Out-of-the-Box Active Options When Your Child is not in the Mood to be (Insert favorite athlete here).
Not all kids are attracted to typical team sports and the competitive fanfare that surrounds it. While take me-out-to-the-ball game is indeed a great pastime and there are many benefits to traditional athletics — unless your child is truly enjoying themselves and has his/her head in the game it might be time to discover some new opportunities.
And opportunities abound. Encouraging your kid to explore other avenues doesn’t have to side line you as “soccer mom” hoping your ‘lil champ doesn’t fear the inevitable strike out. Finding other fun-filled-get-up-and-go alternatives can help your child stay active, build confidence, demonstrate discipline and develop many other fundamental attributes.
According to resources like the Sports & Fitness Association and National Alliance for Sports, youth enrollment has fallen in traditionally popular sports like basketball, football and soccer with seventy percent of children leaving organized sports by the age of 13. This is a very interesting recent article by the Washington Post about sport dropout rates. More and more parents are seeking alternatives to injury prone contact sports for their kids and more and more kids are seeking outlets where they can have fun doing what kids are supposed to do: PLAY — instead of enduring the high pressure of trying to keep up their game.
Creating positive associations, learning what activities your child likes and trying various new angles can be both surprising and extremely rewarding for you and your child. I will never forget the smile on my son Benjamin’s face after his first karate class or the undeniable excitement when he mastered an “ollie” (well, not exactly) “just like Tony Hawk!”
Here are just a few non-conventional options to consider for both the athletic and not-as-athletic-kid where they can get their game on, reap the same rewards as the more traditional team sports programs — and have lots of fun.
Skateboarding – is a great recreational activity that’s very popular with kids. It generally involves riding and performing tricks with just the skateboard. Lots of core engagement required and riding around is a terrific way to improve body balance, posture and flexibility. Plus, skateboards are super portable so can pretty much be done whenever and wherever (outside) a child may like. But safety first: kids should always wear a helmet and protective guards. When starting out, it’s best to practice in a driveway or local skate park that’s suitable for beginners. As a child gets more confident, they can learn some pretty cool tricks or just enjoy cruising around as a means of transport. Equipment and maintenance are relatively inexpensive which is a bonus for mom and dad.
Rock-Climbing – Looking for a fun way to get fit? Rock Climbing is just one of the options for kids thinking outside conventional activities and is great exercise for both the body and mind. Allowing kids to move outside of their comfort zone in a safe and controlled environment will serve to build confidence, promote self esteem, and teach kids that overcoming fear is a healthy part of life. Not to mention…climbing walls require strength, flexibility, and coordination to successfully maneuver all which are great for athletic growth.
Martial Arts -Activities like tae kwon do, kung fu and karate are a fun way for both boys and girls to achieve fitness and focus. Despite the myths about violence, martial arts actually helps to teach self-discipline, socialization skills and respect. Quality martial arts instructors communicate the respect issue regularly and instruct students to practice respect for self, parents, teachers and peers at every opportunity. Plus, if the workout from ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is any indication – kids are benefiting from a variety of moves that improves their flexibility, increases muscle strength and builds up balance.
Kids Fitness Programs – I may be slightly impartial here as the co-founder of PopFit Kids, but programs like ours and others similar to it that focus on non-sports specific movements, challenge without competition and emphasize having fun with fitness creates positive associations with exercise and healthy habits at an early age. Testing ones own boundaries and engaging in functional activities that include, cardio movements, bodyweight exercises and agility training to name a few – kids get the opportunity to confidently parlay exercising into their everyday living and use as a tool builder for other sports related activities.
Cycling – is a fun physical activity that kids can do all their lives. Whether spending time with friends and family to explore a local neighborhood or using it for transport or more as a full on sport when a child gets older, cycling is great exercise that improves fitness, builds stamina and provides a fun, free, fresh air adventure. But safety first….Children under 10 should be supervised by an adult at all times when riding in any sort of traffic and all riders no matter what age must wear their helmets!
Post by Mara Wedeck, Ben’s mom and co-founder of PopFit Kids – popfitkids.com