For Love of the Game: How to Help Your Child Choose a Sport
Posted 1/1/2018 by Susannah Briskin, MD
Pediatric Sports Medicine Specialist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
By the time your child can walk, you can already picture him or her running after a soccer ball, shooting free throws or hitting a home run. While some children take to certain sports right away, most will move from one to another. The most important thing you can do, as their parent, is encourage your children to find activities that they want to do day after day. Here’s how you can help your kids find the sports that speak to them.
Give them lots of opportunities to play. Focus on fostering a love for being active. From a very young age, allow your child time for lots of free play. Whether at a park or playground or on a hiking trail, give your child the chance to run around freely. “Free play helps your child develop motor skills that will come in handy for other activities later,” says Susannah Briskin, MD, a pediatric sports medicine specialist with UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “Free play, rather than team sports, should be the main activity your child does until age 6.”
Susannah Briskin, MD
Offer different options. You may have sports that you like to do or watch, but your child should be the one who decides which activities he or she is going to do. You can guide your child by offering lots of different options during playtime. Let your child’s interests and curiosity be his or her guide. You can also take your child to different places where he or she can be active, such as a baseball field or basketball court, to find out whether your child enjoys playing those sports.
Dr. Briskin adds, “Young kids should never play the same sport all year long. They should be introduced to a variety of sports that emphasize using different parts of their bodies. And it’s important to look for sports teams where FUN is emphasized for young kids.”
Talk to your child. Ask your child what sport he or she would like to try. You might be surprised by the answer. Who knew your child would rather take karate than sign up for softball? “You could offer a few choices,” suggests Dr. Briskin, such as, “Do you want to ride your bike, play basketball or hit a few tennis balls with me?”
Dr. Briskin also advises asking your child whether or not he or she would prefer to play a team sport. “There are many activities your child can do with a team or on his or her own. If your child is shy, you could plan activities in a smaller group setting, such as with a friend or sibling, to help your child feel more comfortable.”
Be realistic. Be sure to consider what you can do, too. Some activities, such as ballet or hockey, might not fit into your family’s budget. If early morning practices or a team that travels doesn’t work with your family’s lifestyle, they might not be good options either.
No matter what sport your child chooses to do, a child who’s happy while being active is a winner any day.
Schedule an appointment today with a Rainbow pediatrician at 216-815-0059 or Rainbow.org.