Toddler Sports: A Building Block for Self-Esteem
Toddlers playing sports is sort of a laughable subject among many parents because they are really too little to “play well”, but as my 3-year-old daughter cheered for the last basketball game of the season I realized how beneficial it had been for her. Out here they call toddler sports Smart Start and that’s exactly what it is. It’s an incredible opportunity to build some self-esteem in a safe environment.
Now many of you may be thinking that you are not going to put your child in sports at an early age for any number of reasons, which may include not having enough time to take them, their fleeting attention span, or the fear of pushing competitiveness on them at an early age. All of these may be valid reasons not to do it, but if your toddler expresses an interest in sports, here are a few reasons to seriously consider allowing it:
Lack of Self-Consciousness
We all know that at two or three your kid is not going to be an All-Star player, but this is exactly why it is such a good idea to do it. At this age, they usually can’t tell if they are doing well (or for that matter, if another kid is doing better than they are). All they can really absorb is trying to follow the coach’s directions. This is great because they will be learning the basic rules of the sport and not worrying if they look silly. This is also a constructive way for them to sharpen their listening and coordination skills. As kids get older, their self-esteem builds from other areas of their lives in either a positive direction or a negative one. This is an amazing learning environment for them because they are not yet old enough to be embarrassed by their own behavior and that is an asset when you are learning how to do something. They can start acquiring skills like problem-solving, multi-tasking, and strategy-building without self-consciousness holding them back.
I am a strong advocate for “screen-less activities” because letting them watch TV or play video games may be fun, but they are not learning social skills from these activities. Many little kids do participate in things like daycare or scheduled play dates to help them learn how to socialize, but there are still many kids who don’t. Sometimes we, as parents, like to keep our kids as close to us as possible and in doing so we may inadvertently rob them of the ability to build relationships with other kids. Tying into those social skills are the concepts of sportsmanship and team work. Toddler sports can be extremely helpful in these areas. They will be learning how to respect other players and how to work as a unit to achieve a common goal. Team work can also inspire close friendships. Friendship is something irreplaceable in a child’s life. Giving your kid the opportunity to find a kindred spirit is an important part of building
I think Pride is the most important reason. You know how amazing your kid is, now she will be able to see that too. Learning something new and doing her best at it is always the best way to boost that self-esteem. My daughter’s coach told all the parents on the first day “They haven’t built any self-esteem yet. So parents – BE SUPPORTIVE!” and she was totally right. It is an awesome feeling to sit in the stands and watch your still-tiny child perform something that worked so hard on. That triumphant smile is the ultimate prize for all of us parents. It is important for them to see how proud we are of them. Support and encouragement go a long way in their impressionable hearts. At this age, too often we have to be the Bad Guy when they do naughty things or have a bad attitude. Any opportunity to show them how much we love having them in our lives is something we do not want to pass up.
I have been hearing quite a bit of negativity lately about toddler sports and I can’t understand why. Letting our kids learn things on their own is the most amazing gift we can give them because it lets them establish some pride in themselves. The most important thing is to show our kids how great they are and raise them to believe that they can achieve their goals they put in the effort.
So if your kid is begging you to let him try basketball or tee-ball and you’ve been putting it off, just give it some more thought. You may be helping your kid build some skills that you didn’t even know he hadn’t learned yet. Oh, and a bonus for the parents is how incredibly adorable they look out there, having fun and learning!