Children and sport: at what age to start and what sport to choose?

Sporting activity is fundamental for the growth of our children in a healthy and complete way, both from a physical and psychological point of view.

But at what age would it be better to start and, above all, which sport to choose?
Until school age, the activity must be understood as a game and fun, not as a discipline and sporting technique. Paediatricians recommend that your child practise comprehensive sports such as swimming, gymnastics and pre-athletics until at least 7/8 years of age, to ensure overall development and strengthening of the body. It is also important to understand your child’s preferences and help him/her choose a sport that amuses him/her and adapts to his/her personal inclinations.

At what age can you start practising sports?

  • 0-3 years: the ideal activity is swimming because you can start from the first months of life. When the child starts to walk, walks are recommended to introduce physical activity in his daily life (about 20-30 minutes, 3 days a week).
  • 3-5 years: introducing some simple rules and some tools, such as the ball, helps children to establish the first positive associations between exercise and fun. Another ideal activity, besides swimming, is gymnastics (artistic or psychomotor), which helps to develop coordination, sense of rhythm and balance, as well as the perception of oneself and space. Running should also be encouraged, because at this age it is a natural activity for the child.
  • 6-10 years: this is the moment when you reach the maximum potential for development and coordination, necessary to start learning the different sports techniques. At this age, sport teaches discipline, but also to socialize, to manage competition and accept victories and defeats.

Choosing the most suitable sport is not only a question of evaluating the technical characteristics of the individual activities. It is essential to understand which discipline best suits the child’s personality.

Sport as an expression of the individual personality of the child

When a child commits to a sport for the first time, there are psychological components that should not be underestimated.
In general, sporting activities can be divided into:

  • Non-contact individual sportssuch as swimming, running, tennis, gymnastics, athletics, skiing and cycling. These are all sports that require a particular intellectual effort to sustain fatigue. They are particularly suitable for specific personalities, because the child is gratified by the idea of being able to carry out a technically difficult activity independently.
  • Individual contact sports, such as fencing and martial arts. They require great concentration and contribute to psychological growth. These sports activities are suitable for both impulsive and hyperactive children and, on the contrary, for more reflective and fearful children. In the first case, sport teaches you to control leaps and bounds and follow the rules of the game without doing or getting hurt. In the second case, children learn to make more instinctive decisions, to develop safety and self-esteem.
  • Contact team sports, including football, basketball and rugby. These are activities that develop the ability to collaborate and help you feel part of a group. The focus is on the common goal and teamwork; moreover, the children learn to respect the different characteristics and roles of their companions and to share with them victories and defeats.
  • Non-contact team sports, such as volleyball, which are useful for learning to play together and helping team mates in difficulty. It is particularly suitable for quiet children, not inclined to physical contact, but with a determined personality, because it helps to improve decision-making skills at decisive moments.

A special mention should be made for sailing, which is difficult to classify in the previous categories. It is, however, a very educational sporting activity, which allows the child to stay in touch with nature and to respect it in all its aspects. From the point of view of psychological growth, it helps to deal with the unexpected and overcome it, as well as to be able to manage oneself independently in the most critical situations.