Whether for participation or for passion, there are many sports and performing arts options for your child to try. We look at the options, so you can make the best decision for your child.
Words BROOKE EVANS-BUTLER
Dance is a popular activity for toddlers right through to adults, and for good reason. Jerrika Howley, head of the ‘Petite Performers’ and ‘Young Performers’ departments at Brent Street, says there are many advantages of dancing, including social relationships, balance and coordination, as well as confidence, respect, fun, sportsmanship, teamwork and goal setting.
There are many types of dance your child can try, but Jerikka recommends a beginner try ballet and/or jazz. “Ballet is the foundation of dance so all dancers will benefit from ballet training, and the co-ordination of jazz technique is always fun with the upbeat songs,” she says.
Liliana Maddams, principal at LA Talent School, recommends children try out a trial lesson. “Some kids love ballet but some find it a little bit slow,” she says. “Others love hip hop, which is very popular, and they love jazz. The best way to decide is to come along and try a class because every child is so different.”
Whether you take your baby to a music class or encourage your child to learn an instrument – there are a number of options available to immerse your child in music.
Professor Alan Lourens, head of UWA Conservatorium of Music, recommends children take part in music from a young age. “We know that students who take part in musical activity before the age of 12 develop very particular pathways in the brain, in a way that no other subject does,” he says. “What they do is connect the right and the left side of the brain very strongly.”
Students who take part in musical activity before the age of 12 develop very particular pathways in the brain, in a way that no other subject does.
He adds the sociological benefits are also massive. “One of the things about having students take part in music is that it is a social activity,” he says. “They have to learn to work with others in a way that is positive. There is no one trying to stop them from being their best because there is no opposition. For young kids, they are learning things like having to give things back, having to wait their turn, and having to put things in a particular place.”
To increase self-esteem or to bring out their inner actor – why not consider a good drama program for your child?
“Although there can be a misconception that a Performing Arts program is all about the performance side of things, it is often more about learning life skills,” says Helen Davey, Executive Principal, Helen O’Grady Drama Academy WA.
“Drama in general can help children with confidence, self-esteem, creative thinking, language skills and communication. The wonderful part about it is that all children have amazing imaginations which can be tapped into and used as a platform on which to build these skills. Creative programs can really help children to articulate their thoughts, feelings and emotions – to help them find their voices.”
Helen says performing arts programs suit everyone. “All young people enjoy creativity, when presented in the right environment. Some children come along to classes to increase their confidence and self-esteem, while others attend drama classes as a creative outlet, and to improve on their drama skills.”
There are many types of martial arts, including judo, karate, mixed martial arts and more – and they are great not only for fitness, but to learn self-defence and increase confidence.
Celeste Knoester, coach at Kano Judo Schools, says judo and many other martial arts have physical benefits for children, such as improved gross motor coordination, spatial awareness, strength, balance and overall fitness levels. “The aspect that sets martial arts apart from other sports however, is the impact it has on the whole person,” she says. “Children will learn respect, friendship, confidence, emotional and physical self-control, conflict-resolution and self-defence skills.”
There are various martial arts classes, so when choosing a class for your child, Celeste advises to ensure it is something your child enjoys and looks forward to attending every week, while you as the parent feel they are learning something of value.
“Trust your gut as a parent and if you are not comfortable with something being taught, there are plenty other martial art options for you and your child. A good martial art will keep your child active, while building them into the best version of themselves.”
Swimming is a great bonding activity for parent and baby (and is a perfect way to introduce young children to water). As your child grows, swimming lessons allow them to learn their strokes and develop water safety.
VenuesWest spokesperson and manager of Aquatics and Swim School, Taryn deLestang, says swimming lessons should be appropriate to the developmental age of the child, be fun and engaging, and include safety skills.
“When choosing a swim school parents should look for experienced and competent instructors who can guide your child through the learn-to-swim process in a safe and compassionate environment,” she advises. “It should be a positive experience for children and parents. As with learning any new skill, practice is key and being able to attend classes at a suitable time and location is also a major consideration. If the classes are close to home and at convenient times then you are more likely to be able to commit to regular lessons.”
If you are worried about your child becoming bored with a repetitive activity, why not try Little Athletics?
Little Athletics Australia CEO Martin Stillman, says there are a wide range of events for children from 5 to 15 years of age in Little Athletics including running, jumping, throwing and walking and the events are modified to suit the age, developmental stage and ability of the children.
“Little Athletics promotes that it is important to ‘Be your Best’,” he says. “The emphasis being on fun, participation, performance, technique and getting involved with your family in physical and healthy activity.”
Ball sports are great to promote team work and skills – and with options including netball, basketball, soccer, football and more, there is sure to be a suitable ball sport for your child.
Kobie Combes, Netball WA’s Participation Manager, says Suncorp NetSetGo (Australia’s official netball starter program) is suitable for girls and boys aged 5 to 10.
“One of the biggest advantages of the Suncorp NetSetGO program is the use of modified equipment and rules,” Kobie says. “This allows the participants fundamental movement and motor skills to develop at an appropriate pace while allowing them to feel success and confident. Suncorp NetSetGO is also a very inclusive program for all boys and girls of all abilities aged 5-10.”
Kobie adds that playing a team sport such as netball from an early age holds many physical and mental advantages including developing self-esteem, teaching leadership skills, improving team building friendships and developing communication skills.
Janine Ripper, Marketing Officer, Act-Belong-Commit, says some of the advantages of children taking part in activities such as Performing Arts and sports are:
Boosts their mental and physical health and overall wellbeing.
Helps them to develop a sense of belonging and connection to others through forming new friendships and feeling a part of something.
Improves confidence and self-esteem.
Adds meaning and purpose to their lives.
If you are worried about not doing enough activities (or doing too much), Janine says there is no ‘ideal’ number of activities for children, “it all depends on the individual child and the family”. “We highly encourage parents to strive for a sense of balance, especially between structured and unstructured activities, free time and rest.”
Remember there are so many activities that your child can try! If none of the featured sports/activities appeal to your child, why not try something a bit different, such as parkour, fencing, breakdancing or archery.
Brooke has written for home improvement, bridal and women’s lifestyle publications, but says Offspring enables her to combine writing with her new favourite hobby, being a mum to her boys Caleb and Jonah.