Good sports for preschoolers

Mar 6, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. ET

Ever wonder what types of sports are best for the preschool aged children? These sports are the best bets for your little go-getter.

Toddler playing football |

Kids love sports and the physical activity is an excellent routine to get started early on in life, but some types of sports are better suited to some kids — and their personalities — than others. This roundup of sports includes both team and non-team athletic activities for the preschooler in your life.

Team sport favorites

If you’re hoping to get your child going in a team sport, finding a non-competitive program for your preschooler is the way to go. The low-pressure environment focuses on teaching skills to kids as opposed to playing the best kids to get the highest score. Team sports are excellent for this age group, according to Michaela Powers, lead teacher and coach at Kidville Wellesley, because team sports, such as soccer and basketball, bestow unique benefits to this age group in particular. “Aside from honing their gross motor skills and physical coordination and encouraging physical activity, team sports build skills such as cooperation, mutual respect and discipline, which are foundational to later physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development,” she explains. “Essentially, these skills propel them for school readiness.”

She also notes that when children go from 2 to 3 years old, their capacity for negotiation, problem solving and perspective taking increases quite a bit. “By building up these skills through a non-competitive atmosphere, our coaches at Kidville have even seen firsthand how engagement with sports generalizes to children's outcomes across other domains (music, art), even at this early age,” she explains.

Individual sport favorites

There are other non-team sports that are terrific for preschoolers. Gymnastics is a popular choice because although you are in a class with others, the experience for young children is strictly non-competitive and you work on your own individual skillsets. Gymnastics is great for flexibility, building muscle and learning balance.Young boy martial artist |

Katie, who lives in Ohio, enrolled her 4-year-old recently in gymnastics classes and loves what it’s done for him. “When Jack was born, I felt like we needed something to do together just me and him,” she explains. “The parent-child classes for him were OK, but once he went to teacher-led [classes], I watched him blossom. I found that he learned how to communicate with other kids and adults. The teachers embrace his personality, recognize his fears and push him to keep trying new things. It has been worth every penny.”

Sarah, mom of two, also found that enrolling her 4-year-old son in a sports class really helped in ways that she hadn’t necessarily expected. “We chose a martial arts class because somehow everything in our house turns into a weapon,” she says. “It is good for him to understand that weapons can hurt, how to handle them and that his hands and feet are weapons, too. We like the mixture of physical exertion and discipline he gets in martial arts.”

Many sports programs will allow you to try a class out for free or at least sit in on one, so you can get a real feel for how the instructors and coaches interact with the kids and what’s expected of them. Others have a refund policy if you enroll and your child doesn’t do well. Finding a good class or team sport can be an excellent experience for your little one and can lead to a lifetime of love for exercise and fun.

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