Summer is just around the corner, so it won’t be long until kids are out riding their bikes again, kicking balls through grassy fields, building tree forts, going on adventures, declaring themselves king or queen of the jungle gym, creating chalk masterpieces on their driveways…okay, this sounds more like the summer of a child growing up in the 1960s. I’m not saying these things don’t happen, just that it’s becoming increasingly rare to see kids out playing these days.
I live in Miami, so perhaps you could blame it on the sweltering summer heat. With so much technology at their disposal (Xbox, smartphones, Netflix, you name it), who can blame them for being tempted by the cool, air-conditioned confines of their homes instead of the great outdoors? However, I know it’s not just aroud me that kids are becoming less active, and inactivity in children is a real cause for concern. The rate of childhood obesity in the United States has tripled since the 1970s, with one in five school-aged children classifying as obese.
When I was a kid, staying active was never a problem. I lived for sports and am lucky that I was able to make a career out of my passion. I may not be a parent, but, looking at my own upbringing, I know that it’s important to get kids interested in sports from an early age. I don’t know where I’d be without sports. If you’re a parent who wants to expose your child to the wonderful world of sports, now is the perfect time to start. Keep in mind that you can’t force your child into being an athlete, but it is important to keep them active so that they’re healthy. Here are some ways to introduce kids to sports.
Have a conversation with your child
The first thing you should do to introduce your kid to sports is to simply talk with them! Ask your child what they like doing and evaluate their interests. According to Huffington Post columnist John McCormick, his strategy is to first ask his sons if they’re interested in playing a particular sport and help them identify something they’ll enjoy. From there, he will go over the logistics with them, such as fitting it into their schedules and whether or not their friends are playing. Keep the conversation positive, and non-judgmental. You should encourage your child and give them the freedom to choose what sport they’d like to play- never let your own interests get int the way of your child’s.
Play with your kids at home
A great way to foster a budding interest in sports is to introduce them into your home. Toss a ball in the yard after dinner or take a family bike ride. If your child is already accustomed to being active at home, playing sports with their family and friends, they’ll be more inclined to take up a club or school sport.
Take your kid to sports games
Watching sports can be just as monumental to developing an interest in sports as playing them. Cheering with your kid on the sidelines encourages sportsmanship and friendly competition, and your child will also develop and understanding of the rules of the game and the spirit of teamwork and friendly competition.
Be flexible and accepting
The best thing you can do for your child, not just in encouraging a love of sports but in all aspects of their life, is to be supportive. Sports are meant to be fun and never so competitive and full of pressure that they make your child dread them. If your child wants to quit whatever sport they’re playing because they’re not enjoying it, let them. Find out why they don’t enjoy the sport and come up with something else your child can do together. Also, instill good sportsmanship in your child. Teach them that there are more important things than winning, and all that matters is that they do their best. According to Daniel Gould, Ph.D., director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University in East Lansing, “If you put too much emphasis on winning or rankings, [your child] may get stressed out and fear letting you down.” Encourage your child to focus only on his own performance and not compare himself to anyone else.