Competitive Sports

Dear Dr. Rene,
What are your thoughts on organized sports starting for kids as early as four years old? My kids seem to enjoy it most of the time, but have a hard time with the competition and have difficulty understanding the rules. Am I setting them up for failure starting too early?
From Confused!
Mother of two, ages four and six years old

Dear Confused,
General consensus is, organized sports and classes should be about exposure and learning the rules of the game for children under six years old. It is about learning how to catch and throw a ball, the language of the sport and being on a team. It seems best to wait and start keeping score as children are a bit older and able to manage it.

Many children under six years old struggle with competition and should be introduced to this gradually. Think about introducing the concept of competition through small games like tic-tac-toe, Hullabaloo or rock-paper-scissors. These games take just a few seconds to win or lose. Work your way up to longer board games and organized sports. The whole time you are playing games talk about what it means to be a good winner or good loser. Suggest and model things people can say to others when they win or lose. Practice being a good sport.
Dr. Rene

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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