Family Matters: Toddlers playing sports

Family Matters: Toddlers playing sports

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More parents are now enrolling their toddlers in sports not long after they've started walking.  
There are many activities to choose from including soccer, karate, and swimming.  
In this week's Family Matters, we visited an Edmond gymnastics class, where kids as young as one and a half are getting a jump start in the sport.

From swinging and climbing to bouncing, toddlers are discovering gymnastics at Oklahoma Gold starting at 18-months-old.
"Our program is designed to build their gross motor skill development, their eye-hand coordination," said coach Shelley Barker

Dixie Teubner isn't even two yet, but her dad Ryan, a former gymnast himself, sees plenty of reasons to start her lessons so young.
"She loves coming to gymnastics," said Teubner. "She loves the social interaction. She loves doing the zip lines, the forward roll.  She just loves playing around for an hour."

Teubner admits at this level, it's not about training for elite competition, it's all about having fun.  
And the coaches say the kids are learning skills that will give them an edge in the sport later on.

 "Because by the time they're 3, they already know how to jump on 2 feet, how to sit, how to follow directions, how to stand in line, how to use the water fountain," said Barker.  "I mean, they are so much more advanced."

The younger kids get the hang of activities through repetition with the help of mom or dad.  Then once they turn 3, parents have to watch through a window.   That's how 2-year-old Dax Randels got started.

Hi mom Anna said,  "My daughter is 3, and she's been doing it for a little while.  And he's been sitting out here watching, pressed up against the window."

So how young is too young to start a sport?  Experts say at this young age, you want to make sure there is variety in their play, like at the Oklahoma Gold class,  rather than repeating one specific motion or skill.  
And be sure the atmosphere is non-competitive.

"I think you have to have the right mind set about it.," said Teubner. "As long as they're having fun, that's all that matters."

Some orthopedic surgeons report seeing a huge increase in pre-teens with sports injuries because they started a particular sport too young.   That's why they emphasize mixing up your child's activities and keep them age-appropriate.

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