Participating in sports has many benefits that professionals and parents have known about for years. Sports can be a great way to provide your child with regular physical activity, routine, and a structured environment to cultivate important social and collaborative skills.
But what sport is best for preschoolers and toddlers? The best sport is one that lets them have a great time and builds up their physical and mental skills. In this blog post, we will discuss the top five sports that are perfect for your little ones!
Children can learn to appreciate the benefits of staying active at an early age when it’s most likely to become habitual.
Plus, it’s never too early to start learning how great teamwork feels!
What are Good Sports for Preschoolers and Toddlers?
Here’s a list of the top five sports for preschoolers:
One commonly recommended sport for young children is soccer. Although they may not be able to understand all the rules, soccer is a simple enough game that you can coach your toddler about the basic rules and movements.
The general objective is to get the ball on the opposite side into your opponent’s goal. Toddlers will love the idea of getting the ball into the goal. Later on, preschoolers can be easily taught how to do drills with soccer balls in a reasonably low-impact environment.
When played with other children, soccer is also a great sport for teaching teamwork and building friendships with other kids.
Swimming is a highly recommended sport for small children. Because of the water’s resistance, swimming is an extremely low-impact sport that has little risk of injury. Swimming is also relatively straightforward and can be taught to small children, and some swim schools even offer classes for infants.
Infants younger than one year are developmentally unable to learn the complex movements, such as breathing, necessary to swim, however, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (Source).
“They may manifest reflexive swimming movement under the water but cannot effectively raise their heads to breathe. There is no evidence to suggest that infant swimming programs for those younger than 1 year are beneficial.”
That same 2019 AAP study recommended swimming lessons for children older than one year old.
“Evidence reveals that many children older than 1 year will benefit from swim lessons, ” the study stated. “A parent or caregiver’s decision about when to initiate swim lessons must be individualized on the basis of a variety of factors, including comfort with being in water, health status, emotional maturity, and physical and cognitive limitations.”
Though swim lessons don’t “drown proof” a child and parents must always closely supervise children when in and around water, the added safety element to swimming lessons makes it a great choice. Since swimming is also a ton of fun, it could be the perfect sport for your child.
For toddlers and preschoolers, highly complex and competitive sports may be a bit of a challenge. It’s best in the beginning to choose sports that allow them some room for free play. It’s also important that the activity is fun so as to encourage the child to continue staying active.
Dancing is always fun and there are plenty of chances to dance around and let loose. Boys and girls alike will benefit from the movement, memorization and rhythm practiced in ballet, jazz, tap, and other genres of dance.
Toddlers love to climb, jump, and crawl, which makes gymnastics perfect for them. Their bodies are still limber and flexible and can easily perform gymnastic exercises.
Gymnastics also involve more personalized instruction, which is helpful for a young child still learning how to understand and remember rules and regulations.
Toddlers and Preschoolers beginning gymnastics lessons will learn balance, coordination, and control. The movements learned in gymnastics can also help a child develop the core strength necessary for other sports as well.
Gymnasts who start young have been found more likely than later starters, both male and female alike, to achieve higher levels of success in the sport.
In addition, gymnastics is one of few sports that offer different levels for participants at any age and can be offered as a competitive or recreational activity depending on the skill level.
With many types available, from tumbling classes through trampoline-based lessons, interested children will find plenty they like!
There is nothing cuter than watching your little tyke try to hit the ball, then run the bases – the wrong way! At least it’s one of my favorite memories with my oldest.
Preschoolers are still developing their hand and eye coordination skills, making some sports more challenging than others to play.
T-ball is a great choice for toddlers since the ball is propped on a stand as opposed to being thrown by a pitcher. This makes it easier for the child to aim, but it also significantly reduces the risk of injury. The rules in T-ball are simple enough for your child to follow along and can be played with the whole family as well.
Organized sports can be a great way to get you and your toddler more involved in the community. It’s also an excellent way to teach your child about the virtues of physical fitness and teamwork.
Other sports for Toddlers (Kids 2-4 Years Old)
Other sports that didn’t make our top five list but are great activities for toddlers 2 years old and up include biking, scootering, hula-hooping, and of course just running around like the balls of energy they are.
Other Sports for Preschoolers (Kids 5-7 Years Old)
While all of the sports listed above are fantastic for preschoolers, kids between 5 and 7 years of age have some more maturity, motor skills, and mental focus that they can use to participate in some more complex sports.
Sports like basketball, tennis, martial arts or boxing, golf, and horseback riding for example are great choices for this age group. Just make sure that when taking on an advanced activity like this it’s one your little one is eager to learn without a ton of effort to convince them (otherwise they might get overwhelmed quickly) and that the initial lessons are light and things your little one is capable of doing.
In conclusion, it’s important the sports your little one chooses (or you choose for them) are age-appropriate and easy to play.
Age-appropriate sports give little ones a healthy balance of physical activity, teamwork skills development (such as being on time), social interaction with others their own size, and confidence-building (by providing chances at success).
Once you find that perfect sport for your toddler or preschooler, it can also lead to a life-long love of activity.
That’s a lot of benefits over and above tiring them out!