Children and Sport – The best sports for children under 5 years old
Endless. Energy. Most parents would agree that their children have a seemingly endless supply of energy. They love to play, whether that’s running and jumping or just booting things around the house, their energy knows no bounds. While kids love to play, they are still developing skills such as coordination, fine motor and the ability to follow rules. With all of this in mind, choosing a sport (or sports) for your kids can become quite the headache.
We all know kids are just little sponges; they soak up everything around them, including the sports and activities that we as their parents engage in. Over 70% of kids that have at least one parent who is physically active participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school themselves.
We are particularly lucky living in Sydney’s lower north shore, having a huge variety of sports on offer for kids of all ages. Many sporting bodies have grassroots programs that are designed specifically for kids, including Little Athletics, NAB Auskick and Milo in2cricket. These programs are usually targeted at children above the age of five, where they can learn to be a part of a team, as well as developing their fine motor and coordination skills.
Choosing sports for children under 5 years old can be challenging, however there are many starter sports for kids including-
- Martial Arts
- Bike Riding
Swimming and bike riding are perfect foundational sports, as they can often be done at home and are relatively inexpensive. Laying a base level of enjoyment within simple sports greatly increases the chances of children wanting to stay involved in and undertake new sports and activities as they grow older.
Gymnastics is a perfect clean slate for children from around two years old, with gyms in Sydney’s lower north shore offering the KinderGym program that targets this age group. As would be expected at such a young age, the programs are primarily ‘fun-based’. Now this may look like complete chaos to the untrained eye; kids running in every which direction, jumping on mats and crawling through tunnels as they please. However, there are many benefits that can be associated with this style of learning. Gymnastics Australia outlines the key benefits of gymnastics for toddlers–
- Stimulates cognitive growth
- Develops strong and healthy bones
- Increases coordination and spatial awareness
- Instils understanding of discipline
- Fosters self-esteem
- Increase social awareness and interaction
Another sport that is a popular choice for young children is martial arts; in particular, karate. The self-discipline and assured movements help create a greater understanding of special awareness and bodily restraint for young kids. This is important in their cognitive development, and much of the same benefits found in gymnastics are also relevant for karate. Whatever sports you choose for your young kids, keeping the pressure low is important. Expecting too much from your children at a young age can deter them from engaging in sports and activities down the line.
If your child is showing particular interest at a young age in certain sports (maybe AFL or tennis), this certainly should not be discouraged. While they may not have developed the motor skills to be able to successfully engage in these sports, just simply letting them kick a footy around or whack a tennis ball will create a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment through simply participating.
As your children get older it will be easier to introduce them to sports that require a little more skill including basketball, volleyball, AFL, tennis, netball and dancing. While most kids will eventually pick out their favourite sports at a fairly young age, it is important to keep them from only engaging in one sport or activity. This can cause problems with overloading certain muscles and tendons, creating an issue as children progress through their teenage years.
If your child is complaining of soreness associated with sports, seeing your local Lane Cove Physiotherapist is a perfect first step in assessing where they are at and how they can progress safely in the future. Book an appointment today with our fantastic team at Lane Cove Physio.
 May, Christine. (2020, May). Engaging Parents in Sport. Retrieved from Clearinghouse for Sport: https://www.clearinghouseforsport.gov.au/knowledge_base/sport_participation/community_engagement/engaging_parents_in_sport
 Gymnastics Australia. (n.d.) Benefits of gymnastics for Toddlers. Retrieved from Gymnastics Australia: https://www.gymnastics.org.au/NSW/Posts/Blog_Posts/Benefits_of_Gym_for_Toddlers.aspx