Kids need physical activity. It’s an important part of their physical and mental health. Not only does it offer a wealth of benefits, but it’s fun, too. Plus, staying active has a net positive effect on social development.
If your kids want to play sports but you’re on the fence about it, here are four great reasons to give it a try.
#1) Sports support physical health.
It probably goes without saying, but playing sports is great for physical health. Children who participate in sports are more likely to have healthier hearts and lungs. Sports also promote muscular fitness, better bone health and a healthy body weight. In fact, physically active children are less likely to have obesity.
Playing sports can also help children develop important motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination, balance and spatial awareness. This leads to benefits in other areas of life, such as school, where good motor skills can help with writing, drawing and other tasks.
Regular participation in sports can lead to improved physical health and development. That includes increased flexibility, coordination and physical strength.
Gymnastics and dance are two sports that help kids become more flexible and coordinated. In gymnastics, kids learn to control their bodies by doing things like stretching, balancing and flipping. These moves help kids become more flexible. Dance also encourages kids to move their bodies in specific ways that promote flexibility and coordination.
Dance, gymnastics and other similar activities help the brain become better at thinking and moving the body in specific ways.
Other sports, like basketball and soccer, promote physical strength and endurance. These sports require players to move quickly, which helps build cardiovascular health and strength in the legs and core muscles. And sports that involve throwing, like baseball or football, can help develop arm strength and hand-eye coordination.
In other words, there’s no “right” sport, if you’re thinking about it in terms of overall health benefits. Any sport or activity that gets your kids to be more active is a win, whether it’s swimming, dance, soccer, martial arts or tennis.
#2) Playing sports can also boost your kids’ mental health.
Along with the physical health benefits, kids’ sports can also have a positive impact on mental health. Participation in sports has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem and better coping skills.
Playing sports can also teach children valuable life skills such as persistence, discipline and goal-setting, which can help them succeed in other areas of life as well.
While all kids can benefit from playing sports, some kids might see unique benefits. Children with ADHD, for example, might experience less hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention if they regularly play sports. And certain sports, like individual ones, may be even better for these kids.
Plus, the physical activity kids get from sports can help those with ADHD burn off excess energy and improve their ability to focus.
Important note: while sports can be helpful in managing ADHD symptoms, it’s not a replacement for medication or other treatments. However, for children with ADHD who are interested in sports, letting them participate in something they enjoy can complement the treatment plan.
#3) There are social benefits, too.
Kids aren’t always naturals when it comes to socializing. If you’ve got a kid who struggles to make connections, consider sports. Participation in team sports boosts important social skills, like communication, teamwork and problem-solving. These skills can help children build positive relationships with other kids and adults, which can last a lifetime.
Kids who play sports may develop a better sense of belonging and identity, too, which can be important for emotional well-being. Research suggests that team sports in particular may improve social interactions.
This might be especially important for kids without siblings. Playing sports gives kids without siblings a chance to get to know other kids, work out different social dynamics and relate better. That’s because sports give kids a safer environment to explore these dynamics. And for kids without siblings, participating in team sports can be particularly helpful in providing a sense of connection to a larger community.
But overall, playing sports can provide children with opportunities to develop important social skills and build lasting friendships, regardless of whether they have siblings or not.
#4) Sports help kids develop lifelong habits.
Not only does playing sports as a kid help you stay physically and mentally healthy, but it also encourages you to establish healthy habits early in life. Children who participate in sports are more likely to get active and maintain healthy habits into adulthood.
This can help them avoid many of the health problems that come with a sedentary lifestyle, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
If you want to set your kids up on a healthier path, look to sports. With a wide range of options for just about any interest, you’ll likely find something your kids will enjoy.
But what about the cost?
Maybe you understand that playing sports is great for your kids, but you’re unsure about the cost. After all, youth sports can be expensive. And not only do they cost a lot in money, they cost a lot in time and effort. With packed schedules and tight finances, playing sports can seem out of the question for lots of families.
The three main barriers to playing sports are cost, lack of access and time.
The cost of equipment, uniforms, registration fees and other expenses that come with playing sports can be a major barrier for families who are struggling to make ends meet. If you’re in this camp, consider some of these resources:
- Local parks and recreation departments often offer affordable or free sports programs for children, especially in lower-income areas.
- Non-profit organizations like the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA may offer scholarships or financial assistance for sports programs.
- You might be able to buy sports equipment secondhand through community thrift stores or online marketplaces. Check with your neighbors and friends, too, for forgotten sports equipment collecting dust in the garage.
Here’s a list of more resources to check out if you need financial help for youth sports:
- Kids in the Game
- The Aspen Institute
- The Sports & Fitness Industry Association:
- National Alliance for Youth Sports
- National Council of Youth Sports
- Let’s Play
- The Positive Coaching Alliance
- The Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Special Olympics
- Miracle League
And don’t forget that your local YMCA club, parks and recreation departments, schools and community centers may also offer sports programs and financial assistance.
Lack of access to facilities or equipment
For families living in areas without easy access to sports facilities or equipment, participating in sports can be a bigger challenge. Here are some things to keep in mind if this applies to you:
- Many schools offer after-school sports programs that are open to all students, regardless of their athletic abilities. Talk to your child’s school to see what programs are available.
- Some parks and recreation departments offer free equipment rentals, allowing kids to try out a variety of sports without investing in pricey equipment.
- Local community centers or libraries may offer free access to sports equipment, like basketballs or soccer balls, that you can borrow with a library card.
With school, homework and other activities, finding time for sports can be a challenge. If your kids want to play sports but you’re short on time, consider these tips:
- Encourage your kids to participate in sports during the off-season for other activities, like music or drama.
- Schedule family time around sports practices and games, to make sure that your kids can participate without feeling like they’re sacrificing family time.
- Work with schools and community organizations to advocate for later start times for practices or games, to make it easier for children to participate without sacrificing sleep or homework time.
- Coordinate with family, neighbors or friends to swap rides to cut down on how much driving you need to do for practices. This is especially helpful if you have multiple kids who do multiple different activities.
By being proactive and creative, you can help your kids get involved in sports without it taking over your lives. The key here is to have fun with it. Sports should be fun for everyone, not another chore to trudge through.
As a parent, it might be tough to find the time, money and energy to sign up for yet another activity. But playing sports offers tons of benefits. It’s not just about getting some exercise. It can actually do a lot of good things for your kids. It can make them feel happier and help them get better at talking to people and working with a team. Plus, if your kids start playing sports when they’re young, it may help them stay healthy and active well into adulthood.