Youth Sports: Should My Kid Play?

The landscape of youth sports has undergone a substantial transformation the past few decades. Opportunity grew, in part, as more and more people realized the emerging specialization trend and the possibility of mass monetization. Since then, the scene has exploded. Despite research reflecting a cooling effect, millions of children across the country play at least one team sport.

So what are parents to do? It seems you can’t go anywhere these days on a weekend morning without seeing a parade of uniformed kids coming from or headed to a sporting contest.

Can’t outdoor play provide necessary amounts of exercise (and general leisure) to stave off the obesity epidemic we’ve heard so much about? Yes, that is true. But the value of youth sports is not limited to physical health alone.

Whatever your stance on competitive sports, it’s helpful to keep in mind the various realities that accompany a child’s participation.

For starters, wander down to a local field or gymnasium most any weekend. It isn’t hard to find travel tournaments or recreational leagues offered in a variety of team sports. What you’ll observe ranges from heart-warming to (sometimes) outrageous and downright ludicrous.

Some leagues get this right. They are clear about their purpose and educate parents about the role they are to play, and how a final score should be buried far down the rung of importance. They exist for the sake of development — physical and social. These leagues promote recreation, bonding, and learning how to play with others.

Unfortunately, this message is not always the norm.

When determining if or when to sign your child(ren) up for youth sports, there are a series of things to consider:

Ask Them

It’s true, not every child craves competition. Others, still, love everything to do with it. Before making any decision, your child should be a part of the conversation. I LOVED playing baseball growing up does not constitute a reasonable justification for putting your completely disinterested child in Little League. And, the fact that you may not personally enjoy a sport (or sports at all) does not mean you should discourage a child from participating either.

Kids have a voice. Talk things over with them, and arrive at a logical decision that makes sense for all parties involved.

Experience > Achievement

Parents should emphasize things like the benefit of exercise and enjoyment. Sports are games, and games are designed to be fun. If there’s no fun involved, something is probably off track.

There are two areas that parents can’t go wrong emphasizing: having fun and giving one’s all. For parents of elementary age children, that’s all that really matters. Youth sports should be more about experience than achievement. Kids should begin to enjoy team camaraderie, working together, and the recognition that everyone has a contribution to offer.

Value Effort Over Results

Praising results rather than effort can have an undesirable effect. The problem with results-based praise is that a child (no matter what we as parents convince ourselves of) will never be the best at something all the time.

Unless they hit the genetic jackpot and pair it with a tireless work ethic (see Lebron James), it just doesn’t happen. So, when a child no longer experiences the same level of success and has grown accustomed to results-based praise, what happens then?

This is why praising things like teamwork and determination go a lot further than celebrating how many goals Lily scores. Lily can control how she treats her teammates as well as her unwillingness to give up; she cannot control the skill level of the other team’s goalie.

Praising effort isn’t limited to participation in sports either. Effort-based recognition should be applied to any endeavor a child pursues whether that’s playing an instrument, writing code, or Girl Scout involvement.

Educational Interference?

Are sports and education at odds with one another? They can be, but certainly do not need to be. If a child’s athletic commitments require an overabundance of weeknight training sessions punctuated by consistent weekend games and tournaments without sufficient rest/break time, then, yes, this could be an issue.

On the other hand, sports can complement the educational experience by offering an outlet for students to exercise different parts of their brains and bodies. Truly, balance is a key factor. Too much academic focus without the right amount of physical movement can inhibit learning. Along the same vein, non-stop athletic participation without a focus on learning presents its own series of issues.

Sports can be wonderful tools used to teach invaluable life lessons. And parents serve a crucial role in helping children understand their proper place and the right attitude involved. If your family has never been much on sports, give one a try and see if it fits. You and your child may discover a new experience that bonds in a completely unexpected way.



Are Children’s Birthday Parties Out of Control?

For many busy parents children’s birthdays look nothing like they did even a decade ago. As a child, your birthday probably happened at home, surrounded by family and maybe a few friends. You opened a couple presents, blew out the candles, and dug into a cake – homemade by Mom, of course.

Today’s birthdays bear little resemblance to the simple parties of times gone by. Modern children’s parties are action-packed affairs that require weeks (and even months) of planning.

Parents take on a laundry lists of tasks that include everything from shopping, baking, entertaining, preparing, planning, and – ultimately – exhaustion. Parties feature Pinterest-inspired favors and handmade decorations that would put a wedding reception to shame.

Fight for Your Right to Party!

To have a proper party today, you need a theme, color scheme, and personalized décor that complements your child’s age and interests. One family spent $40,000 on a Wizard of Oz-themed birthday party. Another featured 32 floral centerpieces and 300 costumes.

Check out this article on children’s birthday parties published by the Huffington Post.

The situation has become so dire, one family therapist was inspired to gather a few moms and launch a website to raise awareness about excessive children’s birthday parties.

The problem isn’t confined to the United States, either. One study found that parents in Britain spend almost $2 billion on children’s parties each year.

Read more about these studies here.
Fortunately, there are ways to strike a balance between over-the-top and too little fuss.

1. Scale Back on Gifts – A Mom’s Mantra

Everyone says they’re going to do it, but few people stick to their resolve. The truth is, the party is supposed to be for the child, but many end up being forMom and Dad. When a party becomes a status symbol, it’s time to cut back.

If the presents at your house have turned into small mountains, make a conscious effort to scale down. One popular modern mom mantra suggests buying a child just four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

By reducing presents to just four thoughtful items, you and your child can pause to truly savor the act of opening gifts.

2. Lower Expectations (Must Be This Tall to Ride…)

Many people experience a small bout of depression after the holiday season concludes. As children’s parties become bigger, more extravagant affairs, experts say the same phenomenon is emerging around birthday parties.

Experts speculate that the buildup and subsequent let-down surrounding just one day causes kids to experience a roller coaster of emotions. Consider slowly scaling back birthday celebrations so your child is not overwhelmed.

3. It’s Better to Give Than to Receive…

Turn your child’s birthday into an opportunity to teach him or her about helping others. Instead of accepting gifts from classmates or friends, ask invitees to bring an item of clothing or a book to donate to someone in need.

Other ideas include gathering toiletry items or clothing for domestic violence shelters, or assembling food and other supplies for your local humane society. Most community outreach organizations are always looking for food, clothing, and other items.

Other good ideas include visiting a nursing home to visit with residents and serving in a soup kitchen.

4. Pick One Big Gift (with Your Child’s Help)

As birthdays approach, many parents wander the toy aisles, trying to find gifts their child will love. Instead of wracking your brain for gift ideas, consider allowing your child to select one major gift with your help.

You may wish to shop online so your child can have fun browsing the Internet for ideas. Besides eliminating stress, online shopping can also save money. Many retailers offer exclusive Internet coupons and deals during various times of the year.

A child’s birthday should be a special day, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By managing your child’s expectations and making a few adjustments, you can slow it all down and enjoy a more peaceful celebration with your birthday boy or girl.

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Kid Friendly Activities to Fit Your Budget

You’re looking for something to do with your kid, but you don’t want to spend $300 for a day at Disneyland. Wherever you’re located, there are several, fun, inexpensive, appropriate activities available for you and your youngster. We’ve got some budget-minded (and even free!) suggestions to lend to a memory-making day.

No Kid-ding, There’s a Lot to Do!

Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing to do. You want to do something with your child, but you just can’t come up with a new activity. It might feel like you’re always doing the same thing, or you can’t afford certain luxury outings.

Whether you live in a rural town, suburbia, or a city, believe it or not, there’s a plethora of options you can add to your child’s activity list. What seems like boring “big person” stuff can actually be kid-friendly and, ultimately, kid-enjoyable.

Friendly Faces and Culture Galore

Wherever you live or are visiting, the place has a history. It can be a memorable time when both you and your kid get to incorporate learning with a fun experience. Most locations have landmarks or historical symbols worth discovering and exploring.

Often, a local paper will note activities related to ceremonies, parades, and other cultural events that will take place. You’d be surprised how interesting the history of your locale can be. Many times there are re-enactments of historical events.

It’s also intriguing to hear about original settlers who arrived at your location. Cultural foods, costumes, and wares are often presented at fairs and other “town” events. There’s usually no admission fee to attend these types of festivals.

In a larger city, your opportunity to enjoy a variety of cultural events is widened. You can always go online and Google, “Kid-friendly things to do in__(your location)__ on      (the date)”.

Kid-Friendly Familiar Outings

  • The zoo is always a great place to visit. Check and see if your zoo offers tours or animal shows.
  • Museums are amazing. It can be something other than just the “Natural History.” Check out art museums, science, space, aircraft, even miniatures.
  • Aquariums are fascinating. Getting to learn about and watch sea creatures will fill a day with information and intrigue.
All of the above entry fees are minimal or sometimes by donation only.

Free Kid Activities (or Super Cheap)

  • In the winter if you’re near snow, there’s always sledding, snowball tossing, and snowman building.
  • In the summer if you’re near the beach or a lake, there’s always swimming, surfing, and sandcastle building.
  • Take a bus, train, tram, or ferry to somewhere nearby you’ve never been. Or, take any new mode of transportation just for the experience of riding it!
  • Check out what’s going on at the library. Sometimes there are great live-readers, storytelling, workshops, or free movies.
  • Visit a farmer’s market. Besides the delicious produce, there’s often musicians, craftsmen, and other artisans presenting their talents and wares.
  • Grab a couple of sleeping bags and a can of beans and go camping. An overnight in the mountains, desert, or even a backyard can be a memorable, fun time.
  • Visit a pet shelter. Go say hi to the animals. They love the attention, and they bring a smile to children’s faces. (Just don’t bring a new puppy home if your family is not equipped physically or financially.)

When Stuck, Indoor Activities

  • Play dodgeball with rolled up pairs of socks
  • Build a fort with chairs, sheets, towels, and blankets
  • Play card games and learn and practice card tricks
  • Tie-dye old socks, t-shirts, and pillow cases
  • Play hide and seek
  • Draw self-portraits on the bathroom mirror with lipstick or dry-erase markers

If you get into the mindset of a child’s imagination, the ideas for kid-friendly activities can be endless. Cherish your time together, no matter what you choose to experience. For other ideas on family matters, health, and optimum living, check out