When children play sports, they gain a myriad of benefits: physically, mentally, and socially. Even if your child does not show natural prowess at the activity, signing them up for sports can help them grow as an individual and team player. 

But what are the best sports for kids to play? What about the best sports for toddlers? In this guide, we will outline the many benefits of sports as well as some of the best sports for toddlers, kids, and teens to play. If you are looking for sports for kids near you, check out what our wonderful educators are offering on Sawyer!

Benefits of sports for kids

There is a reason why so many families sign their children up for sports. Not only do sports get children active, but also they help children learn about themselves and others. Sports help children grow physically, mentally, and socially, even if they are not very good at the actual sport!

Physical benefits of sports for kids

  • Children develop their fine and gross motor skills, stay active, and increase endurance.
  • Studies show that participation in sports is associated with improved bone health, cardiovascular health, muscular fitness, and weight status.
  • Active children sleep better at night.

Mental and social benefits of sports for kids

  • Both individual and team sports provide many mental benefits for children. 
  • In team sports, children learn to work together with others and also get the opportunity to practice being a leader. In addition, team sports help children learn important communication skills and accountability.
  • When children play individual sports, like tennis or golf, they learn about positive self-talk, gain confidence in themselves, and practice relying on themselves.
  • Studies also show that children who participate in sports have lower rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, increased performance in school, fewer instances of risky behavior, and higher self-esteem than children who do not.

Lifelong benefits of sports for kids

  • Participating in sports as a child helps build positive habits that can last through adulthood.
  • Continued participation in sports often leads to improved mental health.
  • Studies show that adolescents who play sports are eight times more likely to be physically active at age 24 than those who do not play sports.
  • Children who play sports gain important life skills that they continue to use as they grow up like goal setting, work ethic, time management, teamwork, communication, empathy, resilience, critical thinking, and leadership skills.
  • Sports teach children determination, discipline, and dedication.

Sports for toddlers

Now that you know about the benefits of sports for kids, you might be looking to sign your children up. But, what sports are good for toddlers? With young children, the goal of sports should just be getting your child outside, running around, and having fun. 

Try to avoid putting pressure on your toddler and let them just enjoy the activity. Instead, think about sports for toddlers as an introduction: They get to explore, get comfortable with the different equipment and even some rules, and then they can decide what interests them.

  • Soccer. One of the first sports that many toddlers play is soccer. It’s a great sport for toddlers because they get to run around, kick a ball, and have fun while learning skills like balance, self awareness, and multitasking. Toddlers who participate in soccer also get a chance to practice playing on a team, which is great for their development.
  • Swimming. Getting your toddler comfortable in the pool is beneficial for their physical development and also helps keep them safe. Signing your toddler up for swimming lessons and then a youth swim team can help them take an activity they already are interested in and add some friendly and fun competition. If you are looking for guidance on when to start swimming lessons, check out our guide.
  • Martial arts. Toddlers are rolling balls of energy. Signing your toddler up for martial arts activities can help them get their energy out in an organized fashion. They get the opportunity to practice new skills while having fun and kicking the air. Not sure if your child should try martial arts? Our blog post has the answers!
  • Dance. Yes, dance is a sport and it’s a great sport for toddlers! When toddlers participate in dance classes, they are active while also enjoying music, having fun, and becoming more aware of their bodies in space. Toddlers also learn how to follow directions and interact with music while dancing. Learn more about the benefits of dance classes in our guide.
  • Gymnastics. Toddlers are extremely flexible and often they are not afraid of anything. Signing your toddler up for youth gymnastics, tumbling, and musical acro classes is fun for them and lets them explore what they can do in a safe environment. There are so many benefits of gymnastics for kids.

Best sports for kids

Past the toddler years, you can focus a little more on sports that require skills and practice. However, you should still reduce the amount of pressure and stress that you put on your child. The goal is for your child to enjoy the sports they participate in. That way, they can continue to develop healthy habits and positive connections to physical activity.

Therefore, the best sport for your child is the sport that they want to play. If your child is still in the exploration stage, here are some of the best sports for kids.

  • Basketball. As children move into elementary school, they gain more dexterity and strength. Basketball is a great sport for this growth. Plus, basketball is a team sport that can help your child make new friends and practice empathy. These are just some of the many benefits of playing basketball!
  • Tennis. Tennis is one of those sports that require muscle memory, so if your child is interested in learning, it is best to start them early. As your child practices their swing and learns more about the game, they gain confidence, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.
  • Baseball/softball. Another team sport with a lot of opportunities for leadership and teamwork, baseball/softball has many benefits. Children develop physically, mentally, and socially. Since it is so light on equipment, children can practice their skills by having a catch in the park or during recess.
  • Lacrosse. Lacrosse has become a very popular sport among youth in recent years. It’s a team sport that requires little equipment and a lot of running. Children who start playing at a young age practice working on a team and building endurance.
  • Bowling. If your child does not have a lot of interest in team sports or strenuous physical activity, bowling might be a good sport for them to try. It requires arm and leg strength as well as timing and problem solving.

Sports for teens

As children head into their teenage years, they likely already have their interests in mind. However, some schools require students to play sports and some teens might not know what they want to play. These are sports for teens to try out and master.

  • Track and/or cross country. If your teen doesn’t do well with sports that have flying balls or equipment needed, they might be interested in track or cross country. Running requires intense physical and mental energy and teens can benefit from this sport immensely.
  • Volleyball. A social sport, volleyball is a perfect sport for teens to try out. Whether they join the team at school, play during physical education classes, or practice with friends at a park, volleyball helps teens learn important communication skills and keeps them active.
  • Yoga. Teens are under a lot of stress and might benefit from unplugging. Yoga is a great physical activity that also gives them time to clear their minds and calm down. Plus, yoga is a great low impact sport that teens can practice for the rest of their lives. Learn more about the benefits of yoga in our guide.
  • Football. It’s often best to wait until children are a bit older to start with contact sports like football because they can be dangerous. However, football can be a good sport for teens to play. They get a chance to play on a team, expend their energy, and solve problems.
  • Biking. If your teen isn’t interested in participating in team or individual sports at the school level, encouraging them to ride their bike is a great way to keep them active. They get time outdoors and they establish positive habits that can last the rest of their lives. Need support so you can teach your child to ride a bike? Our blog post has you covered!

How to find sports for kids near me

If you are looking to sign your child up for sports, look no further than Sawyer! Families can sign their children up for soccer, basketball, martial arts, baseball, yoga, swimming, and so much more. Check reviews from families like yours, then find the right type of programming for your schedule. Now you’re ready for your child to explore the wonderful world of sports!

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