your child is likely to show natural preferences for certain sports or activities. Start there, being careful to keep your child's maturity and skill level in mind.
Ages 2 to 5
Toddlers and preschoolers are beginning to master many basic movements, but they're too young for most types of organized sports. At this age, unstructured free play is usually best. Try:
- Playing catch with a lightweight ball
- Pedaling a tricycle or a bike with training wheels
- Supervised water play
Ages 6 to 7
As children get older, their coordination and attention spans improve. They're also better able to follow directions and understand the concept of teamwork. Consider organized activities such as:
- T-ball, softball or baseball
- Track and field
- Martial arts
Age 8 and older
By age 8, most sports — including contact sports — may be acceptable, as long as your child wears appropriate protective gear. Carefully supervised strength training is OK at this age, too.
Of course, organized athletics aren't the only option for fitness. If your child doesn't seem interested in sports, find other physical activities. Take family bike rides, check out local hiking trails or visit indoor climbing walls. Encourage active time with friends, such as jumping rope, shooting baskets or playing tag. You can even encourage fitness through video games that prompt dancing, virtual sports or other types of movement.Next page
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- Shelov SP, et al. Your three-year-old. In: Shelov SP, et al. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 5th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2009:361.
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