Which physical activity is best suited to my child’s physical development? At what age can you start exercising? Will dance or swimming be better for the child? And for boys, football or basketball?

These and other questions crowd into the parent’s mind on the eve of the child’s registration for a sports course. Usually in September, when the holidays are over and school starts again: the child himself seems full and motivated, the father and mother enjoy a few hours of freedom.

But if the parents consider sporting activity as a parking lot, perhaps it is better to leave it alone. The movement, as the Ministry of Health points out in a focus on the subject, “is not just a sport”. And it’s not even competition. It’s running, playing, outdoors. It is good for the body and the spirit, strengthens self-esteem, improves the relationship with others and removes the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, which is why it is recommended from an early age. Here is a small guide to choosing the most suitable sport.


If on the one hand the excess is to consider sport as a parking lot, on the other hand there are many parents who park their children in front of the TV or computer. The percentage of school-age children who practice physical activity has increased, according to data held by the Ministry of Health, but among the youngest there are still sedentary behaviors and bad eating habits. According to the World Health Organization, finally, children and young people between 5 and 17 years should, to improve cardiorespiratory, skeletal and muscular conditions, do at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, with exercise mainly aerobic type.


The parent would like to impose his idea and choose him the sport, but according to experts, it would be better if the child experienced more disciplines, so you can form a judgment and choose according to his preferences and skills. All this after the age of six, perhaps in the first three years of primary school.

In general, up to the age of 8, it would be appropriate to practice individual activities such as gymnastics, swimming, athletics: complete sports that involve the whole body and stimulate harmonious growth.

Cycling is also a very useful activity for the growth of the child, because it helps him to gain confidence in himself, stimulates his autonomy and increases his sense of responsibility, often putting him in front of the need to make decisions and solve small problems.

For team sports, however, it is better to be patient and wait until the age of 7-8: it is at this age that children are able to appreciate collective activities. The classic sports, such as football, basketball, volleyball, but also the less common rugby and water polo, as well as being stimulating and fun, allow them to experience the collaboration for the achievement of a result.

Some sports are more suitable than others for preventing or correcting spoiled or abnormal posture attitudes in evolutionary age, such as sloping shoulders, scoliosis, curved back, and flat foot. In general, swimming is the most recommended sport, because it is absolutely the most complete activity for a harmonious development of the body, followed by gymnastics, basketball, volleyball.

A good ally in the choice is, however, the pediatrician, able to give a valid advice from the medical point of view.


Already indicated in the first months of life, swimming helps coordination and improves safety in the water by dispelling fear. It is a symmetrical sport, so it is an excellent supplement for asymmetrical disciplines such as tennis or fencing. Finally, it allows harmonious physical development and promotes coordination without burdening the musculoskeletal system. Competitive activity is recommended from the age of 8.


You can start at 6-8 years of age, but until the age of 12 it is not appropriate to move to competition. Athletics, in fact, gives the child a motor base that, in the future, could be useful for the practice of other disciplines. Until adolescence, therefore, we can only talk about pre-athletics, which is great for enriching the wealth of motor experiences, but must be conducted with time and effort commensurate with the age of the child. There will then be a base of play, which will serve as a stimulus, to run, jump, throw, the cornerstones of athletics: the child will then practice running, jumping, long jump, throwing weight, all tailored to the child.


Thanks to its completeness, it is one of the most recommended activities for children. 5 years is the recommended age to start, but already at 3-4 children can be introduced in the psychomotricity workshops. Gymnastics promotes a harmonious development of the musculoskeletal system and joints and, at the same time, helps the child to acquire self-awareness and safety.

At school age, it can also effectively integrate more specific disciplines, such as football or tennis. At a competitive level, it is recommended from the age of 8.


The right age to start playing football is 7-8 years old: as with other team sports, in fact, before this age the child is too young to understand the rules.

The benefits of this sport are many: it improves breathing capacity, stimulates understanding of team spirit, promotes coordination, develops speed and endurance skills.

However, football has two drawbacks: it mainly develops the lower limbs and can encourage excessive competition.

Competitive activity begins at the age of 12, but already in the early years of primary school (category Chicks), the formation of teams and the play of short matches is planned.


Just like football, it is possible to start practicing these sports as early as the age of 7-8 years, as long as they are specific courses for children. Mini Basketball and minivolley are complete activities, which make the legs work as well as the upper body, the paravertebral muscles and abdominals, improve muscle power and speed. Another point in their favour is that they are “stretching” sports, in which the bone and muscle system, and in particular the spine, tend to stretch. They also stimulate team spirit and help to develop precision and skill. Competitive activity, on the other hand, can be undertaken by 12-13 years old.


They are defined as asymmetrical sports, as they particularly affect one of the upper limbs. Since they are individual, they promote a sense of responsibility and concentration. Courses can be started from 6-7 years old but it is advisable to combine them with an activity that restores symmetry, while for competitive sports it is better to wait: 8 years for the sword and foil, 10 for the racket.


They are the two most recommended martial arts for children aged 6-7 years. They need strength and neuromotor coordination that will come with time, but can be useful for children shy and insecure because they instill confidence in their abilities, and those more lively because they teach to control their aggression. Competitiveness is indicated in karate from 10 years old, for judo from 14 years old.


It is an activity usually considered “as girls”, but more and more boys are actually approaching it. She gets used to a correct posture and teaches the sense of rhythm, as well as giving grace to the movements. It can be practiced already at the age of 5.


To summarize, if you are looking for the most suitable sport for your children, take into account this “calendar”:

  • Up to 3 years of age: water courses and exercise in general.
  • From the age of 3: swimming, mini-gymnastics, mini-athletics, cycling. from the age of 5-6: mini-soccer, mini-asket, mini-volleyball, mini-rugby, mini-screens.
  • From 8: karate, judo, tennis, horseback riding, sailing, skiing, baseball, diving.
  • From 14: boxing, athletics specialties.

After all, a little exercise and a healthy and balanced diet are basic rules for a healthy lifestyle, and a good starting point for children. The important thing is not to choose “do-it-yourself”, but to rely on a network of professionals who know how to accompany children throughout their growth: this is simple, for example, thanks to Protezione Famiglia Ragazzi, the UniSalute policy designed specifically for children and adolescents between 4 and 17 years of age. 

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