Is Your Preschooler Ready for Organized Sports?
I must admit I've been that parent; the one with a young 4-year-old, feeling pressure from neighborhood and preschool parents to sign my child up to play t-ball, soccer, etc. They say, "He hasn't played yet? Join our team! We have openings!" Panic spreads through your gut that your son will be "behind". And what if there's no openings next year and he's placed on some stranger's team while all his little friends are chumming it up on the field? If I don't start now, what will become of him?
Discovering Natural Interests of Preschoolers
We all want to give our child a head start on lifelong fitness. Yes, that's important, as long as that's the focus during these young, preschool years. Your child is likely to show natural interests for certain sports and activities and it's important to keep in mind your child's age, maturity and abilities. If your child is excited about his practices and games that's a great start, but if you're being met with resistance, he just might not be ready.
Basic Movements for Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are just beginning to master basic movements but are oftentimes too young for organized sports. Many Pediatricians agree that if your child focuses on skills like batting and kicking before she masters skipping and jumping, she might struggle with running and balancing efficiently. This can make it harder for her to advance in the sport and could possibly lead to injury. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Toddlers who participate in organized sports typically don't gain any long-term advantage in terms of future sports performance." They point out that for this age, "unstructured free play is best." Some of these unstructured activities might include:
At this preschool age, it's important to keep your child excited about exercise and being healthy. Do so by changing up activities and thinking outside the ball. Even a bike ride or a hike with the family counts for a good workout and a positive experience. Check out these links with three year old milestones and four year old milestones for hints on basic movements that should be mastered first.
How Much Activity is the Right Amount?
And remember, don't overdo it. Sports are such a big deal that sometimes parents can take it too far by encouraging an intense focus on one sport at an early age. Not to mention that others enroll their child in four activities at once. Both approaches can backfire, cautions Tina Syer, Associate Director of Positive Coaching Alliance in Mountain View, CA. "Too much monotony--one sport several times a week plus weekend matches--can make it more like a job than a fun activity, but too much variety can leave her too busy to learn to love any one of them. "
Lastly, keep it low key at home. Pulling the t-ball tee out to practice swinging should be fun and not a full-blown lesson. And who knows, a few hits at the tee could turn into an impromptu game of tag, which is great! Try to remember to keep it fun and support your child's interests in play and movement.
Lisa Heitz, Preschool Manager