Research shows there’s a right way and a right time to develop the fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that benefit kids for their whole lives. Just as important, we’ve learned that by making the process fun for kids, they will stay active and have greater chances to become top-level athletes.
Because kids who have fun being active are more likely to stay active for life.
Just as children need to be taught to read and write, they need to be taught how to run, jump and throw. After all, movement is a child’s first language, and our ability to move is the most fundamental means we have of interacting with our world. It’s called physical literacy. To develop physical literacy, there are certain fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills our children need to learn the right way, at the right time during their development. These skills include movements such as running, jumping, hopping, balancing, throwing and swimming. If any of these skills aren’t developed properly, future development is restricted. Children may be excluded from many sports and activities later in life. But give a child a strong foundation of movement skills and they’ll be ready to learn more complex movements and sport skills when the time is right.
The key to quality sport and physical activity is to design programs with the athletes in mind, whatever their age. That means doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right way.
- FUNdamentals first
Younger children benefit from participating in a variety of activities in which they learn a full range of fundamental movement skills. More complex sport skills should only be added to their repertoire when their bodies are ready. Plus participation should always be fun.
- Focus on child development
Because not all four-year-olds are the same – some children mature earlier, some a bit later – a child’s skill progression should be dictated by their physical, mental and emotional development, not their chronological age.
- Child small, not adult large
Children are not little adults, so they shouldn’t be participating in sports adults would. Kids benefit from equipment, playing fields and modified games that are scaled to their size.
- Practice, practice, fun
The more they get to participate – the more they get to touch the ball or puck – the quicker children improve their skills. This means smaller team sizes are best. And practices are more important than games. When players can have their own puck or ball they develop their skills much faster, and they have more fun while they’re at it. Kids should practice two or three times for each game they play.
- Winning is not a good measure
Winning at a young age does not correlate to winning when your child is older. Long-term success comes from a long-term approach to skill development. And the stress from emphasizing winning is part of the reason 70% of kids quit sport by age 13.