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For the Sport of It: How to Know When and If Your Kids are Ready for Sports

When you take your kids out anywhere, chances are you’ve run into THAT mom. You know the one. She’s always blabbering on and on about how her army of kids are all enrolled in tons of sports and activities. Soccer, softball, track, ballet, gymnastics. She rattles them all off and you expect to see 10 kids standing there, but she only has 2. Yikes.

Kids should never be expected to take on that much at once, especially early on. There are definitely advantages to having your kids join a sports team or take an individual sport, but your kid needs to be ready and willing. So how do you know? And what sports are appropriate for their age?

If you don’t want to be known as a Pushy-Patty type of mom, here’s a guide that will help you encourage your kids appropriately into sports.

Preschool Age (ages 2 to 5)

Little ones certainly have loads of energy to burn, so you might think it’s a great idea to sign them up for all kinds of activities. But have you seen how disciplined a toddler is? This is someone who eats nothing but grilled cheese for 2 weeks straight and decides that grabbing handfuls of leftover birthday cake is a proper snack.

There’s no long-term advantage for future performance in sports at this age anyway, so you’re best bet is to choose unstructured activities like dancing, running, swimming or even tumbling. Don’t discourage any major interest in other sports though. Should your child be obsessed with football or soccer, look for an age-appropriate group in your area.

Early Elementary Age (ages 6 to 9)

Once your kids have started up at elementary school, you’ll likely notice their interests for personal pursuits develop even further. They also now have the ability to stay focused for longer durations. This might be a great time to start with football, soccer, tennis, baseball, martial arts, or gymnastics.

Late Elementary and Beyond (ages 10 and up)

By the time your kids hit the age of 10, they’re much more mature, much more coordinated, and much more balanced to handle sport strategies. This is when they can start with more complex team sports like basketball and hockey or go for bigger leagues with soccer, football, and baseball. Even in sports like swimming where they may have started as toddlers can now become something of a competitive nature, if your child desires.

In addition to these age guides though, you should also remember that kids tend to change their minds quite a bit. Where they once might have loved gymnastics, as they get bigger, they find it less fun. Or they might love soccer but also want to play softball with their friends from school.

It’s important that you allow them to explore these things with your full encouragement. You don’t need to sign them up for every single team or class, but allowing them to test the waters and see what fits for them will do wonders.

And whatever they choose, don’t forget to cheer them on even if they aren’t the best. Winning isn’t everything, and no one likes a parent that acts like a jerk on the sidelines.