Fact File: Children and Sport

by David Egan on June 4, 2012

children swimming

According to the World Health Organisation, being active is one of the most important ways to prevent heart disease. Giving your child a love of sport could literally save their life!

Children need to be active – experts recommend that kids should get at least one hour of exercise every day.

Playing sport regularly is a great way for children to be active. Through sport they can learn new skills, improve their concentration, learn about fair play, develop self discipline and most importantly have fun.

Joining a local club or team gives them the chance to make new friends outside of their usual school circle.

Studies have shown that children who regularly take part in sport tend to perform better in school.

Keep Kids Healthy – Get Them Active!

Kids need to be active. Even though heart attack and stroke are rare in children, evidence shows that the processes leading to these conditions begin in childhood.

Inactive children weigh more, have higher blood pressure and have lower levels of heart-protective “good” cholesterol.

Active children are more likely to become active adults – being active reduces your child’s risk for a range of serious diseases.

Which Sport?

Don’t be disappointed if your child doesn’t like the sports you did when you were young – let them find out what they enjoy. Children should take part in activities that interest them, otherwise their physical activity habit will not last.

Remember every child is an individual, so take into account their personality when you are choosing a sport. The quieter child may benefit more from individual sports such as karate, swimming or gymnastics. The outgoing child may do better in team events such as soccer, rugby or netball.

If your child doesn’t like the competitive aspect of traditional sports why not try skateboarding, surfing or mountain biking.

Check what activities are available in your area and discuss them with your child – encourage them to try out different things.

Sport in School

Schools can help children to be more active by offering alternative P.E. options such as hip-hop dance, tae-kwon-do, yoga & step aerobics. Talk to your school and Parents Association and see what options could be made available.

Starting Out

Children who are currently inactive and starting to increase their level of physical activity should begin slowly. The aim should be to gradually build up the intensity and volume of exercise. Just remember that any activity will benefit your child, even if they don’t achieve the recommended one hour per day.

My Child is Overweight

If your child is above a healthy weight, they may feel self-conscious and this might put them off taking part in sport. Children who are overweight may even be discriminated against by sports coaches.

As a parent, you can do a lot to encourage your child to take part in sport. If your child is reluctant to join in, try to negotiate with them. See if they will agree to try a new sport for a set period of time, after which they can try something else.

  • Be sensitive – listen to your child, find out their concerns and try to agree on sports that they are keen on
  • Consider sports that don’t over-emphasise body-image
  • Keep an eye on the coaches – are all children encouraged to take part, or are some children left “warming the bench”?
  • Get involved with the sports club yourself – see if you can help out in some way – most sports coaches are volunteers!
  • Be positive – help your child to have a positive body image, and avoid negative statements about weight – instead, talk about “getting more healthy/fit” or “having fun”
  • Overweight children face real obstacles to being active, so you need to be understanding
  • Make changes together – why not get involved in sport yourself!

We’ve written a guide to help parents encourage overweight children to be more active, which you might find useful.

Sport for All!

It is essential for our kids to be more active, and taking part in sport is a great way to encourage children to develop healthy activity habits. There are dozens of “alternative” sports out there, to suit all kinds of children – so get your child along to your local sports club and give it a whirl!

Do you think that schools should do more to make PE fun? Please share your thoughts below.

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