Getting your kids involved in sport from an early age is a great idea that offers a lot of benefits, both now and into the future. But if your child is still too young to decide for themselves what sport they’d like to play, how do you help choose a sport that is most appropriate for their age, ability, size and personal interests?
In this article we’ll look at some of the best sports for children aged from 6-16 years old. But first, let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why you should encourage your child to learn and play at least one sport during their early development.
Health and Fitness
The most obvious benefit of playing sport is the physical exercise they’ll get whilst they are outside playing and having fun. In the modern age of iPads, smartphones, computer games and countless TV channels targeted to children, it can be hard to ensure your child is getting enough physical exercise.
Enrolling in organised sport will ensure they get regular exercise every week, which will help your child maintain a healthy weight, improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of disease and illness both now and as they mature.
Research shows that children who play sport develop much stronger bones and muscles. Most of our bones mass is acquired before the age of 18 (for women) and 20 (for men), so lots of physical activity during development years will increase your child’s resilience to injury significantly and help them develop into strong adults.
Playing sports requires your child to develop teamwork, communication and strategy skills. Regular exercise is also proven to increase the body’s production of endorphins which reduces stress and will improve your child’s mood. And we all want happy kids.
So as you can see, getting your child involved in any sport or regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for them as a parent. Now let’s look at some of the best sports for kids to play.
Which Sports Are Best For Australian Kids?
Soccer is a hugely popular sport amongst young kids, with 48% of all kids aged 6-13 playing soccer regularly. Soccer is great for young kids as it is non-contact, requires lots of running and is easy to play for kids of all ages, sizes and ability.
Playing soccer will help to develop foot co-ordination, speed and agility and is also easy to play in the backyard or down at the park because all you need is a ball and a few markers for goals.
AFL is a great game for kids of all ages. One of the benefits AFL has over soccer is that it will help to develop hand-eye coordination because the hands are an important part of the game. AFL will also help your child build endurance as it requires lots of running and is perfect if your child has an abundance of energy that you’d like them to burn off before you get home.
Netball is a fast, safe, non-contact sport that requires quick decision making and fast reaction time. Sprinting up and down the court is sure to build your child’s cardiovascular endurance as well.
Netball has typically had a reputation for being a female dominated sport but more recently has seen and growing number of boys getting involved with the fun and fast paced action, so it’s perfect for everyone.
Tennis is the ultimate sport for developing hand eye co-ordination, acceleration and agility. It also provides important life lessons due to it being an individual sport (except when playing doubles of course). This requires children to make decisions, accept responsibility and learn to deal with mistakes.
Discipline, sportsmanship and problem solving skills are all tested and improved constantly on the tennis court. It can also be very lucrative if your child has the skills and dedication to eventually make a career out of it.
Hockey is also a great team sport that offers many benefits for developing children. Strength endurance and agility are key skills. Learning to run while controlling a ball, with a hockey stick and making decisions to get past the opposition player requires a great deal of concentration, motor skills and fast decision making that will benefit your child in many different areas of life.
The above is just a very short list of some of the best sports for young kids, but there are many others such as Basketball, Rugby Union, Rugby League and Cricket that have strong junior competitions all around Australia.
Why Not Try Them All?
As a kid playing sport is all about having fun, learning new skills and making friends. So why not try many different sports and let your child decide which one they enjoy best for themselves. We’ve all heard the story of Tiger Woods starting golf at the age of the 3, then becoming the most dominant player in the world, but this is very rare and you must be careful not to specialise in a sport too early just because that may be your favourite sport to play or watch.
It’s important not to put pressure on young kids when they are starting out in a sport as it can quickly kill all the fun and soon they don’t want to play anymore. The best way for kids to try lots of different sports is through School Holiday Sports Camps, where they can spend 3-days learning each sport in a fun, organised program, without having to make a commitment to a whole season.
Australian Sports Camps runs programs all over the country so there’s sure to be one near you.