It’s understandable why many parents are on the fence about signing their toddler up for an organized sport. Not only is there a risk your little one won’t enjoy themselves, but sports tend to be expensive and have tight schedules, even if it’s only a team meant for toddlers.
But if you’re thinking of signing your toddler up for a recreational sport, there are plenty of reasons now to hesitate. Below, we look at the benefits of organized sports for young children so you can make an informed decision.
Can Improve Development
Making sure your child gets enough physical activity is important regardless of their age. But research has found that regularly participating in sports is beneficial for a child’s development, especially if they have delays or disabilities.
One study published in Pediatrics found that Participation in sports leads to higher physical fitness, physiological function, self-esteem, and social support in children, particularly for kids with neurological disabilities. (like cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries) in which their fitness is more likely to decline with age compared to other children.
In many organized sports, children are part of a team where they must work together. This environment teaches them the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship from an early age. They’ll see the benefits of communicating effectively and lifting each other up to reach their goals.
As About Kids Health explains, Being a part of a team teaches children to handle disappointment and take personal responsibility for their own mistakes. The younger your child is when you enroll them in a sport, the earlier they’ll begin to learn these important life lessons.
Prevents Childhood Obesity
The rates of childhood obesity are increasing across the world, especially in the United States. As per the CDC, 19.3% of American children are affected by obesity, which can have long-term consequences on their health.
One of the benefits of enrolling your toddler in sports is it helps reduce the likelihood of future obesity. For example, a study published in The Sport Journal concluded that participating in sports helps instill lasting habits that encourage an active lifestyle in adulthood.
Improves Mental Health
Various research has emphasized the positive effects of being active on mental health for people of all ages, and toddlers are no exception. Getting your child enrolled in sports from a young age can benefit their mental health in the future.
Child Mind Institute explains that children who play sports tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. They’re also less likely to experiment with substances or have body image issues later in life.
The PCSFN Science Board notes that research has found childhood sports can:
- Improve self-esteem
- More satisfaction in life
- Lower risk of suicidal thoughts
- Increased cognitive performance
- Lower rates of stress, anxiety, depression
- Better emotional well-being and awareness
- Lower rates of risky behavior (ie substance abuse)
Better Overall Health
Enrolling your toddler in sports is a great way to ensure they’re getting regular exercise. This will have a positive impact on their overall physical health well into the future.
Childhood sports have been linked to:
- Lower level of body fat
- Better bone and heart health
- Lower risk of cancer, diabetes
- Higher physical activity levels
- Increased overall quality of life
Sets Them Up For Success
Finally, people who play sports are more likely to lead successful, fulfilling lives. Since sports teach people important life skills (like abolikecation and teamwork), it can help them succeed in other areas.
As per PCFSN, research has found children who play sports develop better social, life, and leadership skills, such as empathy, negotiation, work ethic, time management, and personal responsibility. Childhood sports have also been linked to greater educational and occupational skills as well as higher levels of academic achievement.
Obviously, the earlier you enroll your child in sports, the more likely they’ll be to have important life skills ingrained in them, which can benefit their future. This is another reason to put your toddler in organized sports, even if you don’t think doing so at such a young age will turn them into sports stars.
Remember, there’s a wide variety of sports available to children. Even if your toddler expresses disinterest in one, they may find joy in another. It’s great if you can expose your kid to many different sports and activities in childhood.
But even if organized sports are inaccessible to your family, taking your child outside to play a sport together can still help them reap some benefits on this list. Look into local resources in your area, like if there’s a recreational team at your community center that’s free or low-cost. Or, consider if there’s a drop-in gym where your child can play sports and interact with other kids. So long as they’re exposed to sports in some way, these benefits will begin to present themselves.
Sources: Pediatrics, About Kids Health, CDC, The Sport Journal, PCSFN,
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