At this age, the focus in physical activity should be on acquiring new skills and improving old techniques. Don’t emphasize winning - that is not important at this age! Instead, try to focus on teamwork and acquiring a new set of skills. Your children will understand the meaning of winning or losing by themselves, and you should use this opportunity to speak to them about their feelings and prepare them for competitive situations they will face in the future. Explain to your child that the aim is to self improve and not just win! Winning could be about improving the child's previous attempts, and not just compared to other players on the field.
Exposure to different sports is important at this age in order to give your child different skills and allow them to choose which sport they like the most. Make sure the sport is adjusted to your child's age and abilities.
Often, children aged 5-6 years don’t have a developed eye-hand coordination which is important to remember when dealing with sports. Children might be able to throw or catch a ball before they understand which direction the ball went, or how fast they need to run to reach the ball. As their coordination gets better with age, so will their abilities in a wide variety of sports - not just throwing and catching a ball.
Don’t try and speed the process! Children develop these abilities alone with time and it's important not to rush them. Allow your child to develop fully with minimum pressure from you.
Keep in mind that children at this age have a short concentration span - don’t expect them to remember long and complicated instructions. Non-realistic expectations from coaches and parents can cause uncomfortable situations. Short instructions or giving an example can help.
As always, physical activities should be an inseparable part of your child's daily life in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. Make sure your child participates in physical activity at least 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes each time. Keep a positive attitude and always allow your child to play the sport they love so they will have the motivation to pursue.
Last updated: May 2017
Authors - Judah Freedman BA MED, Dr. Yair Sadaka MD Ph.D., pediatrician, Pediatric neurologist