Have you been wondering if it’s time for your preschooler to begin playing sports? We all know that physical activity is one of the cornerstones of a healthy life and that it’s essential to get your child into the habit when they are young.
But what sort of physical activity would be suitable for a four-year-old? How exactly does it help a child so young? Can they even play a sport right now? We’ve answered these questions to help you easily introduce your little one to the exciting world of sports and outdoor games!
Are sports beneficial for preschoolers?
In a word — yes! While your child may still be too young to master a sport or understand complicated rules, there’s still a lot they can learn from simple, non-competitive sports and games.
1. Improves social skills - Playing games is one of the easiest ways to make friends at any point in life, including as a preschooler. This will give your child a chance to interact and bond with other kids in a fun environment. Some of these friendships may even last for years to come!
2. Builds empathy and teamwork - Playing on a team will help your child learn how to cooperate and work with others. It will also give them a chance to experience and understand both winning and losing in a way that doesn't feel overwhelming or threatening.
3. Boots self-esteem - While preschoolers may not be winning big trophies yet, the cheers and high-fives are a great boost to their confidence and self-esteem. The feeling of being able to play a game, get better at it, and make friends along the way will also help them feel more accepted and loved.
4. Improves overall health - Movement helps to keep your child physically and mentally fit. It improves their immunity, motor skills, and moods. Sports and outdoor games are a fantastic way to get them to enjoy looking after their health from a young age!
Ways to introduce your preschooler to sports
Expose them to a variety of sports at home
Home is where your child learns most things at this age. So make sure you give them opportunities to discover sports at home. You could spend an afternoon teaching them about football or cricket. Hit or kick a few balls and make a lovely bonding session of it! You could even watch games together when the championships are on and explain the basic rules as they get excited about the players on the field.
Make room for plenty of unstructured play
Learning to run, jump, and move their arms well are all necessary before getting into a sport. Which is why unstructured playtime is what’s most important for preschoolers. Take them to the park or beach when you can and let them run around with their friends or play simple games like throw and catch.
Keep it fun!
Games with a long list of strict rules won’t captivate your little right now. Play small games with little challenges like jumping across puddles or the classic hide-and-seek. Observe what part of the game they enjoy and let them do it, even if it is silly. The more fun they have, the more they will want to keep at playing!
Let them choose the sport they want
Your favorite sport may not be the sport your child chooses. Encourage them to try a bunch of different things and pick which ones they want to learn more about. Avoid extremely rigorous programs at this age and find classes that keep things fun.
What if your preschooler doesn't take to sports?
A child's choice of physical activity will vary depending on aspects such as their temperament and interests. If your child has not found a sport they enjoy as a preschooler, don’t sweat it and don’t give up. There are a number of things you could try out.
1. Try out non-competitive sports - Some children could find competition overwhelming and feel as though they are being compared in competitive sports. If this is the case, you could always introduce your little one to non-competitive sports like biking and swimming. In this way, they will get movement in without any unnecessary pressure.
2. Practice with them - Some children may want to play sports with other kids but might be nervous that they aren't on the same level as their peers. If so, spend time helping your child work on their skills and gently encouraging them until they feel confident to play with others.
3. Make room for more creative play - Movement does not need to be sports or even common games. If all your child want to do right now is run around the park and not play with the ball, that’s alright. Allow them to lead and set the stage. They may come up with games of their own that give them all the exercise they need!
4. Don’t force them if they are not interested - Forcing your child to do something this early on will put their mind off it completely. Keep telling them about the exciting ways they can move their body and always hold space to see if anything interests them. Over time, they’ll find a sport or activity that will be a perfect match!