Which sports are best for your child’s development?

Getting involved in sports from an early age has a myriad of benefits. It gets kids active, builds on their teamwork skills, forms new friendships and is great for their strength building and coordination – among the various other mental, physical, social and emotional benefits.   We think that the Novak Djokovic Foundation words the benefits very well:
  • Kids’ character and moral principles are formed through fair play
  • Sports experiences help to build positive self- esteem in children
  • Sports bring people together from all over the world, regardless of their nationality, religion, culture, or skin colour
  • Teamwork and benefits of social interaction among children are best seen in sports
  • Playing sports enables them to create friendships they otherwise might not have formed
  • They view competitions on and off the field as opportunities to learn from their success and failure
  • They learn to respect authority, rules, team colleagues and opponents
  • Sport is an important learning environment for children
  • Participating in sports can be a helpful way of reducing stress and increasing feelings of physical and mental well-being
While any and all sports will help to harness these important skills and experiences, we at Perform Podiatry thought we’d shed some light on a question we occasionally get asked by parents around which sports are best for certain areas and stages of development. We thought we’d break it down by age category and the activities and functions that are typically learnt and built on within the age range.  

Preschool Age

At this age, kids are still getting their feet planted firmly on the ground and are developing a good grasp on their coordination, balance and general motor function. At this age, it’s important to focus more on mastering the basics and less on ‘joining a team’ or looking at competing, if it’s just for the sake of it anyway. Swimming, dancing, running, side to side movements, catching, throwing and activities that look at improving balance and coordination, both at the feet/legs and the hands/arms, are encouraged. We remember playing bullrush and other games at preschool that while were played with others, thinking back on them now, really focused on developing each person individually as opposed to focusing on the team dynamics that become more important in the next age range. Spending time throwing and catching with your kids at this age can provide just as much (if not more) value, growth and development, so make the most of this time together.  

Primary School Age

This is the time that kids can really enjoy and benefit from team sports and organised activities. They’re at school and building important social skills and a good understanding of how a team operates together. Mentally, they’re getting stronger and have a greater focus and drive. Physically, they’re also getting stronger and can run further for longer, throw better, and the like. They will have developed good coordination and at this age will pick up almost any sport with great ease, working on the skills particular to that sport, if they enjoy it that is. You can’t go too far wrong with the sports offered at primary school, some of our favourites include netball, tennis, cricket (and generally all bat/ball sports), soccer, handball, basketball, touch rugby, running and the like. It’s also a great time to start getting involved in activities like gymnastics, swimming and martial arts where you have a greater focus on yourself as part of the team and start honing new skills.  

Intermediate School Age

There is a lot that happens during this time and age that has an effect on kids in sport. Kids start to get quite good, confident and skilled in the sports they’ve been playing or participating in for the years leading up to this. Part of this is their improved memory and understanding of techniques and strategies involved in sport, as well as their improved physical strength, speed, size and general ability. With this age comes growth spurts and unfortunately, for some kids, that also means growing pains. This means more time and care needs to be taken on warming up, cooling down and general conditioning of muscles. This is the age that kids also start getting involved in contact sports such as tackle rugby, that may have previously not been suitable due to inadequate strength in bones and muscles and hence a higher risk of injury. This does need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, as every child grows and matures at varying times. Alongside all of the previously mentioned sports, kids can start more technical sports like hockey and volleyball, if they haven’t already tried it sooner.  

High School Age

At this age, the world is their oyster! They have good, refined motor skills that have built up over the last eight years. Kids (though they’re not so much ‘kids’ anymore) can pick up sports relatively quickly, especially if they’ve had experience playing similar sports. We remember starting sports like fencing and underwater hockey at high-school, both of which utilised the technical skills from various other sports and activities. Growing pains and growth-related injuries can still occur so be mindful and make sure your kids get the right treatment and adequate rest/recovery if they develop pain or injury.   If you have any questions about this, are worried about your child’s development, or they’re experiencing pain or injury, give our team a call on 09 523 2333 or book online! We’re the kid’s foot experts in Auckland, located at the One Health Building on Remuera Road, close to Newmarket.

Why Are My Kids Walking with Knees Knocking?

We love seeing kids here at Perform Podiatry. Partly because it’s hard to be away from our own and they brighten up our day, but largely because of the massive difference that we know we can make to their lives and development. Kids should be able to run, play, explore, learn and have fun without being limited by pain or held back by foot or leg dysfunction. Thankfully, issues that arise in kids are usually much easier to manage than in adults. Today we thought we’d share on a condition that we’ve had a few questions about lately from concerned parents – knock knees!

What are knock knees?

Knock knees, medically referred to as genu valgum, is the position of the knees where they are turned inwards toward one another, meaning they ‘knock’ or brush against one another as you walk. It’s often seen in children between the ages of 3 and 5, and helps them maintain balance as they develop their walking.

What causes knock knees?

Before you panic – don’t worry. Knock knees are usually a normal variation of growth and development, and this position is just how some children find their footing. However. They also may be an indicator of an underlying condition such as rickets or osteomalacia. In these cases, knock knees may not develop until the child is six years old, or persist after the age of 8. Generally speaking, contributing factors to the development of knock knees can include:
  • Obesity
  • Loose ligaments at the knees that place excess pressure on the knee joints
  • Infection or injury to the knee or shin bone (tibia)
  • Conditions that affect bone development
  • Calcium or Vitamin D deficiency
If you’re worried, it’s always a good idea to get your child checked. This way we can inform you if your child has a normal or abnormal variation of knock knees, as well as track their progress over time to ensure that the lower limbs are developing appropriately.

What are the symptoms?

The inward bending of the knees is the biggest symptom. You’ll also notice a gap between the ankles when the knees are together. One knee may turn inwards more than the other and pain isn’t typically experience during young childhood years. Where knock knees continue beyond the childhood years, symptoms may include:
  • Knee pain
  • Limping or altered walking patterns
  • Stiffness in the knee joints
  • Increased risk of developing knee arthritis

What should you do?

Because knock knees can resolve by the age of 7, you may wish to wait and see, or you may wish to get your child checked by your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to assess exactly what is happening with the knee position, as well as the hip and foot position as these will be affected to some extent as a result. If your child is experiencing any painful symptoms, interventions such as orthotics, bracing, stretching and strengthening may be used to relieve the symptoms – as kids shouldn’t be in pain from their knee position, and if this is the case, it’s likely causing other problems too. Where knock knees persist into adulthood, management needs to be aimed at the issues that this misalignment is creating as opposed to the knee position itself. In later years, it is also important to rule out the possibility of any underlying bone conditions. Your podiatrist will be able to create a tailored management plan based on the symptoms you’re experiencing and your history. If you’re concerned about your kid’s feet or legs, or just want that peace of mind that everything is developing normally, give our expert team a call on 09 523 2333 or book online!