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 like 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.
Everyday physical activity can also include walking to and from places in your neighbourhood, or riding bikes or scooters to and from places near your home. And school-age children are often keen to help with physical household tasks like gardening or washing the car – something that you might be keen to encourage too!
These kinds of unstructured, everyday physical activities can be more affordable and easier to fit into busy family life than organised activities and sports. And they all add up to a more active lifestyle for your child.
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 at 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. For example, a bit of street or backyard cricket can build skills and confidence.
School-age children might still need help to develop physical skills like kicking, hitting and throwing. It’s easier to start with your child hitting, throwing and kicking for distance first, and then work on accuracy. For example, throwing big, soft, slow balls that can bounce a couple of times before children catch them is 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 by not winning, it can help to focus on other aspects of sport, like playing with teammates and meeting new people. This can help keep up your child’s interest in sport.
Different children are good at and enjoy different activities. If you can afford it, it might be 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 local sports clubs offer ‘come and try’ sessions, or short skills programs, so your child can have a go at a different sport without having to pay a lot of money.
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 and keep children active.