Premier Education

Encouraging a lifelong love for sport – how you can affect a child’s experience of PE

Why is physical education important?

It’s no secret that participation in PE and sport can be hugely beneficial for your child in a number of ways. Research showed that 88 percent of parents believe that sport benefits for their child’s physical health, and 73 percent believe it’s good for their mental health too.

Some kids will take to sport like a fish to water, but for others, PE participation at school can be more of a chore than a treat.

Teach it like a skill

For a lot of school students enjoying sport is a skill that has to be learned like any other – and should be treated as such. In fact, being involved in physical activity is all part of developing healthy habits.

You wouldn’t expect your child to learn to read on their own, and the same goes for learning to enjoy sport. The support parents offer their children at home can make all the difference in how they participate in PE at school, and can ultimately set them up for success.

The good news is that there’s not one set way to encourage children’s participation in sport. There’s lot of things you can do with your child that can turn PE lessons into their favourite class of the day.

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Lead by example

Children can be little sponges, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that their first associations with sport are led by you as the parent. We all want our kids to have high self-esteem and self-confidence, so as a parent, you’re well-placed to become a role model by joining or leading activities.

By demonstrating your own good relationship with sport and physical activity, you can show your kids that PE lessons can be something to enjoy from an early age.

Participation in physical activity may look like joining a local leisure football league, going to a yoga class or even enjoying the outdoors on a walk. If that’s not possible then show your enthusiasm for PE and sport in other ways. Why not watch team sports or a sport world championship on TV together with your child and get them excited about doing something similar?

Do it together

Being active with your child helps them develop the confidence to try new things and take risks – and to develop the resilience to get up and try again. Most importantly, having fun together is a great way for you to bond with your child.

Doing something together could be as simple as playing catch in the garden, or it could involve bringing them along to a park run at the weekend. Anything that will give them the opportunity to improve their fundamental movement skills is a great starting point.

While they’re young it’s good to introduce your child to the activities you love, but it’s also important to keep an eye on whether they’re enjoying themselves. It’s okay if they’re not – there are plenty of activities for them to try, and finding the right activity will help to increase participation.

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It’s never too early to start

The good thing about getting your child to enjoy taking part in physical activity is that it’s never too late to start. But it’s also never too early either! The benefits of physical activity for children can’t be underestimated.

Make sport something to look forward to and be excited about from a young age, and that enthusiasm will carry through to PE lessons when they’re at school. Swimming is a great form of physical exercise to keep kids fit and is an important safety skill to have, making it a great place to start if you’re unsure.

This early participation, focusing purely on enjoyment, can help foster a love of physical activity that will last well into adulthood, helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Motivating your child

It’s a no-brainer that children require motivation when it comes to most things, but this is especially true with sports. But did you know that the type of motivation you give can have long-term impacts on your child’s relationship with sports and activity?

Not all motivation is equal, with some being better for a child’s wellbeing than others.

Motivation might be autonomous, where your child is able to motivate themselves due to enjoyment of the sport, or the value they get from participation in the activity.

Some children however find themselves more motivated by external motivators They may only take part in physical activity in anticipation of a reward, or even continuing playing a sport only because they feel guilty about letting their parents or teammates down.

It may also be that your child is inspired by positive role models around them. Do they aspire to be a leading goal scorer at their football club of choice? Perhaps they’d like to win an olympic gold medal? If there are role models that spring to mind, these could offer some additional motivation when required.

Reward effort over performance

Of course, it’s okay and even encouraged to congratulate your child doing well, but be mindful exactly of what it is you’re praising them for, as it may be putting pressure onto your child without meaning to.

Research shows that rewarding the effort put in by your child rather than the outcome will have much more beneficial and long-lasting effects.

Instead of rewarding them for the number of goals they scored, praise them for the effort they showed during the game. Reward them for practising the skills their coach has taught them or for helping out a team mate on the field.

The good thing about this type of motivation is that is doesn’t matter whether your child’s team has ‘won’ or not. It’s okay for children to feel disappointed if they don’t win, but it’ll let them find enjoyment in sport even when things don’t go the way they want them to.

As the saying goes, it’s the taking part that counts.

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Avoid focusing too much on how your child can improve

Delivering feedback nearly always comes from a place of wanting your child to succeed, but from your child’s perspective it can seem like you’re focusing on where they’re falling short.

They’ll already be trying to please both you and their coach. Offering advice that might contradict what they’ve already been told could leave them confused and anxious.

Leave the improvements to their teacher, and instead be there to provide support and be your child’s biggest cheerleader. Or a commiserating shoulder to cry on should they need it.

Keep encouraging participation

Don’t give up! There’s a learning curve involved when practising a new skill. But once your child gets past it, they often gain the confidence they need to enjoy an activity or sport, something that will give them confidence when it comes to physical education classes.

If they don’t end up enjoying an activity, at least they tried. And now they can choose a fun new activity to try instead!

Fun over technique

Sport and physical activity shouldn’t feel like a chore. Even for the most dedicated sportsperson, once they stop having fun, their love for a sport can dwindle quickly.

As you’re introducing your kids into new sporting activities you should focus on the joy of the sport rather than the technique. That can come later in PE class if your child shows a passion for the sport, as they’ll naturally want to do better.

It might take more than one try… or two, or three

Sometimes a sporting activity just doesn’t work out.

It can be frustrating when both you and your child have spent countless hours and money investing in training and sports equipment only for your child to want to quit. It can be especially tough if your child has a particular talent that they might be “throwing away”.

But it’s important to listen to your child when they say they would like to quit.

A chance for new friends

Learning together is one of the best ways to make new friends as children can lean on each other for motivation and support. No one else knows quite what they’re going through better than another child on the same path. It makes participation in PE a great opportunity to build social and team work skills.

Encouraging your child to take part in high quality after-school sports activities like those offered by Premier Education means they can make more new friends outside the classroom that can then translate to their PE experience. Something that can be especially helpful if your child is at a different skill level to their usual group of friends.

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How to encourage participation in sport?

Getting your child to enjoy participating in sports can be a process, but it can also be lots of fun for both you and your child, and there are untold benefits of children playing sports.

Premier Education runs a variety of extracurricular clubs for all interests that can help you to find a sport your child loves that will help to foster a life-long love of physical exercise. Our highly trained activity professionals are specialists in children’s physical activity, become positive role models and keep children engaged with fun, focused sessions for all levels. You can find out if your school offers extracurricular clubs through our school activity finding tool.

Get in touch today

We hope these tips have been helpful and you and your child feel ready to take on this exciting new challenge!

Contact us today to find out more or for insight into whether participation in competitive sports is good for your child, read more here.