You sign them up and then what?

Children love sports. Until you enroll them in a class or put them on a team. Then, class by class, practice by practice, the excitement starts fading away. Or even worse, they never really stopped clinging to you on the bench. What’s going on? Your son loves playing catch with his dad, your daughter always grooves to the music. It was no brainer they should enjoy mastering the sports. You signed them up in good faith and  for their benefit. And now, not only do you have to drive them from one practice to another, but the whole thing drives you crazy!

It does sound familiar, doesn’t it? When our son turned three and expressed his interest in kicking the soccer ball with his dad, we signed him up for classes. A major mistake. He had fun watching other children and drinking “power water” during the water break, but that was more or less the extent of his engagement. The whole deal ended up very emotional. To my husband. He basically threw away our son’s cleats. And our son? He was happy to be left alone. Go figure!

The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I start seeing where we, parents, tend to go wrong on the issue.

1. There is a big difference between having fun with sports and doing a sport.

Every child loves running around, but will they commit to practicing running every day with a timer? Most boys love playing catch with their dads. It’s their bonding time. But being a part of a baseball team with a strict coach is another story. Doing  a sport means commitment and structure. One has to be ready for it. The very excitement is not a sufficient motivation. Sometimes the motivation grows with age. It’s worth waiting a bit instead of discouraging our children from doing a sport too early.

2. Liking for sports is not genetic

Sometimes we think that our sport dreams are our children’s sports dreams. And then we get surprised that we love biking and our child wants to be a basketball star. It’s better for everyone if we get some reality check.

3. Interest in sports is related to one’s personality, not a trend

All of your child’s friends are on a baseball team and he or she wants to do swimming. You think team sports are good for a child, but you forget that your child is more of an individualist. Are you planning to change his or her personality? In that case, good luck!

4. Sport is not a ticket to college

Doing a sport is about loving it. It can become competitive, if your child chooses to advance in it or become a professional. However, you are not teaching your child to be a good sport if you use the sport as a tool to get your child through the college door.

 And last but not least:

5. Doing sports is a privilege not an obligation

We think that children have to do sports.  We turn into tiger moms and make sure that they don’t slack and don’t skip their practices. I don’t think it works. I believe that children have to be active. It’s being active that is good for them. However, I deem organized sports as a great perk and privilege. My son can profit from it if he truly commits. If he doesn’t, there is always a park and many ways to keep him fit and healthy.

So far so good, though. He’s just gotten his orange belt in TaeKwonDo and he is as proud and driven as he can be.

“Vampirina Ballerina” by Anne Marie Pace

If there is one way of movement that fully defines both sport and art , it must be dance. It keeps you healthy and fit like any other sport discipline, or even better, as it requires engaging all the muscles. At the same time, it awakens an artistic soul in your body. As you dance, you create something intangibly magical.  From being inspired, you become inspiring. No wonder that “Dancing with the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance” enjoy such high viewing ratings.  And I am not surprised that dance and ballet classes for little girls are filled with aspiring ballerinas.  What little girl who doesn’t like to dance!  Even a little Vampirina does.

But taking dance classes when you are a girl with fangs, is not a matter of fact. The classes need to take place at night, one has to get used to the idea of wearing pink and sparkles… What to do with the bat and the cat? Can Vampirina’s pets come to watch her stretch her toes and practice pirouettes ? And then there is the horrible stage fright, plus the most troubling craving for a piece of flesh of the other dancers… In the end, however, Vampirina’s trying to do her best pays off and she learns to move around like a true Ballerina.

Now, here is the thing about the book. I really love the message it sends to the little girls. My interpretation of it is: don’t worry about making mistakes, be bigger than your fears, you can learn to dance if you practice. Even a vampire girl can. I also like how the ballet terminology is neatly integrated with the story. But honestly, I am not really digging the whole vampire theme. I never took to the Twilight Saga either, though. I guess I am more of an Angelina Ballerina type, minus the pink and sparkles. But regardless of what I think, you and your little readers might be more open to a pink story with a black twist and you might even enjoy it. From what I know, some readers find it cute!  By the way, the lively and humorous pictures (with too many morbid details if you ask me) were done by LeUyen Pham, whom you might know from “Shoe La La”

Coming back to the dance topic, although the story is about the Ballet, I am more of a supporter of modern dance or ballroom dancing. Why? It seems to be healthier. Just look at the dancers’ bodies. They are true athletes, versus the malnourished ballerinas with their deformed feet. Ballet is sure pretty, but is it worth the pain?



Madlenka Soccer Star by Peter Sis

Unlike my previous post, today’s reading and writing is about the sport with more international appeal. Soccer, or as we call it in Europe, football, it is. From Buenos Aires to Lisbon, little children dream to become football stars as they dribble the ball along the streets. Just mention Beckham or Ronaldo to the little guys in any corner of the world and their eyes will light up immediately. Many people (including myself) already look forward to the next World Cup, in Brasil, even if it is not until the next year. However simple the game of soccer is, there is something magical about it, wouldn’t you say? Not only has this sport become a global phenomenon, but considering the growing number of girls/women teams, quite  uni-sex as well.

Madlenka was just one of those girls who liked kicking the ball around the block.  Especially a bright new soccer ball. But who will play with her? A mailbox? A parking meter? Dogs? Cats? The streets were full of curious soccer amateurs. But at the courtyard, Madlenka was joined by Cleopatra and other children. Everybody likes soccer. The whole world does. 

A story that truly inspires to grab the ball, go out and score a few goals.  It is filled with soccer jargon and a little note about the history of the sport, which educates next to entertaining. Original and captivating pictures. They make you feel the ball roll. I also like the book’s relevance to the changing soccer demographics. Finally a soccer book not only for boys.

So who do you think is going to be the next World Champion? I personally hope that Spain is going to break another record, but you never know. This is what is so great about soccer. Until the very last whistle, everything is possible.

“Hit the Ball Duck” by Jez Alborough

Today’s book is about baseball. Not because I am a big fan or  I know so much about it.  I guess I haven’t lived in the US long enough,  to develop enough appreciation for the game. Or at least some basic understanding of the rules. But I think baseball is a good sport to start with, considering the popularity of the bat on this side of the Atlantic and the sheer number of  aspiring T-ball, softball and baseball teams across the country.  Besides, my son, just like many little boys, loves playing catch with his dad. And last but not least, Jez Alborough wrote a cute picture book about it, so why not?

Duck, Sheep, Goat and Frog go to the park to play some baseball. Duck bats first, but who will catch the ball? According to the  big guys, definitely not Frog. He is too small. As Duck hits the ball, it lands on a tree. The smart trio tries to get the ball back with the bat, but it gets stuck like the ball. The same happens with the glove. Finally they try to hop on one another’s shoulders to reach the ball, but the tower is not tall enough. Luckily, Frog hops on top and gets the ball back. 

Now who is too small to catch the ball, huh?

As always with Jez Alborough’s stories, “Hit the Ball Duck” means great, entertaining read: catchy rhymes, curious characters and bright pictures. But next to humor, the story sends an important message to children: everyone, big or small can be a valuable member of a baseball team. Any team actually.

So, if your children are more on a petite size and their size holds them back from playing baseball, you should definitely read this book to them. And if your child is one of the bigger guys, who tend to underrate their smaller friends’ potential and contribution on a team, they should read this book as well. In other words, it’s a perfect story for everyone.

And  although baseball might not be thee sport for everybody, it is a great discipline to practice hand and eye coordination, enhance reflexes and if your child hits a home run, they even get to run about a bit during the game.

1bookperday in April

As the temperatures rise across the planet, people stop cocooning in their cosy houses and fill up the sleepy streets and parks. The winter hibernation is over. Doesn’t it feel good to finally breathe in some crisp, spring air and give our muscles something to do after a long winter lethargy? Looking at my son and his friends, as soon as the spring ushers in, children explode with a new dose of vital energy. Hence the idea to make April the month of sports on my pages. And by sports I mean not only the organized disciplines, like tennis or soccer,  but any kind of activity involving physical movement. Not driving a car, though, even if my son tried to convince me that this was going to be his favorite sport to master. And not playing video games either. Physical movement of your fingers and thumbs doesn’t count. But from walking (my personal favorite) to biking and playing tag in the park,  on a team or individually, with an instructor or without, moving about is a great way for the little people to pass their days. It helps them to stay healthy, enhances appetite, strengthens their muscles. Besides, being active improves children’s cognitive skills, which means  better learning skills and higher grades. As far as the organized sports with regular practices, they  teach children perseverance and patience, among others. Team sports show how to be a team player, individual sports boost self-confidence. To cut a long story short, the advantages of doing sports are endless.

In the following weeks I am going to recommend several book about selected sport activities and discuss their benefits for our children. In the meantime, I invite you to browse my archives for the books on sports that I had already reviewed:

1. “There are Monsters Everywhere” by Mercer Mayer on martial arts

2. “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae on dancing

3. “Little Quack” by Lauren Thompson on swimming