How to get children to love sports (and ditch the video games)
Sam Flatman, an expert in playground design from Pentagon Sport, discusses how to get our tech savvy children to swap video games for sports.
Last week I discussed why playing sports is an essential part of childhood, but getting our tech-savvy children to unplug and enjoy playing sports can be quite a challenge. While 72% of today’s parents preferred playing outside as children, only 40% of today’s children would swap time in front of the TV or computer for outdoor play. As parents, we need to be more creative than ever before to encourage and inspire our children to enjoy outdoor games and sports.
Remember making daisy chains as a child? 42% of today’s children have never made a daisy chain. What about playing hopscotch in the school playground? A third of children have no idea how to play hopscotch. Surely all children have experienced the simple pleasure of rolling down a grassy hill in the park? Not so, in fact a quarter of today’s children have never rolled down a hill.
School-aged children are spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. With excessive screen time being linked to depression and anxiety, letting our children mooch from screen to screen for hours on end is having a detrimental effect on their health and well being. There has been an explosion of articles from parents who have put their families on ‘digital detoxes,’ and there are many who are concerned about the decline of outdoor play.
Four Tips on How to Encourage Children to Play Sports.
Motivating children to play sports is straightforward for some families but a small nightmare for others. The desire to play is a natural part of childhood and getting young children into the right environment – whether that’s the local playground, a friend’s back garden, or out walking in the woods – will encourage them to interact with the world around them.
When children grow older, play time evolves into more structured activities and organised sports. Many children will be reluctant to be involved at all, especially when the digital world is so engrossing and gives instant gratification. So how do we encourage them to make the most of getting outside and playing sports?
1. Talk to Them:
Find out what sports your child is interested in and who they want to spend their time with. Some children would rather play on a larger team with their friends, whereas others will prefer individual based sports such as trampolining or horseriding. Some will be keen to play popular sports like football and tennis, but others may opt for lesser known sports such as archery or judo. Don’t make the mistake of signing them up for a sport that they won’t want to play as this might just put them off sports even more.
2. Try Different Sports:
It’s possible that your child won’t even know what sport they would like to play. Rather than committing to one sport, try sending them along for trial sessions at lots of different sports clubs so that you can both get an idea of what’s on offer. If you find your child likes the variety, there are plenty of multi-sports clubs that rotate and play different sports every week.
3. Get Friends Together:
Children will be much more interested in playing sports when their friends are there too, but they probably won’t take the initiative to organise this on their own. Collaborate with other parents and arrange some kind of sporting activity. This can be as small scale as signing your child and their best friend up for weekend lessons together, or as large as starting up your own local football team and entering a league.
4. Praise Kids for Being Active:
Children thrive on positive reinforcement, so praise your kids for getting involved in sports. That doesn’t mean pushing them to be the best shooter on the basketball team, as long as they are participating and showing good sportsmanship then they deserve praise. Rewards are also a good way to keep them motivated. Set small goals, like making sure they pass the ball to three different friends or learning a new sports-related skill, and reward them with fun, active days out.
With so many sports on offer, knowing which one to enroll your child in can seem overwhelming. Next week Sam will be discussing how to choose the right sport for your child.
About the Author.
Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 5000 settings to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for young students. He has been designing playgrounds for the past 10 years and has a passion for outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum. He is currently based in Bristol with his two sons.
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