Dr. Gilbert Chang has noticed parents seem to be signing their children up for sports at earlier and earlier ages. “While it’s a great idea that helps promote a life-long interest in fitness, starting them off too early can lead to injuries.” He recommends that parents help their child find the right activity— whether it’s at school, a recreation center or in their own backyard— while also keeping their age, maturity and ability in mind. The Mayo Clinic suggests these guidelines:
AGES 2–5: Toddlers and preschoolers are starting to master basic movements, but are too young for organized sports. At this age, unstructured free play such as running, tumbling, throwing, catching and swimming is best.
AGES 6–9: As children get older, their vision, attention spans and skills start to improve, as well as their ability to follow directions. Best activities for this age range may be T-ball or baseball, running, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, tennis or martial arts.
AGES 10 –12: By this age, children are better able to understand sports strategies and may be able to take on more complex skills, such as football, basketball, hockey and volleyball. Keep in mind, however, that growth spurts caused by puberty can temporarily affect a child’s coordination and balance.