Trying lots of different activities and sports – and even playing more than one sport – helps children work out what they like and are good at. Like most things, if children do well at a particular physical activity, they’re more likely to stay interested.
Everyday physical activity for school-age children
Most primary school-age children still need plenty of unstructured activity such as running and chasing and playground games. Unstructured activity can also be more affordable and easier to fit into busy family life than organised activities and sports.
At around five years, children are often keen to help with physically engaging household tasks such as gardening or washing the car – something that you might be keen to encourage too!
Sport for school-age children
Many children are ready for organised sport by the middle years of primary school.
Playing organised sports and activities can be good for children in lots of ways. For example, it can help them with:
- learning to listen and follow instructions
- improving their movement and coordination skills
- learning to lead, follow and be part of a team
- learning to win and lose.
Organised sports and activities can also be good for children’s health.
First experiences in organised sport don’t have to be as hard or intense as the adult version. Many sporting organisations have modified versions of games that are appropriate for children this age.
For example, rather than a cricket ball, children can start playing with something softer, like a tennis ball. This can help your child develop skills without getting hurt or losing confidence.
Helping your child get started with organised sport
You can help your child enjoy sport by giving her plenty of opportunities to practise. Children can also get interested in sport through play. So a bit of street or backyard cricket can go a long way, for example.
School-age children might still need help to develop physical skills like kicking, hitting and throwing. You can get your child hitting, throwing and kicking for distance first, and then work on accuracy. For example, big soft slow balls that can bounce a couple of times before children catch them are a great way to work on catching skills.
Children often also need help with learning to cope with the emotions of winning and losing. If your child gets frustrated, it might be a good idea to suggest a change of thinking, or even a change of activity, so that he doesn’t lose interest in participating in sport.
Different children are good at and enjoy different activities, so it’s good for your child to try a variety of sports, both team and individual, and to be involved in more than one sport at a time.
Some children don’t like sports, and that’s OK. It’s important for them have hobbies that keep them active as they get older. For example, bike riding, family walks, collecting shells, and exploring outdoor areas are all great ways to get children active.