The Benefits Your Kids Get From Recreation
Every child loves to play in his or her own way, and very often that natural tendency leads them to sports and organized recreation. There may seem nothing quite so quaint and innocent as a handful of kids tossing the ball around after school, but the real benefits of athletic activity are undeniable. In this age of 24-hour entertainment, ubiquitous cell phones, and handheld gadgets with constant connectivity, the need for that “old-fashioned” exercise is all the more acute.
There are, of course, many different kinds of sports kids can become involved with. Traditional team sports include basketball, football, soccer, rugby, baseball, and lacrosse, and are invaluable as vehicles both of physical exercise and complex social interaction. But other modes of exercise can be equally fulfilling. From swimming, tennis, and track-and-field to golf and martial arts, individual sports have their own special gamesmanship. Outdoor recreation and athletics—skiing, snowboarding, archery, backpacking, extreme hiking, orienteering—constitute a particularly unique brand of sports, offering kids the added attraction of exercising out in nature.
Physical-education classes usually expose kids to the rules and techniques of basic sports, and—with a regular slot in the academic schedule—do much to provide a recreational output. Kids can also participate, of course, in leagues administered by the school or by some community organization. For outdoor experiences, there are many clubs offering wilderness outings, and the time-honored tradition of summer camp tends to include a lot of rustic exercise and sport.
Don’t underestimate, however, the unstructured, spontaneous, chaotic, and otherwise child-directed play of recess, after-school and weekend play. The “scratch game” of basketball or football may not always emphasize the official rules to the strictest degree—a lesson better delivered in phy-ed or by a coach—but the camaraderie, sheer energy, and opportunities for creativity and leadership are real.
Most obviously, sports and recreation help develop and maintain healthy bodies. Athletics bolster everything from hand-eye coordination to endurance and agility. There’s no question that regular, vigorous physical exercise combats against childhood obesity, an intensifying issue in many countries. With the array of technological distractions more available than ever to young people, warding against an excessively sedentary lifestyle is that much more crucial.
Much evidence suggests participating in athletics confers benefits well beyond strengthened muscles and greater flexibility. Kids who participate in athletics tend to have higher rates of self-esteem, perform better in academics, and are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. The Women’s Sports Foundation suggests female athletes have lower incidences of pregnancy and depression.
Character Building and Interpersonal Skills
Team sports in particular have long been considered wonderful classrooms for working on interpersonal communication. Athletes learn how to work together to achieve a common goal, accepting that everyone has something to offer and no single individual can do everything without help. The competitive situations both team and individual athletes regularly face are hugely life-shaping. They help impart a strong sense of fair play, of respect for one’s opponent, and of a healthy humbleness even alongside a justified satisfaction in one’s own physical and mental abilities.
Critically, athletics can foster a strong sense of self-reliance and problem-solving. A kid learns that coaches and teammates have much to teach, but at certain key moments it’s up to them to perform and harness all the power of their abilities in the process.
Whether it’s learning the real meaning of winning, practicing the art of well-oiled teamwork, or mustering that extra nugget of resolve and mental fortitude when all other energies are depleted, sports and recreation provide unparalleled opportunities for physical, psychological, and emotional advancement in children. With all this in mind, don’t forget, too, that these activities are, at heart, just plain old fun—and without that ingredient they aren’t worth pursuing.
By Ryan Avila – Content writer for US Alarm.