A Homeschooling Guide to Sports and Fitness for kids
When we homeschool, we may prioritize academic subjects like ELA, math, science, and social studies. If our kids have specific interests, we may also spend more time and effort on music or art. If we have an athlete, we will make sure that our child has access to sports and fitness activities both in and out of school. The rest of us without athletic children may be required (in some states) to include Physical Education in our homeschool plans, but we may overlook the importance of including sports and fitness for kids in our daily schedules. Let’s take a look at why sports are important and some ways you can add sports into your homeschooling:
|Benefits of Sports for Kids||Best Sports for Kids|
|Sports for Children of Different Ages||Sports Activities for Kids Who Are Homeschooled|
What are Sports for Kids?
A sport involves some kind of physical activity. On that we can mostly agree. However, depending on the source, the definition of sports can sometimes focus on the enjoyment of physical activity and sometimes on the competition involved. Others will require that physical exertion occurs or that specific skills or physical conditioning are present. Football and tennis are commonly accepted sports, but what about billiards and darts? Hunting and fishing? Car racing? Or backyard games like ladder ball and cornhole? With everything going digital, would you consider fantasy football or E-sports to be “real” sports? Rightly or wrongly, for this article, we’ll consider sports to be the more traditional activities that would be included in “school sports.”
Benefits of Sports for Kids
Although devalued or underfunded in some traditional schools, sports can be a crucial part of a child’s development. Kids can benefit both physically and psychologically from sports, and sports can build skills that are beneficial to academics and life after school. Here are just some of the benefits of including sports for kids in your homeschool:
- Physical Benefits: The most obvious benefit of kids playing sports is physical fitness. When kids are playing sports, they are not sitting and watching television or playing video games. They are moving, using their muscles, and keeping their joints in good shape. When kids play sports, they are more able to control their weight, develop strength and flexibility, and harness their natural energy in positive ways.
- Psychological Benefits: In addition to the enjoyment of the game, sports can increase children’s confidence, reduce their stress, and provide feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment. Sports can increase children’s capacity for self-discipline and develop critical thinking and decision-making skills.
- Academic and Life Skills: Sports can also teach particularly important lessons related to being prepared, putting in time and effort, and being perseverant. Team membership can strengthen leadership and collaboration skills, and kids who do sports generally have more practice in time management and prioritizing. Young athletes can also learn important skills like goal setting, organization, and self-reflection.
Best Sports for Kids
What sports should my child play? That may be the question you are asking. Many kids will try different sports before they settle on the one or more sports that are a good match. Here are some questions you and your child can discuss to help you find the best sport for your child:
- What sports do you already enjoy?
- How hard are you willing to work to learn the sport?
- How much time are you willing to spend practicing and playing the sport?
- Do you like individual sports or team sports better?
- Do you prefer playing an indoor sport or an outdoor sport?
- Do you like summer or winter sports better?
- What kinds of sports activities do you do well (e.g., running, jumping, throwing, catching)?
- How much do you like to compete with other kids?
- Do you want to travel to play against other players or teams?
Regardless of your child’s preferences or level of enthusiasm, be careful not to project your own sports’ choices on your child. Be sure to take into account your child’s body characteristics when you choose possible sports. For example, if your child is tall and skinny, perhaps basketball may be a better fit than a tackle in football. Also remember to check with your child’s pediatrician before beginning a new sport. If you have a less-than-athletic child, consider starting with sport-like activities, like throwing a ball in the yard or bicycling, before enrolling your child in an intense organized sport. Also, don’t forget about sports that may not be as popular as others but may be the perfect fit for your child!
Sports for Children of Different Ages
What sports can a five-year old play? What sports are better for high schoolers? Your child’s age can at least partially determine how much he or she will enjoy a sport, how successful he or she will be at that sport, and what benefits the sport will have. There are resources for how to find the right sports for your child. Here is a summary:
- Preschool Children: Consider sports that have simple rules and emphasize gross motor movements. Look for sports that do not require a lot of time or practice but can build body awareness and self-esteem. Some examples of good sports for preschool children are soccer, martial arts, swimming, gymnastics, and bicycling. Simplified versions of basketball and baseball may also be appropriate.
- Elementary School Children: Children in primary school may be able to handle more fine motor challenges and team situations. However, they may also get more frustrated with skills that are difficult or sports/teams that require too much of them. In addition to the ones listed for preschool children, consider these sports for your elementary school-aged child: horseback riding, golf, tennis, track and field, basketball, baseball, football, and volleyball.
- Middle/High Schoolers: Your older children may have already identified a particular sport or several sports, and at these ages, commitment is important. In addition to those sports already listed for younger children (especially football, baseball, track, and swimming), teenagers may be especially interested in hockey, lacrosse, and cross-country.
Sports Activities for Kids Who Are Homeschooled
Although non-homeschoolers often comment about the lack of socialization in homeschooling, they are—of course—wrong! Homeschool networks can open up all kinds of social opportunities, and sports activities can be one of those areas where peer socialization happens.
There are many ways that homeschool parents can ensure that their children have access to sports activities. Here are some ideas:
- Join a Homeschool Network: Look for a homeschool support group or co-op that offers group gym or sports activities for kids. Perhaps one of the parents in a homeschool group has a sports or physical education background and is willing to offer training or form a team. You can also find national, state, or regional sports programs for homeschoolers.
- Participate in a Local Homeschool Gym or Sports Program: Some gyms or youth centers offer weekly gym or swim programs for homeschoolers. This is a great opportunity for kids to connect with peers outside of any homeschool groups and to learn new sports skills. You can usually find out about resources like these through local homeschool support groups as well.
- Find Local Sports Organizations or Teams: Check out opportunities to join town baseball or volleyball leagues, football or swim teams, basketball programs, soccer or gymnastics traveling groups, or youth sports competitions. Whatever the sport, see what opportunities there are for your child to socialize and build physical fitness.
- Use the Internet: Find online resources for networking around sports but also to learn sports-related skills. Check out A2ZHomeschooling’s other Explore pages on sports (i.e., Bicycling, Baseball, and Swimming).
Other Homeschooling Resources on Sports for Kids
Want more information? Here are some additional resources about sports activities for homeschool kids:
Find out information you need if your homeschooled child is interesting in playing NCAA sports in college.
Presidential Youth Fitness Program
“The Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP) is the nation’s leading Youth Fitness Program, backed by the powerful partnership of the National Fitness Foundation and Amateur Athletic Union.” PYFP @ Home “is a new version we’re launching, amid all the school closures due to COVID-19, that parents can do at home with their families. The goal is to give families an opportunity to keep healthy in a time when it is difficult to do so.”
Sports Illustrated for Kids
Encourage your child to read about sports like football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer. You can even find sports articles written by kid reporters!
The most important thing parents can do is encourage a fitness mindset. Can you begin the homeschool day with stretches or simple exercises? What about breaking up the homeschool day with a nice walk or bike ride. Do you have simple exercise equipment or weights at home, or can you join a gym or pool for regular weight-training or cardiovascular activity? Do you have access to local playgrounds or tennis or basketball courts? Does your family engage in activities that build fitness like golf or skiing? All of these are ways to help your child think about activities that build fitness as part of their everyday lives.
What have you learned about including sports for kids in homeschooling? We’d love to read your ideas in the comments below….