Answer: There's nothing wrong with cheering your 5-year-old on if he enjoys kicking a ball around with other kids his age. The emphasis should be on having fun and getting exercise — not on competition. Many 5-year-olds get a kick (so to speak...) out of playing a casual game of soccer or tee ball. The
That said, no two children grow and mature at the same rate, so don't automatically discount sports for your preschooler. Many communities have sports leagues for 5-year-olds where the kids get to wear team shirts, line up on the field, and then just run around chasing the ball or each other. So if your child is keen, look for a good match. As long as your child has fun and doesn't feel pressured to participate, that's fine — whether he's actively strategizing the defense or simply running around and getting a little exercise. Pushing your 5-year-old to star in sports, on the other hand, may turn him away from an activity that should be a lifelong source of enjoyment.
A few things to keep in mind: Your kindergartner can handle only a limited amount of instruction, and won't pick up on the finer points of a game anytime soon. In fact, he can probably follow only two or three commands at once, such as "Kick the ball while you run and then kick it into the net" or "Try to get the ball from the other player and then run with it." And a "game" of 20 minutes or so is plenty for kids this age. The emphasis, of course, should not be on winning or losing but on having a great time — if you can incorporate other important values, such as sharing and taking turns, all the better.