Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines1 indicate that toddlers and preschoolers should be physically active over the course of the day, through a variety of formats in different environments. Traditionally, these environments included children’s back yards, neighbourhood streets, or local parks. However, growing mistrust over the safety of neighborhood spaces and of children playing unsupervised has led a decrease in this type of unstructured free-play. Conversely, a context that has grown in popularity among very young children is that of organized sport, with 46% of 3–4 year olds enrolled in organized lessons, league, or team sports in Canada this past year2.

Not surprisingly, parents are responsible for generating children’s initial interest in sport, enrolling them in their first classes, and are children’s primary source of support and encouragement. While independent drop-off sport programs begin at approximately 2 years of age, parents may consider enrolling their child in sport even earlier and engaging in it with them – through participatory Parent and Child classes. Given that toddlers and preschoolers may be hesitant to try organized sport for the first time, Parent and Child classes at Sportball are a great way to slowly introduce and ease young children into sport, while simultaneously helping parents:

  1. Develop their Child’s Independence
  2. Bond with their Toddler or Preschooler
  3. Learn Take-Home Skills and Resources

Develop your Child’s Independence

Firstly, it is important that children’s first experiences in sport are positive, as a child’s first perception of sport may shape the likelihood they will continue to play them as they grow older. One way to prepare children for independent drop-off sport classes (increasing the likelihood that they are confident and successful) is by first taking part in Parent and Child classes. Children become gradually more comfortable and independent in Parent and Child classes thanks to the learned familiarity of class structure, and understanding of appropriate class behaviour (such as turn taking and interacting with peers); both of which are modelled by parents. In Parent and Child classes, children’s first opponent is also a trusted parent or guardian. Subsequently, learning progressive gross motor skills alongside a supportive parent has the power to foster children’s confidence and overall Physical Literacy; effectively giving them the confidence to move away from their parents, and preparing them for independent drop-off classes and life.

Bond with your Toddler or Preschooler

Secondly, aside from siblings, parents are often the first to engage in physical activity or sport with children – giving them a unique opportunity to bond with young children and concurrently develop positive physical activity habits. Parents’ play key supportive roles throughout children’s sport journeys, often cheering kids on from the sidelines, driving them to and from practices, and providing much needed emotional support. From a young age, children who perceive parents as supportive and providing unconditional love during children’s sporting pursuits (as opposed to emphasizing winning or being critical of child-athletes performances), generally experience more sport enjoyment, which is associated with longer sporting careers3. Subsequently, Parent and Child classes at Sportball are designed to cultivate just that – a play-based, non-competitive sport environment, that sets the stage for parents and children to bond over learning and succeeding at new skills.

Learn Take-Home Skills and Resources 

Finally, regardless of experience, coaches of Parent and Child classes provide parents with ideas and resources to assist their child’s ongoing development of Physical Literacy (i.e., the ability to move with competence and confidence). Parent and Child classes at Sportball are led by trained coaches who Coach with Purpose. In other words, each class and skill is taught with a specific gross-motor, sport, and pro-social skill in mind, which is explicitly taught to parents. Therefore, parents leave each class with tangible games and steps to continue learning and being physically active with their children at home. In addition to sport skills, parents are taught how to demonstrate pro-social skills in sport such as good sportsmanship, being a teammate, and losing with grace. For instance, parents can learn and model from coaches the appropriate way to praise their child’s efforts in class rather than perfection; enhancing their self-confidence over time.

Parent and Child Programs at Sportball

Parent and Child programs at Sportball entail structured Multi-Sport classes, geared towards children 16 months to 2 years (entitled First Steps), and 2-3 years of age (entitled ABCs of Sport). Utilizing a play-based curriculum, parents and toddlers are introduced to the fundamental gross-motor and sport-specific skills of eight different sports, collectively increasing their basic sport-specific knowledge, and overall Physical Literacy. Please visit us at to learn more about Parent and Child programs offered in your area.


Articles Cited:

1Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (2012). For the Early- Years (0-4). Retrieved from

2ParticipACTION (2018). Canadian kids need to move more to boost their brain health. Retrieved from

3Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rolo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2006). Understanding the role parents play in tennis success: A national survey of junior tennis coaches. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(7), 632-636.