Q. What should a parent do if their child shows no interest in sports? My 6-year-old daughter would rather read, draw or play. Do I risk turning her off of sports and activity if I ‘force her’ to do them?
A: Lots of children love to read, draw and play on their own, and those are valuable activities. Music, art and free play are important parts of a balanced childhood and you should continue to encourage these activities.
Your question suggests that you are concerned whether or not you will create a negative experience for her by insisting she participates.
There is no great risk in introducing your daughter to a particular sport or activity, but you should keep a few things in mind:
- A little nudge at the beginning often helps kids to overcome natural shyness. You’re actually doing them a favour by doing so. As long as the encouragement doesn’t devolve into, ‘Daddy doesn’t like a quitter!’ See point 2.
- It’s unhealthy to continue pushing if your child is still complaining about the activity after two or three sessions. This is usually a sign that they really aren’t having fun, and you need to respect their wishes. Studies show that FUN is the most important motivation for children to participate in sports.
- Remember that this is about your child’s long-term attitude toward sport and well being, not about you. Resist insisting on participation because you want to get your money’s worth. Or because you’re worried about your child being a ‘quitter.’
- All kids are different. Many children simply aren’t interested in organized team sports at ages five and six. For example, your daughter might not be ready for soccer until she is seven or maybe ten years old. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with her. It’s possible she prefers individual activities such as swimming, figure skating, gymnastics or dance.
- Always be prepared to switch activities if she is clearly bored, disinterested or unhappy. Investigate many options—swimming, tennis, hockey, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, karate and dozens more—there are so many sports and activities to choose from. She’ll find something that she enjoys before long.
- Always take time to talk to your child and find out why she didn’t like an activity. Sometimes it is the activity itself, but often it is coaching and instruction. Kids want to have fun; they don’t want to be criticized or yelled at.
For more tips, check out Active for Life.
Active for Life
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