Summer is officially here, and the kids need an activity that uses up some of that infamous energy while teaching social and developmental skills. Team sports will fit the bill for most, says Dr. Karl Rathjen, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, who believes that organized team sports are safer for children than free-play.
The structure of organized sports reduces the opportunity for your child to get injured, as they might at the local pool or playground. "Being supervised by team coaches leaves little opportunity for dangerous horseplay or improper techniques," says Dr. Rathjen. Team sports offer supervision, protective gear and the opportunity to make new friends. In fact, Dr. Thomas Van Hoose, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry, stated that children enrolled in team sports "learn key social skills, such as teamwork, separating from their parents and taking direction from other adults."
However, he stresses that parents should consider enrolling their child in "inclusive" sport programs, which accept children on the basis of availability rather than try-outs. This will make sure that the focus of the activity is fun, and not competition. Best of all, team sports will get your child away from the TV and into the fresh air.
"Children as young as 3 years old can enroll in many municipal leagues. And because most children don't have a lot of power in their swing or with their kicking, softballs or soccer balls gone awry are less likely to inflict permanent damage on other players," says Dr. Rathjen. However, he warns that summertime is supposed to be a time of rest for your child's mind and body, so make sure that your child still has some free-time in their schedule.
Van Hoose agreed, stating, "If they want to take time to lie on their beds, stare at the ceiling and daydream, then they need time to do that, too." The most important thing to remember is helping your child to make the most of the summer. Talk to your child about his or her interests, and find an activity group that fits them. Whether it's a sports team, a reading club, or an arts and crafts program, summer is a valuable opportunity for developing greater social skills while having fun.