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Benefits of Sports for Children: 13 Reasons to Let Kids Play Sports

The benefits of sports for children include physical, mental, emotional, and social development.

The results of a recent study complement previous studies, which have shown that “team sport participation may be a vehicle for promoting child and adolescent mental health” (9).

The Benefits of Playing Sports for Children

Often, children participate in sports for fun. The joy they get from running around, making new friends, and competing is satisfying. But the benefits of sports for children go beyond that.

sports equipmentPhysical activities positively impact virtually every aspect of a child’s life. From good bodily development to mental health and even academic performance, sports bring various advantages to the table.

And if you notice that they are generally disinterested in sports, you can try to motivate them without being forceful. There are a few ways of doing that:

  • Take the child to a game
  • Drive them to a children’s playground
  • Do sporting activities with them at home
  • Encourage the child to invite their friends over for mini-games
  • Do not show disappointment when they underperform or fail to win


Physical benefits

The physical benefits of sports are relatively obvious to many people. They are more apparent today, where sedentary indoor games (like video games) are popular among children. This makes it even more crucial for these young ones to participate in sports activities.

Some of the physical benefits of sports for children include the following:

1. Provides Physical Activity

Sports allow children to engage in regular physical exercises. This physical activity improves bone health, strengthens muscles, and keeps weight in check (1).

Besides, physical activity reduces inflammation in the body (2). This is important for children because they are at an age where their body is naturally building its immunity system. Participating in sports early on can carry these benefits way into adulthood.

2. Increased Strength and Endurance

Playing sports increases a child’s strength and endurance, especially with a good diet (3). In addition, since most sporting activities require different movements – including slow, steady, and sudden – they tend to help children develop slow and fast twitch muscles. Ultimately, this leads to more muscular tissues and increased stamina (4).

3. Improved Balance and Coordination

By engaging in sporting activities that require running, jumping, and so on, children learn earlier how to control their bodies (4). In turn, better control improves motor functions like balance and coordination.

And that’s not all. Sports have been shown to help children develop neural pathways that control gross and fine motor skills (4). These essentially provide the ability to manipulate muscles for movement, balance, and coordination, and their effects often last through adulthood and old age.

4. Better Physical Health

As already mentioned, sports increase physical activity levels. Apart from improving bone health and muscle fitness, participating in activities improves cardiovascular health and decreases body fat percentage. It also lowers the risk of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (5).


Mental Benefits

In many cases, when children take part in sports, they often have to use their intellect to come up with strategies. This requires creative thinking, attention, and focus. Games that involve keeping scores may sharpen a child’s math abilities, ultimately sharpening their brain. Here’s a more detailed look at the mental health benefits of sports for children:

5. Improved Concentration

Most physical games require analytical and strategic thinking, which increases focus and attention (4). These are all skills a child can carry over into their regular life, including in the classroom. With better concentration, a child can easily comprehend concepts in various subjects. It may also help them make better decisions in their everyday life (8).

6. Better Academic Performance

Children who play sports tend to have higher educational skills. This means that they often achieve higher academic levels (5) than those who don’t participate in sports.

In a report titled “Project Play”, the Aspen Institute confirms that children who take up sports score on average 40% better in school tests than those who don’t (6). Therefore, letting children play is one way to improve their educational skills, which they may use throughout their life.


Emotional Benefits

Many adults are less aware of the emotional benefits of sports for youth. But, generally speaking, children who participate in athletics are happier, less stressed, more confident, and appreciative of their body image.

7. Reduces Stress and Improves Mood

According to science, sporting exercises trigger the body to release endorphins (6). These naturally occurring hormones are responsible for people’s euphoric feelings after intense physical activity. A good example is a runner’s high after a run.

As is the case in adults, endorphins improve mood in children. They lower negative feelings like mental stress, depression, and anxiety while boosting positive ones like happiness and calmness. Furthermore, these feel-good hormones can help children sleep better (6).

8. Improved self-esteem

One benefit of sports is that they make it possible for children to learn new skills. Children can build on these skills when adequately supported so that success in one level leads to another. This often builds their confidence and self-esteem. With good self-esteem comes positive thoughts about oneself (5).

9. Positive body image

According to WebMD, children who play sports (especially girls) tend to have a positive body image compared to those who don’t (4). This likely comes from their sense of accomplishment when participating in athletic activities and winning.

Besides, playing sports decreases body fat percentage, particularly in girls (5). This, too, may contribute to their feelings of positivity regarding their body image.


Social benefits

The social benefits of sports for children are often ignored even though they are just as important as all the other benefits. Physical activities don’t just increase life satisfaction; they also impart important life lessons that children can use throughout their lives. Some social benefits of sports for students include the following:

10. Proper time management

Children who play sports are accustomed to schedules. This usually helps them to pick time management skills from a very young age (6).

Granted, your child may have fewer free hours because of their extracurricular activities. But over time, they typically learn how to schedule themselves and adequately manage their time.

11. Communication Skills

Communication is an essential part of every sport, whether it’s a single-player or a team sport. For example, children learn when to be quiet, listen, and speak up (6).

Beyond verbal communication, team sports are excellent at teaching young ones how to use nonverbal communication. A child will quickly pick what it means, whether it’s a thumbs-up, a wink, or a hand gesture. And they can use this understanding to their advantage in the real world, where reading body language is an essential skill (6).

12. Important Social Values

Sports provide an excellent platform for teaching children life values. For example, through interactions, they learn the importance of respect (for coaches, officials, teammates, and even opponents), discipline, and patience (6). While team sports strongly teach these values, your child can still learn them when participating in individual sports.

13. Lower Risk of Drug use and Teen Pregnancy

Children actively participating in sports are less likely to use and abuse drugs (11). On top of that, girls involved in sports are less likely to become teenage mothers (11).


Teamwork makes the Dream Work

There are certain areas where team sports are generally better than individual sports. For example, your child can quickly and easily learn the benefits of teamwork by being in a sports team (8). They may also learn sportsmanship when they win and lose as a team (4). Besides respecting opponents when they win, children in a group often find ways to lift each other when they lose. This teaches them ways of coping with losses and bouncing back from them (4).

Perhaps most importantly, team sports provide a base for children to make new friends and strengthen existing friendships. In addition, children get a feeling of belonging by being part of a team (6).

This is highly beneficial in many ways. For one, it aids their psychological development. Secondly, it also provides them with a support system away from home (6).


Final thoughts on the benefits of sports for children

Many people often focus on the physical benefits of sports for children. However, physical activities offer advantages that cut across multiple aspects of a children’s life.

When it comes to Team vs. Individual sports, in studies, team sport “participation may be a vehicle to support a child and adolescent mental health” (9). The study indicates that if your child does an individual sport, it helps to have them do a team sport.


Artist (Header):

Artist (Article Images):


1. CDC
Benefits of Physical Activity

2. John Hopkins
Exercise and the Heart

3. Serenity Sleepers
The Importance of Sports to Health and Fitness

4. Love to Know
Benefits of Playing Sports for Kids

5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Developed by PCSFN Science Board
Benefits of Youth Sports

6. Australian Sports Camps
Benefits Of Team Sports For Kids

7. Prevention Plus Wellness
Can Sports and Physical Activity Prevent Youth Substance Use?

8. Health Direct
Developing life skills through sports

9. PLOS ONE (Journals)
Associations between organized sports participation and mental health difficulties: Data from over 11,000 US children and adolescents

10. Smithsonian Magazine
Should Parents Worry About New Research Linking Kids’ Mental Health and Individual Sports?

11. World Health Organisation (WHO)
Physical Activity and Its Impact on Health Behaviours Among Youth