When I was in elementary school, I studied very hard to become a top student. Even in the physical education class, I tried my best to win the teacher’s heart.
However, my real joy and happiness were not from the formal curriculum, but from various extra-curricular activities I took part in.
When I grow up, I realize that many of my important skills, such as observation, communication, and leadership, are developed during these activities.
In a study recently published in PLoS ONE, researchers confirm my feeling: extra-curricular activities such as sports do play an important role in children’s development.
The study was conducted in Germany, where sport clubs are very popular in children. Different from the U.S., where youth sports is heavily organized in schools, in Germany most child and youth sports, both for leisure and competition, is organized in clubs.
Researchers analyzed data from two large public datasets to examine the impact of sport activity on the physical health, school performance, emotional wellbeing, and social communication skills in children aged 3 to 10 years.
They found that children who participated in sport clubs were stronger, had higher overall grade, less emotional problems, and less peer problems.
Furthermore, these effects were robust when researchers controlled family income, mom’s education degree, and local employment rate.
Researchers also found that the sport impact was modulated by sex and age.
In boys, sports could improve physical health and reduce behavioral problems and peer problems; in girls, however, sports mainly improved physical health, increased overall grade, and reduced emotional problems, peer problems, and antisocial behavior.
In young children (3-6 years), sport activities mainly improved physical health; in old children (7-10 years), however, sports could improve both physical and emotional health.
These results suggest that extra-curricular sport activities are good to children’s development.
In the future, researchers will focus on the long-term impact of sports on adolescents and young adults.
Citation: Felfe C, Lechner M, Steinmayr A (2016) Sports and Child Development. PLoS ONE, 1: e0151729. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0151729
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