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A question of sport

How active is your child? Are they ‘sporty'? Into dance or gymnastics? It's around this age that the amount of practice undertaken previously begins to pay off as their co-ordination improves. It's also around this age when children begin to label themselves as either ‘good' or ‘bad' at these types of activities which will ultimately influence their future involvement.

Obviously as parents we want our children to be active and healthy. But what if your child thinks that they're not any good? Beyond the physical benefits of an active lifestyle, there are also excellent other skills which give children valuable experience of working as a team, handling conflict and so on. Likewise even ‘solitary' physical activities eg. individual disciplines such as swimming, athletics, gymnastics, horse riding etc. also teach children valuable lessons about commitment, practice, motivation and so on.

It's potentially a lot to miss out on, both in terms of health benefits and emotional development. But if your child seems to shy away from physical activity what should you do?

How should you handle it?

All individuals have differing degrees of sporting ‘prowess' but I'm a big believer that there's a sport out there for everyone - you just need to find it! For example, my hand/eye co-ordination has always been hopelessly bad, so racket sports have always been a complete non-starter. However, I've always really enjoyed dancing.

If you're concerned that your child shows little interest in more traditional team sports, perhaps try something a little different: martial arts, swimming, dancing, cycling, gymnastics - really the possibilities are endless. Ask them if there are any activities which they think they'd like to try - the chances of success are higher if they've ‘bought in' from the start.

Be supportive. It's really horrible when you feel that you're no good at something - and it can be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't think you can do it, chances are you won't. Highlight that things don't always come easily but that skills which require work to develop really are worth the effort. Perhaps remind them of other things which they used to find really tricky, but now they've mastered.

Don't push too hard. If your child really doesn't seem to enjoy any of the physical activities which they've tried out, then don't push them to continue. You can always try out some other activities at a later date.

Ideally a child needs around 60-90 minutes of ‘exercise' per day. While this sounds like a lot, it's actually pretty easy to squeeze in even without doing sporting activities. Walking or cycling to and from school, plus a bit of a run around at a local park or in your garden will easily see your child getting their recommended amount of exercise.

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