Age 10 is a perfect stage for children to learn new sports and skills. Many states even offer free ski passes for fourth and fifth graders.
But don’t limit your 10-year-old’s new adventures to skiing. Child development experts say this is a great age for a child to start competitive team sports, book clubs, acting — activities that could develop into lifelong interests.
“Fourth and fifth grade is a really good time to get kids hooked on something before they become teenagers,” says Marcy Guddemi, Ph.D., executive director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development. “Children have mastered many of the basics, like reading and beginning math. Their brains are ready for more logical, abstract thinking.” And because a 10-year-old has good balance and fully-mature abilities to throw, run and kick, she can pick up new sports more easily, says Dr. Peri McCambridge, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council of Sports Medicine and Fitness.
Research and observation led the ski industry to target 10–12 year olds for free skiing programs, which attract thousands of participants each year. “They’re independent of their parents but also need their parents,” says Fran Mullin, executive director of WinterKids, Maine’s ski free program and one of the country’s oldest. “They can carry their own gear, put their own clothes on. They’re physically stronger, so they don’t get as tired. They’re happy to go with their parents and do sports.”
Here are some other good activities to help 10-year-olds stretch their growing minds and bodies:
- Team sports — Now very social and able to consider the feelings of others, 10-year-olds enjoy team sports and activities. That’s why organizations such as Boy Scouts of America shift to more team-based activities, while YMCA of the USA ramps up competitive sports for this age group. “Sports for a 10–12 year old is a goal-setting adventure,” says Rhonda Clements, a professor of education at Manhattanville College who has written nine books about kids and sports. “The goal might be to get better, play longer, or see your friends.” Earlier in a child’s life, sports were about exploration, not goals.
- Book clubs — Because they’ve mastered the basics, most kids can read for enjoyment on their own by age 10. Book clubs offer another social outlet, especially for a child who may have less skill or interest in sports or the arts, says Andrea Bastiani Archibald, developmental psychologist for the program department at the Girl Scout Research Institute at Girl Scouts of the USA.
- Acting and creative arts — Once they hit the teenage years, children become more self-conscious, but 4th and 5th graders are comfortable trying on new roles and acting silly in a safe group. That’s why Girl Scouts in the “Juniors” stage, age 10–11, will focus on acting and role-playing as part of the newest leadership “Journey” the Girl Scouts of the USA will roll out later this year, Archibald says. Through these activities, girls can try out some of the roles they can take on in the world.