There’s no doubt that unstructured play is valuable for your little one’s development, and she should be doing plenty of it! But, whether it’s organized play with you (like our BabySparks activities!) or in a group, different types of structured play have their own unique benefits, too. You might think your toddler isn’t quite ready to be involved in a team sport or activity where following directions is necessary. However, sports and activities exist for the toddler age group to target the many skills that will help your little one feel successful participating in group activities for years to come.
Toddler sports or activities support the development of:
Sports are especially beneficial for motor skill development. Gymnastics, for instance, gets kids moving in ways that improve coordination and flexibility. Football, tee-ball, soccer, and other sports can help coordinate hand-eye movements, proprioception, and bilateral integration. Holding a ball, bat, or paintbrush gives toddlers the chance to build their fine motor skills, too.
Following Directions and Rules
Toddlers begin to learn to follow directions with two steps around 24 months, putting them in an excellent position to understand the simple instructions they’ll get with an activity. Coaches and helpers who work with toddlers know how to explain game and activity rules in age-appropriate ways. As your toddler gets more involved with her sport, she’ll begin to pick up on the rules of the game and learn why it’s important to follow them.
Being around other children her age is an excellent way for your toddler to make new friends and develop age-appropriate social skills. Your toddler will learn all about turn-taking, empathy, waiting, and self-regulating as she interacts with her teammates or classmates.
Sportsmanship and Teamwork
Whether your toddler is on a team or in a class with other kids her age, her activity will set a supportive foundation for teamwork and sportsmanship. Through guidance and participation, she’ll learn to cheer on other children and work together to accomplish a goal.
Many toddlers may start out feeling timid when they first begin their activity, but several weeks later emerge into confident, smiling little ones who enjoy what they’re doing. Sports and other activities have a unique way of building self-esteem as toddlers learn what they’re good at and what they enjoy. Even failures offer important teaching moments for kids of all ages.
Far past toddlerhood, your little one will continue to find new interests and transition from old ones. It can be a challenge to keep up with her revolving interests, but it’s always good for children to try new things.
Your toddler is no exception. This age is full of exploration, creativity, and imagination. As she tries new activities, she’ll figure out what she enjoys and dislikes. If, after a few soccer practices, she realizes she doesn’t have fun playing, try not to get discouraged. It’s all a part of her becoming more self-aware and independent, which is a fantastic thing to witness!