boy playing tennis

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To keep in shape, play sports! Your children are also affected. But how many hours per week can a child play sports?

What is the maximum duration of sport for a child?
What is the ideal duration of sport for a child?
What are the benefits of sport for a child?
From what age can a child play sports?
Beware of the obsession with competition.
How can I give my child a taste for sport?

Children need to let off steam. Rather than making a mess everywhere at home, why not choose the “sports activity” option? A good way to create social ties, share an activity and exercise! Football, tennis, dancing, swimming… your child can choose from many sporting activities. The question now is: is there a maximum duration of sport per week for a child?

What is the maximum duration of sport for a child?
There are no maximum hours of sport per week or per day. The amount of “doable” sport must be assessed according to each child, respecting several principles:

  • The alternation between practice times and rest times (e.g., doing sport 1 day out of 2).
  • The progressiveness of the sessions according to their intensity (a beginner child will not do 5,000 meters in athletics from their first session).
  • Your child’s state of fatigue before, during and after the session.
  • Respect for the notion of pleasure (“I want to go there”).
  • Adapting to the rhythms of life of your child and your family (e.g., whether you are used to walking or not).

The maximum duration is therefore that which the organism, the body, the brain, the mind or the environment of your child are able to support.
In the case of young, high-level athletes, enrolled in high-level sport accession schemes (often already at the age of 11), their daily life varies on average from 2 to 5 hours of sport per day, 5 days a week (even 6 days), sometimes at high intensity.
Should your child do the same? Not at all. Here, “these are young people who already have a substantial background in their sport, who have gone through phases of adaptation before bearing such a burden. Moreover, professional supervision watches over them,” explains Thierry Gautier, technical adviser national of the French Boxing Federation. “This rhythm of sport per week is therefore not to be imitated for your child, like the young prodigies of music, we have to do with young prodigies of their sport.”

What is the ideal duration of sport for a child?
The ideal duration is that recommended by all known medical and paramedical studies: 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Sport should be offered to the extent reasonable. As mentioned above, take into account your child’s desires, their physical abilities (hence the importance of monitoring them), and their daily constraints (school, homework, other activities, etc.).
The volume of sport depends on another important parameter for them: the times when they do nothing, even the times when they are bored. Because this too is important to take into account. Boredom contributes to the cognitive development of the child, through the search for “what am I going to do?”.
Just like the maximum duration of sport, the ideal duration does not exist. It depends on each child, on their age, their hours of working capacity, their hours of sleep, their maximum concentration times, etc. All these elements evolve with age and will continue to evolve. The little being that is your child is constantly developing: their organs, their brain, their muscles, their bones, their knowledge, their abilities… “Sports abilities” increase from an early age, to reach a peak, then decrease, inducing in fact an evolution of the time that everyone can devote to it.

What are the benefits of sport for a child?
All physical activity has an impact on the individual. “Regular, supervised, and regulated physical practice, in a defined environment, corresponding to certain ‘criteria’ (competitive objectives, or just personal achievement) has an impact on the child,” warns our expert. These effects, which we hope to be positive, are at the physical, physiological, mental, and psychological level. They are the motors of psychomotricity and sociability.
When well practiced, sport has many benefits for your child:

  • It helps to strengthen the immune system.
  • It allows your child’s harmonious development by promoting and participating in their anatomical development (accompaniment of the development of muscles, bones, etc.), especially when they enter the puberty phase.
  • It offers them, through play and physical activity, the possibility of exploring all their physiological possibilities (via short and long races, accelerations, sequences, etc.). All this promotes their adaptation to different environments and physiological changes that their body is able to put in place.
  • It improves motor skills as well as cognitive aspects.
  • It helps your child to be sociable. They are less likely to be closed in on themselves when they are in a sports collective. Communication is essential and it is very beneficial for your little one.

From what age can a child play sports?
Activity and sport are to be distinguished. Allow your child, from an early age, to practice diversified physical activities that will require adapted motor skills: walking, climbing, crawling, etc. For a better adaptation to a new environment, do not hesitate to enroll him in aquatic activities, for example. Baby gym type awakening activities can be beneficial.
For the practice of sport, the age depends on the chosen activity. Take into account your child’s motivation and maturity, in relation to the chosen discipline. Thus, the beginnings in horse riding can be early, because, beyond the positive relationship with the animal that your child maintains, they present a certain ease and understanding of the other (in this case, the animal as a partner and not as an “object”).

Beware of the obsession with competition
Who says sport, says competition. “This should not be the engine for entering practice, wanting to be a champion, wanting to ‘replace Roger Federer’ should not be the gateway to tennis,” warns Thierry Gautier. The competition in sport must, for your child, keep its sense of play. Preserve the essence of the game, in the sense of playing. This fundamental notion of play must take precedence over the result for your child.
Without the pleasure of play, sport loses its interest, which can lead your child to extremes that are detrimental to their physical, mental, and social health.

How can I give my child a taste for sport?
Above all, you should not force your child to play sports, but rather encourage them, guide them, and accompany them towards physical practice. Then comes sport in the sense defined above.
Don’t put pressure on yourself, if your child spends their days outside running, cycling, playing, or if your teenager has their bike as their daily means of transport, there is no need to worry about their health if they are not enrolled in a sports course. As a reminder, sport ensures psychological, social, and cognitive development that daily physical activity is not able to provide. To make your child want to play sports, you can say phrases like “you’re going to make lots of friends” or take them to dance shows, swimming races, etc.
A little anecdote from the writer of this article: “When I was little, my grandmother took me to see a synchronised swimming show. I was so amazed by the beauty of the artistic swimmers, their talent, and their grace, that I asked to register for this practice the following year.” Test this technique. In addition to its effectiveness, it makes for a great family outing!
Finally, keep in mind that sport allows your child to grow by exploring other facets of their personality, what they can evolve towards, and what they can become.

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