It seems like these days you just can't get your kid started in athletics, dance, or music lessons early enough! Supposedly the sooner they start, the better they'll be. Before you know it, you're driving your 5-year-old from soccer practice to gymnastics, then on to piano lessons all before dinner! How do you know if your child is ready for leagues and teams and competitions?
I have five kiddos who are all involved in many different activities. But I have one child who, for whatever reason, isn't into much, and as her mom, I can't help but worry she's missing out because of it! It could be that she just isn't quite as interested as my others have been, or maybe it's the lack of neighbors/friends her age to carpool and join leagues with--I'm just not sure of the reason. I worry that I am going to miss a boat with her by not signing her up asap! As I've thought more about it, I've come up with a few points that have first, made me feel better, and second, been important to remember when it comes to making these decisions for my kids.
Still Growing Up
They say a child's body isn't ready for competitive sports until around the age of 10-12, once their motor skills are more fully developed and they can mentally grasp tactics and rules. But all around our community, there are advertisements for all sorts of leagues and programs for kiddos as young as age 3! Of course, their games and activities are all extremely modified at that level. But remember, you can't really gauge how good of an athlete your child will be by their performance on their soccer team of 4-year-olds. It's just not going to be very accurate.
Your kids' bodies and minds are continually growing. Holding off a few years until they feel a little more comfortable, confident, and mature isn't going to hurt anyone, nor will their lack of previous experience be obvious at all. Often parents push kids into activities because of their own insecurities or to start building a strong reputation for their child as soon as possible. These aren't healthy reasons to push a child into anything. Allowing your kids to express interest in an activity without being coerced and before committing to a full season will be beneficial for everyone!
Some kids prefer individual activities to team sports. One thing we've found to be successful with our little girl is skiing. Last year was her first year giving it a shot, and as the season has just picked up again, we've loved watching her refresh her skills and learn new ones. She doesn't feel the pressure to perform for teammates or learn other kids' names, which is helpful for her mild temperament. It's fun to see her feel proud and successful as she makes her way down the mountains so effortlessly.
Another activity I hope to get her involved in is swimming--not just for its safety benefits, but I also think that she could thrive in a smaller group environment with more one-on-one time from an instructor, versus a large team. These activities can become lifelong hobbies for your children that they can do on their own, and that will pay off over and over again. Individual activities don't have to be competitive, but if your child is interested in competing, they usually offer opportunities for that as well!
I have personally benefited so much from playing sports in a competitive environment. It's taught me to work hard, to respect my coaches/trainers, and to have self-confidence. But playing sports isn't the only place those lessons can be taught. They can be taught by loving parents who let their kids try new things and often fail. They can be taught when arguments arise amongst siblings and resolutions need to be made. Those lessons come when our kids are taught the importance of taking care of their possessions and taking pride in their accomplishments and work ethic.
Though at first those concepts may seem like they have little to do with sports, they have lots to do with character, and if you ask me, that is the most important takeaway our kids can get from sports. I think ultimately it doesn't matter where or how these ideals are introduced, it just matters that in some way and somehow our kiddos learn these qualities.