Why playing sports is good for your tot

Keep your tot active with an age-appropriate sport…and make sure having fun is the order of the day!

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Your baby, who started crawling at about 7 months and walking at age 1, is now tearing around the house, running, climbing and jumping. Maybe it’s time to introduce some sports to him.

You highly doubt your Energizer Bunny will be able to understand any sports rules, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce to him a bunch of physical skills that will help him when he picks up a sport in the future.

The key is to introduce your tyke to movements that are challenging but fun, and not beyond his natural abilities. Some examples are hopping, balancing on one foot, kicking or throwing a ball.

Why play sports

Sports are important for your child’s physical and emotional development. “They help your child develop physically, strengthens their muscles and helps them achieve key milestones,” says Chua Wee Lee, managing director at Ready Steady Go Kids Singapore.

For preschoolers, this means developing their Fundamental Movement Skills, or the building blocks of their movement, which include running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching, he notes.

Your child’s emotional development stands to gain, too. Through sports, junior learns how to play with others and understands the various emotions they feel, for instance, “from frustration in not being able to perform a skill well, to the exhilaration when successfully performing a skill,” Chua explains. “They’ll also get to learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the value of doing something again and again till they are able to do it well.”

The key is to introduce your tyke to movements that are challenging but fun, and not beyond his natural abilities.

Manage your expectations

At this age, you won’t be able to get your toddler playing the actual sport ― rules included ― but letting him try simple movements and actions can help him gain a basic interest in the sport and develop his motor skills.

While it’s important to get your tot moving and active, it’s crucial to have the element of play and fun (rather than winning or excelling). Says Chua, “Particularly for those aged 2 to 3, we focus on games and play. Introduce a variety of sports to them, so it’s holistic and not one dimensional.”

Chua adds that children mimic well and pick up habits from their parents at a young age, “so if you’re active and bring them out regularly to be active, they will like it.”

Here are ways to introduce your tot to sports ― just make sure he’s always supervised by an adult!

FOOTBALL

Benefits: If your husband loves the sport, he’s going to love bonding with your munchkin over it. Furthermore, football promotes endurance, speed and strength. It also builds stamina and encourages team work, when you need to pass the ball to your teammate.

What you can do:
*Anything can be used as the “goal”. Use two shoes, or mark the ground with chalk to indicate where the ball has to be “scored”. Your tyke will have lots of fun trying to score a goal.

*Dribble the ball for a distance and get your tot to try to “steal” the ball from you…no hands allowed!

*Give junior a chance to be the goalkeeper ― it’s his turn to prevent you from scoring!

More ahead… Playing tennis can improve your child’s hand-eye coordination and reflexes!