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Organized Sports: Right For Your Child?

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In addition to nutritious food choices, exercise is necessary to help children grow into healthy adult.

In addition to nutritious food choices, exercise is necessary to help children grow into healthy adults. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that children five to 12 years of age get a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. There is little doubt that sports provide excellent physical exercise for children. Organized sports also teach social skills, build self-esteem, and develop strength and co-ordination. Today, there are leagues for children as young as three.

Sports Not for Everyone

While many kids participate in team sports, some shy away from them for both physical and emotional reasons. Children who are small for their age may have a hard time keeping up with their bigger peers, while others are afraid of injury. Some kids feel uncomfortable in large groups and some are not mature enough to follows rules or consistently pay attention. Also, many organized sports, like soccer, basketball, and hockey, result in "winners" and "losers," which are concepts some kids, and even some parents, have difficulty accepting.

Easy Exercise

For those children who do not wish to participate in organized sport, there are still many activities they can be involved in. There are also many ways for parents to encourage their children to engage in activity whether the activity is done alone or with friends. If team sports are not your or your child's activity of choice try less competitive activities such as martial arts, skateboarding, inline skating, jump rope, or gymnastics. There are also easy ways for kids to keep active on a daily basis without them even realizing they are exercising. Walking the dog, climbing trees, and doing chores are all examples of everyday activities that encourage exercising. Many activities, such as biking or an after-dinner walk, can be done as a family and provide excellent opportunities for everyone to get exercise while spending quality time together.

Ways to Encourage Exercise

You know your child best, and every child is different. Only you and your child will know if and when it's time to try organized sports. Here are a few things to consider when making exercise part of your child's life:

1. Encourage, don't push

If a child shows an interest in a particular sport or game, maybe it's time to give it a try and see how it goes. Don't set unrealistic goals. Few children ever end up at Wimbledon or in the National Hockey League.

2. Set an example

When a child sees role models, such as parents, engaging in regular physical activity, whether it be a sport or simply doing yard work, a child learns that exercise is a way of life.

3. Support children in their choices

A child may prefer inline skating to being the next Tiger Woods. Put aside any thoughts of what you want or think your children should be and let them be themselves.

4. Leave time for free play

Sometimes kids are enrolled in so many extra-curricular activities there's little time for much else. Time spent doing an activity of their choice gives children independence and "downtime."

5. Concentrate on fun

Whether it's team sports or playing Frisbee, kids will enjoy doing something and continue to do it if it is fun.

While we may not always agree on what's "right" for kids, one thing we can all agree on is that children benefit from regular exercise. Being happy and healthy is far more important than bringing home a trophy or medal any day.

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