How to Pick the Best Sport for Your Child at Every Age

Despite what the temperatures say, fall is just around the corner, and with it comes the start of a new sports season. Participation in youth sports are a great way to help foster lifelong fitness, but if your child has never played a sport before all of the options can seem overwhelming. 

Children will naturally be drawn to a certain sport or activity, so pay close attention to their interests. It’s also important to keep your child’s age, level of maturity, and abilities in mind. To help you pick the best sport for your child, here are some recommendations based on age. 

Best Sport for Your Child Broken Down by Age Range

Ages 2 to 5

Before age 6, most children will lack the basic motor skills needed to play organized sports. However, that does not mean that they shouldn’t participate. It just means you should choose their activities carefully and have realistic expectations. For example, soccer might be a great sport for your child because it involves a lot of running, but don’t expect expert ball-handling or tons of goals. 

For ages 2 to 5, attention spans are limited and the amount of instruction required to participate should reflect that. Sometimes sports for children at this age look like semi-organized chaos with adult supervision. The goal for toddlers and preschoolers is learning through active play, not competition. Here are some good options:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Tumbling
  • Dancing
  • Practicing throwing and catching

Ages 6 to 9

In time, your child’s vision, attention span, and motor skills will improve, as will their ability to follow directions. This is a great age to explore and help cultivate their interests by trying some more organized activities such as: 

  • Running
  • Soccer
  • Gymnastics
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • T-ball, softball, or baseball
  • Martial Arts

Ages 10 to 12

As your child approaches adolescence, he or she will be ready for more complex sports. In addition to the basic motor skills, they will be better equipped to make quick decisions, strategize and work together as part of a team. If your child is interested, this is a great age to try the following sports: 

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Volleyball

Ages 13+

By this age, your child will have hit the necessary developmental milestones that most sports require. At this point, it’s all about finding what they are interested in and excited about and following safety guidelines. Teens may have already thrown themselves into one or two sports that have become “their thing.” But that doesn’t mean they should limit themselves to what they’ve already participated in. It’s great to encourage the persistence and dedication needed to pursue something long-term, but don’t forget to let them know it’s never too late to broaden their horizons and try something new.

And this applies to all age ranges, but as your older child becomes more serious about athletics, emphasizing the importance of playing safely is key. This means making sure their equipment is in good shape and used correctly. It also means taking care of their bodies through conditioning, nutrition, and rest for injury prevention.

Contact Wake Forest Pediatrics

Whatever sport or activity you and your child choose, safety should always be the number one priority. The best place to start is with a well-child exam (if your child is due or past due) or sports physical. Often times a physical is a requirement for participation. But even if it’s not, we encourage you to schedule an appointment regardless. 
These exams can determine if your child is physically healthy enough to play a particular sport and may help pinpoint issues that he or she may run into while participating in sports. To schedule an appointment for a well-child exam or sports physical, call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.

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