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The 5 Sports Your Kids Should Try

By CHRISTY COUGHLIN, 05/08/13, 2:30PM CDT

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Summer sport sign-ups are due, and there are so many great options for your little athletes.

Consider exposing them to a variety of sports while they’re young. They may find their passion, learn to love movement, and enhance their physical, mental and social development. As they reach their teenage years, this solid foundation in youth sports will ensure a strong mind and body.

Consider these 5 awesome sports:

Swimming is a lifelong sport and a critical safety skill that your child needs now. Swimming enhances coordination, as kids learn to time breathing with arm strokes and kicks. It also imprives muscle strength, endurance and aerobic conditioning as your little one swims laps. According toChris DeJong of Big Blue Swim School, “Early childhood swim lessons are scientifically linked to improved cognitive, physical, linguistic and social development in young children.” Learning to swim requires a long commitment to develop strong technique. This is a gift to your kids, as they will enjoy a lifetime of safe water play and an exercise that they can pursue into old age.

Soccer is a great introduction to team sports, as early as age 5. With right sized balls and small fields, kids can master foot skills, passing and shooting. Gerry Canavan of the Wilmette Wings Soccer Club points out that “sprinting, running and jogging build a great aerobic and anaerobic foundation for young players, and serve as a platform for other sports. The jumping, landing, cutting and change of direction movements are all natural plyometrics that build lower-body strength and stability.”

Tennis is another life-long sport that provides exercise and is a great social activity. At nearly age 60, Jerry Morse-Karzen of North Shore Racquet Club is still enjoying the game. Coach Karzen recommends tennis to help develop hand-eye coordination and footwork, as well as the ability to strategize and foster healthy competition. New teaching techniques, including bigger, lighter balls and smaller courts, allow young players to learn and enjoy the game. 

Gymnastics is a great way to engage with your toddler in a mom/tot class, or as one of their first independent classes, Michael KharpakWilmette Park District, explains. Three-year-olds can explore their first “do it by myself” class, which teaches discipline and self-confidence. Gymnastics improves strength, flexibility and balance while enhancing gross motor skills. Children learn to take appropriate physical risks and develop a sense of body awareness, which transfers to play outside of school.  

Ice skating has numerous benefits for development. David Johnson, who works at the Glencoe Park District, sees young kids develop a good sense of balance and improve posture as they learn to skate. Kids get a great workout while they enjoy the fluid movement of being on the ice. With each new skill learned, young skaters develop greater coordination and flexibility, and the ability to focus as they learn new skills. Skating is a fun, active social outing and a wonderful way to enjoy cold weather.   

Smile as your little one gets up from the screen, grabs a ball and runs, kicks, and shoots in the yard. Whether your child has a future as a high-school athlete, a concert pianist, or a technology expert, a childhood filled with summers spent in the pool, on the field, or on the court will build them up physically, mentally and socially. Time to sign up!