You can build everyday sports skills without equipment or lessons. There’s an industry around parents telling them to sign their children up for endless classes – promising to set their offspring up for a lifetime of sporting success with early years football coaching, gymnastics or racquet sports.
The logistics of organised sports for a family with two or three children can be insane. If you take a step back and look at the organising involved for your kid to run around with a ball in a gym hall, you’ll find you’re strapping your toddler into the back of the car, you’re folding the buggy for his baby brother, you need to find parking and you pay at the meter before you drag them both along to the changing room where you pull out the overpriced Premiership football strip and the tracksuit bottoms. All this for the simple pleasure of kicking a ball in the direction of a net? There are cheaper and simpler ways to prepare children for sports enjoyment. You don’t even need any kit.
The skills your child will need all through school sports are balance, strength, coordination and of course judgment – all these in combination make her an agile player on any field. Kids can build all these skills with some semi-parkour in a regular urban environment . Look around you – there are balustrades, columns and ledges everywhere! How many grit boxes can you climb while you go dog-walking with daddy? Give the brick wall a good, hard assessment – where best to start climbing it?
I am a great fan of toddler parkour (as I call it) because it appeals to children on several levels. Kids love turning things upside down: Why walk on the pavement when you can balance along the raised flowerbeds? Kids also like to find adventure everywhere – why enter through the main gates if you can find a side alley? And they love using their whole body: It’s so boring staying on your feet when you can skip every two flagstones or better still, army crawl forwards!
So leave the blazer and the smart shoes at home. Walk downtown the anarchic way. You’re teaching your children an approach to their surroundings which help them build considerable skills. Sports for young children aren’t about correct serves or an understanding of the offside rule. It’s about enjoying your own physicality and growing to master the tasks you set yourself. Maybe you couldn’t skip the whole puddle today and maybe you got really wet because you failed. The next time it rains, you’ll succeed!
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