One thing that parents are always looking for is new things for their kids to participate in. We want our kids to have the opportunity to learn new things, even as we want them to find that perfect activity and focus on it so they can excel.
Keeping their bodies and minds busy through youth sports, clubs, the arts, and more helps kids to grow up strong and it fosters an expanded worldview.
1. More activities is a good thing
There is no other time quite like childhood, with its wide-open nature and the time and support to explore lots of things. It’s a wonderful period, and parents naturally want to help their kids make the most of the magic.
Kids should absolutely dive into lots of different things. Here are five reasons why!
2. Well rounded kids will be well-rounded adults
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If kids only do one thing, they can get blinders on and become unbalanced. This is especially important around middle school when kids naturally start to feel off-kilter and as though they don’t belong. Any kind of hiccup in the child’s social circle can be devastating.
When kids participate in lots of things, they have lots of chances to build their self-esteem and feel good about themselves. In addition, lots of physical activities will feed on each other, building muscles and giving kids a different way of thinking about things. That motion in the swimming pool helps to strengthen back muscles that work for gymnastics too. The agile thinking of fencing helps to hone focus for chess club too.
All of this helps kids become more well-rounded, and that will translate into adulthood, where they’ll be used to balancing lots of different activities. For now, they’re keeping up with school and activities. As adults, they’ll be keeping up with work, family, and hobbies and activities of their own.
3. Social enrichment
Increasing the social footprint of kids with lots of activities is fantastic for building their peer and adult relationships. This is so, so important for developing healthy kids and preserving mental health.
When a child is participating in lots of different activities, they are making friends and forging mentor relationships through shared interests. Those don’t just last for the amount of time that they’re doing these specific things, but rather carry with them outside of the narrow focus of one thing.
Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, social enrichment is important. Kids lost a significant amount of social time through lockdown, and participating in lots of youth activities can help make up for that lost time. While we don’t want to overwhelm kids, we do want to give them lots of opportunities to make friends and form social ties with adult mentors like coaches.
4. Overcoming challenges
With every new sport that a kid participates in, they have to learn a new set of skills from bodily movement to thinking patterns to social interactions. In addition, there are specific challenges involved in every kind of sport that are different for each child. For example, a shorter child might have to learn to come at soccer very differently than a child who has a height advantage in that sport.
One of the biggest benefits of sports in general is the way that it forces adaptation and growth in both the mental and physical arena. Every single sport has winners and losers, and every child who participates will be on both sides of that divide at one time or another. How to respond when there are huge challenges to overcome is just as important as winning. In fact, losing is a better teacher than winning is.
Whatever the game they’re playing, kids who take the plunge and lean into youth sports learn how to overcome significant challenges along the way.
Independence is the final goal for all parents for their kids. We want them to learn skills, become strong, and then become independent and step away from us. Learning to make their own decisions and to make those decisions thoughtfully has everything to do with kids’ ability to transition out from home and into adult life.
Allowing kids to participate in lots of different youth activities and then encouraging them to make decisions about what they want to do, how much they can handle, and how to balance their time and energy builds essential skills for the future. Young people can make decisions that work for them, even in elementary and middle school. That kind of autonomy builds self esteem for kids and shows them that the adults in their lives trust them.
One thing about this is how it can be challenging for parents to let go of their control. Though we might put a lot of money, time, and effort into a sport, it might not be what a kid wants to do forever. Learning to let go and allow kids to make their own decisions is tough sometimes, but it’s also freeing and important.
Why youth sports like fencing are important
Participating in youth sports, all kinds of youth sports, teaches kids a huge range of skills. What’s really wonderful about this is that so many of these benefits go across all kinds of sports, including fencing but also everything from gymnastics to skateboarding to football.
- Adaptability to environments – The fencing strip, the soccer field, the skating rink, the basketball court. By trying lots of different sports, kids learn to be comfortable in many different environments.
- Managing risk – Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s difficult for kids to learn how to step out of the comfort of their parents or their school and challenge themselves. It’s scary! Participating in youth sports, especially trying a variety of youth sports, helps kids to see that trying new things isn’t so scary after all. So often, the biggest monsters are the ones we imagine.
- Movement mastery – As we get older, we discover how essential it is to have control over our bodies. Though kids tend to have a wonderful ability to move and learn new movements, that becomes more of a challenge when they get older. Youth sports offer an important foundation for lifelong health.
- Strategic thinking – All kinds of sports involve some amount of strategic thinking. In team based sports, this is done in tandem with teammates. In individual sports, strategic thinking is all about one person versus their opponent. Which angles and movements are most likely to end in success, the effect of speed and timing, the way that movement affects the outcome – these are all part of the stash of strategies that kids learn during sports. Even better, that kind of strategic think transfers out of sports and into school and life.
While you’re encouraging your child to try out lots of different sports, do keep in mind that it’s totally ok to insist that they stick with something, at least for some set period of time. You might say that they need to fence for six months regularly or keep on with an entire season of volleyball. This way, you as a parent aren’t wasting money and also the kids aren’t learning to quit as soon as something isn’t perfect.
It can be dizzying to have kids going in lots of different directions, but it’s also important for their development. You never know what your child will be successful at unless they have the opportunity to try it!