Children aged 5-7 are beginning to develop fine motor skills, and there is no better way to accomplish that than through sport. The hand-eye coordination required to hit a baseball or a tennis backhand could give your children an advantage over children who are not active. Along with further developing their motor skills, children aged 5-7 begin to develop self-control and self-esteem. Find activities that your children can succeed at and concentrate on those. If hand-eye coordination is a strong suit, sports such as baseball and tennis are great. The key is to develop a sense of competency and success. A failed attempt here and there is also a good learning lesson which can contribute to the development of their self-control and not being a "sore loser". As you’re having fun playing together, you’ll help your child develop some very important traits.
Children who are a bit older, aged 8-12, can handle a challenge. Don’t be afraid to test their abilities. At this age, children are starting to develop perseverance and determination that can help them overcome difficult tasks. These characteristics will be helpful at school and later in life. Don’t be surprised to see a competitive streak develop, as well. They may challenge you to a game of one-on-one basketball or to see who can throw a football further; this is a good sign that they’re developing a sense of self and want to begin testing themselves. It seems to go against your job as a parent, but don’t always let them win. Again, they need to learn to be a gracious loser and there should be no shame in losing to Mom or Dad. The games and activities will become more vigorous as they get closer to adolescence, but keep at it!
Early adolescents, aged 13-16, will be your toughest challenge! Most young adolescents are going through puberty and will be self-conscious of their activities. They may not want to be seen "playing with Dad" or they may begin replacing family activity time with organized Middle and High School sports. Don’t force the issue with them. At this point they need to grow and become their own adult. If you can get them out and challenge them to a game once and awhile, go for it. If not, it’s okay, it’s a sign that you’ve done a good job in the first stages of their development. Instead, try shifting your activity times to social activities that they can still enjoy away from the perceived prying eyes of friends, such as family trips, game nights and sporting events. For this age group, the physical benefits of family activeness are nearly outweighed by the social benefits.
In addition to aiding the development of traits such as their self-esteem and motor skills, your children will see that you, as an adult, have been active with them for so long that they are more likely to be active themselves as they grow older.
Getting active together is a great way to bond as a family and an integral part of your child's development as they age. If the obvious health benefits aren’t enough motivation, consider that you’ll be creating positive, lifelong habits.
A Systems Approach to Recreation Programming, F.C. Patterson
Leisure Programming, Christopher R. Edington, et al.
Recommended reading for parents:
- Pushing Too Hard Too Young: An article that discusses how to keep the fun in your children's activities and to avoid burn out.
- Making Fitness Fun: Five easy ways to make fitness fun for you and your children.
- Let a Child Lose a Game and Learn How to Cope: Has losing become taboo in our society? Maybe it's not always a bad thing.
- Being a Better Tennis Parent: A guide created by the International Tennis Federation for helping parents be the best "tennis parent" they can be.