Updated: Nov 15
Do you love the sport and want your little one to enjoy it with you? At HappyFeet, we love getting your youngsters passionate about soccer. We want to share a few things with you that may help you spark, or progress, your kiddo's interest in soccer.
Children’s brains are like sponges, absorbing all of the daily information that they pick up through their curious and highly-stimulated senses. Because young children spend the majority of their time with their parents, moms and dads become the primary subject of study. Your kiddos are constantly monitoring you and mimicking your mannerisms, habits and your interactions. They’re trying to figure out how to be just like their favorite person in the whole world. As your mini shadow, they will copy almost everything you do. This ‘monkey see, monkey do’ mentality is foundational for modeling good behaviors and habits and you can also use it to spark their interests. If you show enthusiasm for soccer, then your little one will likely follow suit. Here’s our top three ways you can do this:
Watch Soccer Games Together
Now is the most perfect time to introduce watching soccer to your little one: the start of The World Cup is just a week away! This incredible spectacle unites people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures under one common interest - the beautiful game. This World Cup is particularly special as, for the first time in 36 years, the Canadian men's team has qualified for the competition! This is an amazing feat by team Canada - bravo!
The World Cup games will give you a perfect opportunity to bond with your youngster over soccer. You can explain that The World Cup is a worldwide competition that only the best of the best get to play in it - including Canada! You can tell them one you are very excited about watching the games and would like to know if they would like to watch the games with you?
If you know others who are excited about watching the games then get them over and throw a watch party. Children revel in anticipation and take huge pride in helping you get ready for things. So, to include your little ones in your preparations for the game, you could decorate your living room with Canada flags and bunting, paint your kiddo's faces, make posters with them to cheer with, or bake some Canada or soccer themed cakes and cookies. (1) Then, come game-time, chuck on your favorite flannel and denim jacket, and start singing the national anthem!
This may sound like a lot of effort for a few hours of soccer, but something so out of the ordinary will certainly spike your yougster's interest and curiosity and make it a truly memorable experience for them. You’ll have to wait 4 years to celebrate The World Cup again!
Canada's first group game, against Belgium, is on Wednesday, November 23rd at 11:00am. (2) This will be a momentous occasion for the boys in red and a proud moment for Canadians watching around the world. Canada’s second group game is against Croatia on Sunday, Nov 27th at 8.00am and their third, against Morocco, will be on Thursday, Dec 1 at 7.00am. Just in case you needed another reason for your little ones to get up early…
All the Canada games will be televised on TSN. (3)
If you can’t wait until November 27th to cheer on the men's team, the Canadian Women’s team will be playing against Brazil on November 11th and 15th. You can find a full list of all of the upcoming Canada men’s and women’s teams games here: https://www.canadasoccer.com/national/matches/
Go For A Kick About
What better way to spend quality time together while satisfying your little one’s inherent desire to play, than to go for a ‘kick about’? Requiring simply a soccer ball and enough space to run around, there are endless games you can play for as long as your kiddo likes. All you need to do is take a soccer ball with you on your adventures to the park or playground to have it as an option for additional play.
If your soccer star does want to play with the ball then you can keep your games simple. Fun and fast is the recipe for success. Children LOVE chasing and being chased, so encourage them to dribble with the ball to get away from you or have them try to steal the ball from you. And who doesn’t love scoring goals? A soccer goal can be made of any two markers; cones, jackets, even sticks. So you can set up a goal wherever you settle to play. Nevertheless, there is an unbeatable satisfaction that comes when scoring into an actual net so, if your youngster shows desire to play soccer more frequently, it may be worth the investment to buy a small popup net. Canadian Tire sells pop up soccer nets at reasonable prices. (4) They are lightweight and easy to store.
When you are playing, have your soccer star shoot the ball at the net and celebrate like they’ve just won The World Cup when they score. For increased difficulty, make yourself the goalkeeper and stop the occasional shot to build your little one’s resilience and increase the pay off when they do score.
The focus of your soccer playtime should be to keep things fun and light-hearted. Focus on making your kiddo smile, laugh or cheer while they dribble with the ball or score goals. Avoid setting objectives as this could add unneeded pressure to you and your budding soccer star. If you can all have a fun time while kicking the ball around, then you’re doing a great job!
If your little one is already enrolled in a soccer program then you can have soccer play dates. This will give you a break from coaching and will allow your little one to bond with their buddy.
Keep practice short, if you're playing 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 then 20 minutes is more than enough. Like P.T Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more”.
Read Soccer Books Together
Finally, here are some awesome soccer books for kids that we would recommend. (5) Reading these together at storytime can provide another wonderful way for you to bond with your little one, and maybe provide you both with inspiration for your next kick about at the park. If your youngster is confidently reading on their own then they can independently immerse themselves in a soccer story and reap all of the benefits that come with it. For more information about the importance of reading to your children, check out this great article by all4kids.org. (6)
To Wrap Up...
Every child is different and, of course, you cannot force your little one to like soccer but you can create an environment that makes it very appealing. Young children develop their likes and dislikes over time and, as I am sure many of you are aware, the flavor of the month can change drastically so don’t be disheartened if their interest waivers.
I hope that you find these tips helpful. Do you have any other tips that you would like to share? Comment below or reach out to us on our social media.