Basketball, yoga or tag. Which activity is right for your toddler?
Spring offers many activities for your toddler. An expert reviews many youth sports.
Before we know it, spring will be here. Each spring, we see plenty of signs advertising sports and activities for kids, but do we really need to take toddlers to soccer, T-Ball, gymnastics and swimming?
The answer is complicated.
Yes, it's very important for toddlers ages 1-3 to interact with other kids their age and challenge their balance, strength and coordination. Sports are a great way to promote these skills and literature shows that athletes who play sports at a younger age are more likely to be active adults than their peers who don't participate in sports.
However, organized sports may not be the best solution for children 3 and under, and aren't the only way to teach our children these skills. The list below describes activities for toddlers and some benefits of these activities for their development.
Swimming: Helps strengthen the arms and legs, as well as improve coordination since the child has to use both arms and both legs at the same time. Learning swimming at an early age helps promote good water safety habits later in life. You can practice swimming in a "parent and me" swimming class.
Dance: Improves balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. You can practice in a class setting or by having a "dance party" or playing a game of "freeze dance" at home.
Biking: Between ages 2 and 3, kids should be able to begin riding a tricycle. For young kids, there are tricycles that offer a parent guide bar to help kids move and steer. You can practice biking in your neighborhood or on trails.
Soccer: Most teams start between ages 3-5; however, kicking a ball in the backyard with your toddler is a great way to help them learn to run, develop core strength and balance on one foot for a short period of time.
Basketball: Helps kids develop hand-eye coordination when dribbling and shooting and improve running and jumping skills, as well. You can play with an adjustable hoop in the driveway, or sing up for a community team (which will generally begin between ages 3-5).
T-Ball: Teaches running, balll skills and coordination skills. Using larger balls for young children will help them be successful with catching and throwing.
Yoga: Helps improve flexibility, which is very important since toddlers are growing quickly and develop tight musles quickly. Yoga can also improve strength (especially in the core muscles) and balance. Several toddler yoga videos can be found online, and classes are available throught out the DFW area.
Gymnastics: Another way to gain strength, balance and flexibility, gymnastics is a sport that children can begin learning as early as 18 months old. Many gyms have special toddler and preschool classes, as well as "parent and me" classes.
Yard games: The old staples of "tag" and "hide and seek" are great for teaching turn taking and problem solving, as well as practicing and running and climbing. Taking your child to a local playground also offers a wide variety of ways to practice climbing stairs, running, swinging, balance, etc.
With all of these, safety is a primary concern. Toddlers are at high risk of injury when practicing new things. Contact your pediatrician if you feel like your child is having difficulty learning new skills and they may refer you for evaluation by a physical therapist to evaluate your child and help them learn these new skills.
About the author
Jodi Burgett PT, DPT, CPST, is the clinical coordinator of Neurodevelopmental Physical Therapy at Cook Children's. Physical therapy at Cook Children's focuses on large motor and functional skils to enhance development, restore function and prevent disability from pediatric conditions, illness or injury. Cook Children's has Rehabilition Services in locations in Fort Worth, Hurst and most recently in Mansfield.