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Children and Sports: Choices for All Ages

From MayoClinic.com

 Special to CNN.com

Want to give your children a head start on lifelong fitness and cut their risk of being overweight?

One option may be to head to the town recreation center and sign them up for sports.Of course, it's not always that simple. Many communities offer limited choices for children's sports and activities. And organized sports aren't right for every child and certainly not for every age. If you encourage your child and set an example yourself, though, chances are a few sports will spark his or her interest. Fan the flame by taking your child to local sporting events and explaining how different games are played. Then, when the time is right, provide opportunities for your child to try out equipment and play informally with other children. Most of all, if you like playing particular sports, share your pleasure and skill with your children. Show them that effort and practice are their own rewards, and that you can get great satisfaction from playing without even wanting to be the best.

What are age appropriate activities?

Regardless of your child's age, he or she will show some natural preferences. Some children love the water from the first splash, while others react with fear. Some get a charge out of rough-and-tumble games; others dislike the shoves and bumps. You may have been the star of your football team, but your child may prefer dancing, and that's just fine.

Children don't need organized athletics to develop athletic skills or to get physical activity. "A healthy lifestyle doesn't have to include sports," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., co-director of the Sports Medicine Clinic at Mayo Clinic, Rochester Minnesota. "It's more important that your child is involved in some sort of physical activity, whether it's hiking and biking with the family or playing pickup baseball or basketball with the neighborhood kids."

Auburn Gymnastics Center specializes in teaching gymnastics to children of all ages and abilities and features a special needs gymnastics program that offers scholarships

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