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The Importance of Sports for Kids: Building Healthy Habits Early

building healthy habits early

Ask any parent what they want for their child and the answer will likely boil down to them being happy and healthy. With so many benefits of sports in child development – physical, mental, emotional and social – there are many reasons to start early with sports for kids and build healthy habits that persist into adulthood.

Healthy Habits: Lifelong love of sports

“Your habits will determine your future” – Jack Canfield

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a habit as something you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing you are doing it. In the formation of habits, parents have an important role – both as someone the child observes and mimics, as well as the facilitator of the child’s routine.

The benefits of exercise and sports in childhood through to adulthood are well known – and establishing good habits early is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children in the pursuit of happiness and health, given all the lifelong benefits of sports.

The Benefits of Sports in Child Development

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits puts it: “The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. The task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower.”

As adults who can highly influence the next generation, it’s on us to encourage our children to form good habits around sports and empower them to eventually take responsibility for their bodies and health.

If we can help our children play sports from a young age and form healthy habits early, we can set them on the right path for a healthy future. Not only are there benefits of sports in child development, but there are also lifelong benefits of child sports that will be easy for your child to continue conducting themselves as they gain independence – if they see it as a part of their life (a habit) rather than something additional to.

Benefits of Sports for Kids: An Overview

“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference” – Aristotle

Children grow and develop rapidly as they power through development milestones, from birth through to school age, onto puberty into adulthood. Engaging age- and development-stage appropriate physical activity (i.e. sports for kids) will have a profound positive impact on a child’s physical, psychological, cognitive, emotional, and social health, as well as preparing them for life beyond school and the family home.

Physical Health and Fitness

Sports provide children with opportunities for regular physical activity, crucial for healthy growth and development. Regular movement and cardiovascular activity (with elements of endurance, flexibility and strength) contribute to a healthy heart and lungs, as well as a strong muscular-skeletal system (strong muscles and bones) laying a strong foundation for a lifetime of physical well-being. Active play can help combat sedentary lifestyles and reduce the risk of obesity and related health issues.

Physical activity has been shown to improve quality of sleep, during which much of a child’s development occurs.

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Motor Skills and Coordination

Sports for kids help with both fine and gross motor skills, contributing to coordination, balance, agility, and physical resilience. Through activities such as running, jumping, kicking, throwing, and catching, children work on their balance, spatial awareness, and coordination, setting a strong foundation for physical competence and confidence.

Mental Health and Cognitive Benefits

Studies have shown that the benefits of sports for kids go far beyond the physical and into the classroom. Sports boost improve cognitive function, generate neural pathways, and have been shown to improve academic performance in children. Active children have better test scores, problem-solving skills, memory skills, and focus than their non-sporty peers.

Sports also contribute to emotional well-being by providing an outlet for stress relief and promoting positive mood regulation. Furthermore, participation in sports helps build confidence, self-esteem, positive body image, and resilience, as children learn to overcome challenges and setbacks and learn to love things about their bodies and themselves. In team sports especially, the lifelong benefits of child sports include a sense of belonging and opportunities for friendship.

Social and Emotional Development

Team sports play a crucial role in teaching children valuable social skills with both adults and their peers. Skills such as cooperation, listening, communicating, speech, following rules, understanding instructions, and teamwork are all enhanced through sports. By working towards common goals and navigating interpersonal dynamics, children learn to collaborate effectively and develop meaningful relationships with their peers. Sports also teach emotional resilience, as children learn to cope with both victory and defeat with grace and sportsmanship.

Discipline and Time Management

Participating in kids’ sports requires commitment, discipline, and effective time management. By adhering to practice schedules, setting goals, and working towards improvement, children learn important life skills that set them up for success later in life.

Setting your child up for a life of sports and wellness

All of the benefits covered above have long-lasting positives for well-rounded, well-adjusted adults. Early exposure to multiple sports and team sports (like those we offer at Centaurs ) break down the barrier to re-entry into sports later in life.

Child sports participation is a significant predictor of continued participation in physical activity in their older years. Teens who play sports are eight times more likely to be active at age 24 than those who drop sports in adolescence (or never played). 77% of adults aged 30+ who play currently play sports did so as children. Children who participate in sports are more likely to remain active as adults, continuing to reduce their risk of chronic diseases and enjoy overall well-being compared to their inactive peers.

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Lifelong benefits of child sports: where to start

Selecting suitable sports for kids involves considering their age, interests, abilities, and personality traits. Children should explore all sorts of sports, both individual and team sports, and be encouraged by parents with a focus on positive values rather than performance. Mostly, the process should be fun and have your own enthusiasm and support!

With all the physical, mental, emotional, social, and developmental benefits at play, it’s important to ensure there is always room for sport in a child’s schedule around academics and other priorities. After all, the lessons learned through sports — such as teamwork, discipline, and resilience — can translate into success in academics, careers, and personal relationships. Mostly, though, sports are a path to health and happiness and building healthy habits early in life here is the best way to truly and fully embrace all the wonderful lifelong benefits of child sport.

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