Top 3 Tips For Choosing Sports for Your Preschooler

Written by: Ashley Campbell

Your four or five year-old child is ready to take on some new challenges! With their toddler days behind them, kids this age are poised for a period of rapid growth and development -- physically, emotionally and socially --- which is why it’s important to choose non-competitive sports and activities that are designed to help 4 and 5 year-olds develop these emerging skills.

Preschoolers are at the height of their creative play, which makes interacting with them really fun! They’re still in awe of how things work in the world and are not afraid to ask questions. By this age, their vocabulary has grown to know and understand over 13,000 words! However, sharing is still a little difficult for them, and the fear of being embarrassed by not doing well can cause them to be a little shy and timid.

Children need to be prepared on my levels before they can feel confident enough to enjoy competitive play -- there is so much more to it than teaching them how to play physically.  Children must understand the team concept, build trust and learn about good sportsmanship. So, how do we create a culture of teamwork when such a strong emotional element is attached to these concepts?

Building Self-Esteem Through Trust

Trust is an emotion that children at this age can’t yet articulate or define, though they know it when they see or feel it. When preparing children for team sports, it’s not so much about getting them to trust their teammates to do the right things with the ball. Rather, it’s about getting children to trust themselves, to trust that they won’t be laughed at by others if they do something incorrectly, and to establish a level of trust that evokes a sense of camaraderie. Having strong self-esteem gives them the courage to try new things and risk making mistakes, as well as the emotional wherewithal to handle life’s disappointments.

Rewarding Effort, Not Outcome

Good sportsmanship is tough at this age because it requires the ability to control emotions, which is challenging for most adults! Cognitively, children at this age can’t see beyond the emotions attached to winning and losing. By encouraging them to put the emphasis on giving their personal best, we redirect their focus and help them to learn how to manage their emotions.

Keeping It Creative

Dramatic play is an important tool in a child’s developmental toolbox. This form of play gives children a safe venue for practicing new skills, taking on new roles and even working out stressful situations. Dramatic play has also been strongly linked to language development, problem solving skill development and other cognitive strategies. Games that may appear “silly” are often used to capture the attention of this age group. Parents should look for activities that are playful, yet intentional, giving them the challenge and fun they need to be successful in their learning.

When choosing extracurricular activities for your preschooler, keep these principles in mind and look for programs that are focused on child development and age-appropriate skills. And remember that you can enforce all of these concepts through play at home in additional to class time. Consistency is key!

Lil' Kickers is a child-development program for children ages 18 mos – 12 yrs old. Their program focuses on helping children build strong physical, intellectual and emotional skills that will help them be successful on and off the soccer field. Check them out at ChitTown Futbol with us at the Annual Soccer Bash on 9/4. All NPN members get FREE registration if you book by 8/11. Click here for details.

Posted on August 04, 2015 at 7:29 AM