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Sports and Kids

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It's a rare parent who doesn't secretly hope for a naturally athletic child, especially now when sports stars are larger-than-life figures, known for their ability and for the money they earn. And it isn't too long before children get caught up in the excitement, collecting cards, going to games with their parents, rooting for their favorite teams and individuals. Watching sports on television is practically a national pastime.

Skill Sets

But wait! Your child isn't even 4 years old. Time for a reality check. What skills does your still-3-year-old possess? She is just learning to catch a bounced ball and to throw overhand, though her accuracy is a bit iffy (she doesn't have much, actually). She can kick a ball forward most of the time but not in other directions. She's just beginning to be able to pedal a three-wheeler, hop on one foot, and throw a ball with one hand. But it will be another two to three years before these skills are perfected.

Ready or Not

Skills are one thing. Readiness is another. Because each child is unique, there's really no way to predict the age at which yours will be ready or willing to participate in group sports. Sometimes a child will signal readiness by an eagerness to play catch. Or perhaps you'll notice that his play with other kids is evolving into group play featuring different, often changing roles for different kids.

For a child to participate in any game with other participants, he should be able to follow three-step commands. (For example: "Go to the net with Sarah as the goalie; do 20 kicks, and then change places.") He also should be willing to wait his turn and act after he's received instructions. Some kids will need a lot of encouragement and some time in the bleachers to get comfortable with the whole athletic scene. The demands for performance can be overwhelming, especially for a shy child. In terms of readiness, temperament is more important than skill. Sports participation should never produce ongoing anxiety, persistent reluctance, or sadness in your child, no matter what age. Watch his responses to know what's right for him.



Member comments

Reality check for mom
Thanks for reigning in my expectations. I worry my son is a little behind his peers when it comes t..

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