One of the best parts of childhood is learning how to play a sport. If you start a child young enough, he or she will the chance to gain new skills and make friends quickly. There is, however, work that needs to be done before your child is ready to join his or her first sports team.
Your first step should be setting appropriate expectations. Take some time to do research on what your child should or should not be able to do at his or her developmental level. You should also take some time to determine what your child naturally enjoys doing. If he or she is terrified of water, for example, swimming probably isn’t going to be the best sport with which to start.
It’s a good idea to start introducing basic play skills to a toddler before he or she plays a sport. Start throwing (or kicking) around a ball, or begin having fun racing around on a track. You don’t have to develop major skills at this point, but your child should have a rough idea of how to do certain sport-related movements.
Once you’ve begun playing, start to introduce ideas that are present in most games. Start keeping score, even if you are doing so informally. Even if many toddler leagues don’t keep track of stats, your child needs to know that the object of most sports is to score some kind of goal. Likewise, introduce ideas like being a graceful loser and a good sport—the last thing you want to see is your child getting upset at the end of a game.
Start Looking at Safety Equipment
While you might think of toddlers are preternaturally able to bounce back from injury, it’s very important that you find the right safety equipment before your child gets out on the field. An increasing number of sports require very young children to wear helmets, for example, and getting a good mouth guard can be another very good way to make sure that your toddler is safe while playing a game. Always make sure you buy the right size equipment and that you feel safe with what your child is wearing on the field.
Your child’s first sports experiences should be positive. Make sure to have the right expectations and to get out there and help your child enjoy the game. With a little help, your child can grow to love playing outside with a team.