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Tiny Tots Take to the Field

Ready for soccer class?

Babies as young as 6 months old can now watch sports training videos made specifically for them.  In fact, according to a report in The New York Times, sports videos and classes for the pre-verbal set are a booming business.

Sports classes for toddlers are also on the rise. According to the Times, there are about 20,000 kids under 2 enrolled in classes at Little Gyms. Babies as young as 4 months can sign up for classes and lots of other kids gym classes are around. This didn’t exactly surprise me. After all, moms of babies look for baby activities, too.  As anyone who’s been to one of these classes will tell you, they can be laid back fun with a little organized tumbling, clapping and singing, or they can be more focused affairs that try to teach little one real skills.

Surely sports videos for babies are an unfortunate development and just one more way to exploit the new parent market.  Whether or not increased enrollment in classes at gyms represents a real trend in early sports is less clear.My daughter took a soccer class when she was 2 1/2.  She liked kicking the ball, singing songs, and getting a princess sticker at the end.  On cold days in the winter, it was fine, just one choice for toddler activities, but I didn’t think the class would lead her to be the next Mia Hamm.

Parents who choose to show their kids sports videos, though, may be more eager to get their kids into a sporting mindset.  This despite the proof that early media like Baby Einstein just don’t do anything for kids and screen time for kids under 2 is actually a bad idea.  Some sports do benefit surprisingly young kids, like reports that strength training is actually good for kids as young as 6. But that’s 6 years old, not 6 months.

Showing babies sports videos may be driven by parents who want to get a leg up (oh the competition again) or parents trying to introduce exercise to the wee ones because of all the talk of obesity.  Whatever the reason, parents of kids under two should  avoid these videos because they should avoid any videos for babies.

Bringing toddlers to sport classes may be about finding something to do or it, too, may be about parents wanting their kids to be really, really good at sports. I guess as long as the parents don’t get too invested, that’s not the end of the world.  Either way, the classes have been around for a while, they can be fun for kids, and some continue with them and others (like my daughter) just don’t.

Would you enroll a toddler in a soccer or sports class? How young is too young for sports?

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