Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids get moving for at least one hour each day to stay fit and experts say there’s no better way to get children moving than by getting them involved in sports.
Richard So, M.D., a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said that in addition to becoming physically active, sports can teach children life-long lessons.
“They need to learn the traits that will help them evolve in the workplace,” said Dr. So. “They’ll learn teamwork, communication, dedication and grit.”
Youth sports enrollment tends to spike after the Olympics as many kids become inspired to try a sport they watched on television.
Dr. So said it’s good to keep in mind what type of personality a child has –whether they would rather play with a group on a team, or do something individual.
The cost of sports can vary greatly, so it’s important to do some research on how much things like lessons and equipment might cost.
There are options for children with disabilities as well. Many sports have competitive tracks for high level athletes with physical disabilities to compete in events at the Paralympics, and the Special Olympics is specifically designed for athletes with developmental disabilities.
Even for children who aren’t particularly athletic, there are sports like archery and even chess that engage in the competitive aspect of sports, without as much physicality.
For parents whose child has not shown any interest in a particular sport, Dr. So said it’s helpful to start by finding out what is offered in the local community.
In addition to keeping kids active, Dr. So said sports introduce kids to a dose of healthy competition.
“A little bit of competition is good for the kids,” said Dr. So. “Learning how to lose gracefully is a good milestone for every kid to learn.”
Dr. So said that it’s important for parents to make sure their kids finish an activity once they’ve started it and to remember that the ultimate goal is to have fun and stay active.