The best sports to get your kids into28 April, 2016
By Tom Briggs, proud dad of two sons and a baby daughter as well as an award-winning parent blogger
It’s Active April here at Beagle Street. And since the bank holiday weekend is coming up, we asked parenting blogger Tom Briggs to give his best recommendations on how best to get your kids active.
As someone who was brought up to be active – and as someone who now spends a fair amount of time sat in front of a computer – it’s very important to me that my kids get into sport from an early age.
As well as the obvious health benefits, there’s much that children can learn from getting involved. Sports are a great way of honing teamwork skills and self-discipline as well as making them aware of other cultures and languages.
They’re also a good way of forming a bond with other people their age and teaching them that, in life, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
So what are the best ones to get them involved in? Here are my suggestions – let the games commence!
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put the beautiful game first. As well as being great fun to play and watch, I’ve found it to be a brilliant ice breaker. My two young sons are both getting into football now and I love kicking a ball around with them, teaching them skills and quietly drawing their attention to how well Spurs are doing at the moment!
Last year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to an international youth football tournament in Berlin. There were kids from all over the world who were divided into teams based on the different attributes they’d demonstrated in training rather than their nationalities. As a result, they didn’t speak each other’s languages, but this didn’t matter a jot. I was witness to some excellent team play and, better still, some otherwise unlikely friendships being forged.
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I’ll readily admit that I hate taking my sons swimming – it always ends up with one of them splashing everyone and the other opening the changing room door when I’m half dressed – but it’s such an important activity for them to participate in from an early age.
As well as being a great way of working several muscle groups and controlling breathing – which is great if, like me, you have asthma – it’s an essential life skill. Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death of children in the UK, so this alone is reason enough to teach children to respect the water and learn to enjoy it safely.
I was going to suggest cricket here, but remembered how I got bored of it very quickly as a child due to the sometimes slow nature of the game – particularly when fielding or waiting to go into bat.
I think it’s so important for a sport to make a good first impression in order for a child to fall in love with it and rounders delivers where cricket had me stumped. It shares some of the best elements of cricket, but allows more people to be involved at any one time and that can only be a good thing.
Andy Murray’s hard-earned success is a great advert for this compelling sport. As well as showing that it’s something that us Brits can actually be very good at, it highlights the resilience and strength that people can achieve in life if they put in the work.
I always enjoyed racket-based sports as a youngster and played a lot of tennis, badminton and squash. The latter is also a great option for kids as it burns a lot of energy and is almost impossible to lose the ball. Thanks to a radiator above the squash court door though, I did manage to do this once or twice!
There’s something deeply satisfying about getting a ball through a hoop from a long way out and I loved playing basketball at secondary school. It’s great for hand-eye co-ordination, agility, teamwork and individual skill and seems to have an inherent cool about it too.
There’s also netball, of course, and I was forced to try my hand at this during my primary school days. My sister played after school and I had two choices; get cold or join in! Although only two players are allowed to score, it’s great for spatial awareness and teamwork and, as I keep telling my older son when he doesn’t find the net at football, it’s not all about scoring goals.
I mentioned discipline at the start and martial arts are a great way of teaching children how to control themselves both physically and emotionally. My younger son has a massive amount of energy and, if this isn’t used up, he can go all a bit Incredible Hulk, so we’re going to get him involved as soon as possible!
The added benefit, of course, is that if you follow the Mr Miyagi approach in supporting their development, you can get them to paint the fence while they’re at it!
You can read more of Tom’s posts at www.diaryofthedad.co.uk