March is one of my favorite months of the year. It means spring is on the way, and for sports fans, it is a month filled with college basketball games known as March Madness. I played basketball growing up, and have coached both of my son’s teams. To say I’m a huge Warriors fan would be an understatement, according to those who know me. Sports is the only exception to our family’s screen time rules during the week — which has become a wonderful motivator to get homework and chores done. Whether it is basketball, baseball, football, or any other sport, watching it with your children can be a great bonding experience filled with teachable moments and learning opportunities.
Here are some tips to get the most out of watching sports with your children.
There are many life lessons that come from playing sports, and those same lessons can also be taught by watching sports. Lessons such as sportsmanship, teamwork, and hard work are just a few. When watching with your child, point out moments where athletes are good sports and when they aren’t. Remember sportsmanship starts in your living room, and you are modeling that in how you watch the game. Your children are watching how you cheer, and how you talk about the other team. Don’t forget to watch the language — you don’t want them mimicking your words or bad behavior outside your living room.
Sports also gives us a great opportunity to talk to our kids about the importance of team work and hard work. You can talk about high-pressure situations and how athletes deal with those, and how they prepare and practice for games to constantly keep improving.
Watching sports is also a great way for kids to learn the game, including the rules and strategy. It’s always fun to strategize with your children, so get them thinking and talking about what play they would run, or if they were the coach what they would do.
ALL ABOUT NUMBERS
One of our favorite things to do is to turn any sports game into a math game, sometimes without the kids even realizing. For our youngest, we ask how many more points does our team need until the game is tied? Or, how much is our team winning by? If they are familiar with certain players, you may say, “If Steph Curry has made four three-pointers, how many points does he have?” For older children, it can still be all about the numbers in a different way where they become more focused on percentages, ratios, and memorizing statistics of their favorite player or team. For March Madness, a fun family ritual we have is filling out the brackets and deciding on a prize for the family winner. Some choose by random and others choose by the team’s ranking, but to watch the games and figure out the winners and then points for each bracket is always fun.
SKIP THE COMMERCIALS
Research shows our children learn a lot more from advertising than we realize, and while we may think sports broadcasting is a safe zone, the reality is quite the opposite. There are many commercials during televised sports that are not appropriate. A recent study revealed the Super Bowl had the highest proportion of commercials showing violent or unsafe behavior. The tamest commercials occurred during the final round of Masters Golf Championship, which had virtually no violent ads.
So what can parents do? Record the game and watch it later so you can fast forward through the commercials. However, if you are like I am, and you are a stickler for watching live, then mute the commercials. There is nothing worse than having your 5-year-old ask you what erectile dysfunction means during an NFL game. As kids get older, even the commercials can be teachable moments about how to be savvy about what is being sold and how advertisers are getting your attention.
In reality, we don’t need any excuses to add more screen time to our children’s lives these days, but if we are going to be watching sports anyway, we might as well look for the benefits.
Last, don’t forget that while watching sports is good, outside play for our children is equally important to keep their bodies active and healthy.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive and healthful conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]