The Best Sport for Kids of Every Age

January 5, 2021 9:45:00 AM EST | USASF

As a parent, we all know that there’s a lot of benefit in sports.

Health, fitness, confidence and physical skills are just a few of those benefits for kids. Kids in sports typically have a healthier weight and develop motor skills and muscle memory earlier. Lifelong friendships can be developed in sports, and social skills are shaped and refined when playing with others and working with coaches.

Selecting a Sport for Children

But what is the right sport for every kid? Choose poorly and your child may have a bad experience that can make them reluctant to try another one.

In this article, we’ll look at a few of the sport options we recommend for kids of every age.

Children Ages 2 to 5

This is a critical age for the development of a child. There are many intellectual, social, emotional and physical changes occurring as the child begins exploring and finding their place in the world. Younger kids in this age group are working on basic movements and developing muscle memory. While organized and team sports may seem exciting, they may not see much benefit until they have mastered the basics.

Activities that promote unstructured free play are the best option. Look at sports and lessons that promote and focus on motion, movement and fundamental play. Basic activities in a monitored group will promote social skills as well. These activities include:

  • Running, races and simple obstacle courses
  • Jumping, skipping and hopping
  • Dancing
  • Tumbling and basic gymnastics
  • Throwing and catching
  • Swimming
  • Safe playground equipment and the opportunity to climb
  • Riding a bicycle, or starting with a tricycle

Children Ages 6 to 10

At this age, your child’s attention span and coordination are improved. They can better follow directions and are ready (potentially) for more team sports.

Lessons in the sport can focus a little more on strategy, rules and how to play the game, and less on the basic fundamentals. Complex strategies may be too much, but it’s a great time to teach them how to best play the game. Sport activities we recommend include:

  • Soccer
  • Gymnastics
  • Dance
  • Tennis
  • Baseball, softball and tee ball
  • Martial arts
  • Roller skating or ice skating
  • Swimming

Children Ages 10 and Up

Children at this age are ready for sports that are more complex. They can understand and act on sport strategies. They have more coordination and better vision and understand sportsmanship.

Most importantly, kids at this age are looking for activities that will mentally and physically push them (which is why so many parents hear “I’m bored” from kids this age). As a general rule, 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity will support overall wellness and prevent anxiety and depression. Healthy activities include:

  • Safe contact sports
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Hockey
  • Soccer
  • Team sports that require coordination
  • Sports with coaches that emphasize skills, training and technique like golf and tennis

Kids’ Sports that Focus on Safety and Fun

The lists above are just suggestions. Every child is different, and there’s a range of coaches and programs out there that appeal to kids of all skills, experiences and interests.

These lists work as a starting point for parents and kids. Let the child test out a sport before signing up for a season. Talk to friends about what they find fun, then talk to the coach or the person in charge. Make sure the sport is safe. We even have tips and a checklist for evaluating sports safety.

Be supportive of their choice and opinions. Let the child explore and have fun. The memories and skills you learn in sports will last a lifetime!