5 Must-Do Sports for Kids


by By Jeanne Faulkner /


Posted on July 17, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 1:52 PM

About the Author

Jeanne Faulkner is a freelance writer and registered nurse in Portland, Ore. Her work appears regularly in Pregnancy and Fit Pregnancy, and she has contributed articles to the Oregonian, Better Homes & Gardens, Shape and other publications.

Your child will survive without ever playing lacrosse, football or hockey, but kids who can't swim, bike, hike, walk or boat safely might not. They'll also miss out on a lot of summertime fun if they lack these basic sporting skills.

1) Swimming: Nothing says summer like a day in the water, but kids who can't swim and/or aren't supervised are in danger.

 reports the following grim statistics:

  • Almost 3,600 people drown annually in the US
  • More than 25 percent of drowning victims are children 14 and younger
  • Nonfatal drownings can cause permanent brain damage

 (AAP) recommends that parents do not begin formal swimming lessons until their children are at least 4 years old, when they're "developmentally ready" for swim lessons. Younger kids can, however, enjoy water safely through infant and toddler aquatic programs. But the AAP stresses these "little kid" programs won't decrease your child's risk of drowning. Adult supervision is always required.

2) Bicycling: "Green" kids are begging for bikes, and teens of cash-strapped parents are looking to bikes instead of cars for transportation. Biking can be dangerous, though, if riders don't follow safety and traffic rules.

The AAP recommends that parents teach the following "Rules of the Road" to their kids, though young children should never ride without adult supervision.

  • Ride with traffic.
  • Stop and look both ways before entering the street.
  • Stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked.
  • Before turning, use hand signals and look all ways.

 (NHTSA) offers these tips for staying safe on your two-wheeler:

  • Wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet.
  • Adjust your bicycle to fit--log on to the NHTSA website for instructions.
  • Inflate tires properly and check that your brakes work.
  • Wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors (not white) day or night, along with reflective tape, markings, or flashing lights.
  • Ride with at least one hand on the handlebars, and carry items in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
  • Watch for and avoid road hazards like potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs, which can cause crashes. If you're in the lead, alert riders behind you to any obstacles.
  • Avoid riding at night. If you have no choice, then use reflectors on the front and rear of your bicycle and on your tires. Check state law requirements.

3) Walking: Sure, they've been walking since they were toddlers, but as children grow, they need more skills. In recent years, traffic-related pedestrian deaths among children 14 and under has declined, partly because children are walking less often. As parents become more "green and fit," we're hoping more families will walk together.

The NHTSA provides these pedestrian traffic safety tips:

  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there's no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Cross at intersections. Most pedestrian-car collisions occur when pedestrians cross at places other than intersections.
  • Stop at the curb and look left, right, and left again for traffic. Cross in marked crosswalks and obey the signal.
  • Drivers need to see you to avoid you, so make eye contact with drivers.
  • Stay out of the driver's blind spot.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective clothing, and carry a flashlight when walking at night.

4) Hiking: What's the difference between hiking and walking? Nature--plants, bugs, weather and rough terrain.   is an inexpensive way to enjoy the great outdoors, but follow the Boy Scout's motto: Be prepared.

  • Wear appropriate clothing and good, sturdy hiking shoes. Dress in layers, with long pants to protect legs from scratches and bug bites. Sneakers work for short hikes, but consider hiking boots for longer treks.
  • Hiking sticks. Grab a branch or stick that's not heavy but provides support and balance for uneven trails.
  • Plan your route for marked, clear trails that either loop back to your car or campsite, or hike "out and back." Don't push young children too far.
  • Pack food and water. Nothing ruins a hike faster than a hungry, thirsty child who has to be carried off the trail.
  • Pack a first aid kit. Prepare for scrapes, sprains, bruises and bug bites.

5) Boating: If your child goes boating, make sure everyone understands and complies with these basic safety tips provided by the US Coast Guard (they spell BESAFE):

  • Boat--Water-safe and operated only by skilled, adult drivers.
  • Equipment--All mechanical, safety anchor and tie-up equipment works properly. Include audible and visual distress signals, fire extinguishers and flotation devices.
  • Safety devices and personal flotation devices--Everyone must wear properly fitting personal flotation devices.
  • Alcohol limits--31 percent of boating fatalities involve operators who were boating while intoxicated.
  • First aid and emergency procedures--Prepare for injuries, weather and equipment emergencies. Inform authorities and family where you'll be boating, and file a float plan whenever necessary.
  • Environment--Check weather and water conditions before you go out, and follow specified precautions. When in doubt, don't go out.

When you follow the basic and practical rules of any sport, your kids will not only learn to master the activity, they'll get a lesson in responsibility and safety. And when they grow up, they can pass along the wisdom to their own kids.