Connect With The Ball - download a printable sheet of ball and balance exercises for 3-7 year olds
Children need to practice moving every day. These pages give ideas for activities
that parents can do with their children in their own home.
For Parents page
For older children, those aged approximately 14 years or above, FIFA 11+ offers a football-specific injury prevention programme
Ministry of Football cannot be held liable for any injury or accident resulting from use of any of the activities in these pages; activities are undertaken at users own risk
Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) refer to the set of essential movements and skills which are key to the proper physical development of the child. FMS are not usually taught specifically, although they are key compenent of Physical Education National Curriculum in England for primary school children. FMS can be developed naturally in children's playtime.
Today's children are typically not engaged in enough physical play and outdoor play to ensure they develop these skills sufficiently. For example, a growing number and proportion of primary school-aged children start secondary school without the basic co-ordination skills needed to throw and catch or the balance and agility skills needed to dodge, skip and run properly.
This page will provide an introduction to the FMS and how parents and families can have fun developing games and activities at home which will help movement skill development.
Why are FMS important to learn?
FMS are the building blocks to the more complex movements and skills that children will need in order to enjoy playing and moving later in life. Just as we need to learn letters and sounds in order to enjoy reading, we need to learn to balance and co-ordinate our bodies in order to play sport.
If you consider a child who does not learn to catch while in primary school, then there will be a variety of sports and games that they will struggle to enjoy or be successful in when in secondary school or in adult life. The child who does not develop sufficient FMS will be severely constrained when it comes to participating in sport and physical play; these children are much more likely to decide they don't like sport or PE at school when in fact they just haven't developed the skills to enjoy it. These children are also more at risk of being overweight or obese. Studies have also shown that children who move and enjoy physical play have a greater chance of academic success.
What skills and movements?
When we talk about FMS, here are some of the skills we are referring to:
- Balance, Co-ordination, Agility, Flexibility, Acceleration and deceleration, Strength, Speed and quickness, Changing direction, Proprioception, among others...
These can be seen in the following general movements: Running, Jumping, Throwing, Catching, Striking, Kicking, Climbing - and these can be further split into specific movements such as skipping, vertical jumping, an overarm throw or a one-handed catch for example.
What can you do to help your child learn FMS?
Different movements and skills will be important to learn at different ages, and movements and skills are usually developed in a particular order. For example, the development of good hand-eye co-ordination is essential before a child can successfully catch a ball. Each child is different and will be ready to practice different movements at different ages.
The activities on these pages give ideas for parents to practice with their children in the home, park or garden. It is recommended that these activities take place daily in order for children to develop well. The age-groups are a guide, and some children will be ready for different tasks at different times. Certainly, it may be a good idea for older children to revisit some of the younger activities from time to time.
Parents and children should be imaginative in what activities they set-up. It would be great to develop your own set of family favourite activities, and keep adding to these as your child gets older and is ready for different challenges.
Don't they learn these movement skills at school or in clubs?
Primary schools - under increasing pressure to achieve literacy and numeracy targets - have less and less time to spend on PE. Research has shown that children are only active in PE lessons for about a quarter of the time anyway. Class teachers are not specifically trained to develop movement skills, and class sizes are too large for teachers or coaches at school to spend the required amount of time with each individual child in order to help them develop to their potential.
Some schools are better than others of course, but put simply: Schools cannot provide the quantity and quality of practice time needed for young children to develop complete physical literacy. Some children go to clubs after-school or at the weekend, and this may provide some excellent opportunities for them to grow, practice and develop. However, children need several hours of movement a day and this can only realistically be provided if parents spend time playing and developing with their children too.
What happens when you practice FMS?
Contemporary research shows that the circuits in the brain can be trained and developed so that a child who has poor balance can learn to balance by spending high-quality time practising. The same is also true for other FMS. Certainly genetics plays a part in what movement skills a person has, but it is now believed that the main factor influencing someone's movement skill is the quantity and quality of practice time - especially in early childhood.
With the correct environment, motivation and stimulation, circuits that improve balance (or co-ordination or agility etc) can be wired and strengthened. So when you practice with your child, what is actually happening is that the brain is making new neural pathways and strengthening exisiting pathways. Science also shows us that neural pathways and connections that go unused get weaker and eventually disappear. Practice needs to frequent and ongoing.
- Practice FMS every day you can.
- Make it fun. Ask your child what they want to do. Join in yourself too.
- Make a box of simple equipment that can be used for FMS practice. You can fill it with things like: a skipping rope, buckets, beanbags, tennis ball - depending on the age of your child.
- Physical development is a marathon not a sprint. Don't give up! Children need regular physical practice of FMS throughout their childhood.
Definitions of skills
The ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary or moving (i.e. not to fall over) through the co-ordinated actions of our sensory functions (eyes, ears and the proprioceptive organs in our joints). Balance can be split into:
- Static Balance - the ability to retain the centre of mass above the base of support in a stationary position.
- Dynamic Balance - the ability to maintain balance with body movement.
The ability to control the movement of the body in co-operation with the body's sensory functions e.g. catching a ball (ball, hand and eye co-ordination). Or the ability to move and co-ordinate two or more body parts at the same time in a smooth and efficient manner.
The ability to change the direction of the body in an efficient and effective manner.
The ability to move joints effectively; the range of motion in joints
Speed or quickness
The ability to move all or part of the body quickly
Acceleration and deceleration
The ability to start and stop movement of the body - usually the whole body rather than parts of it - in a quick and efficient manner.
The ability of a muscle or muscle group to overcome resistance.
The ability to sense where our body parts are and how are bodies are positioned. For example, even if someone is blindfolded they know whether their arm is above their head or by their side.
Fundamental Movement Skills v Game Sense
Game Sense (often called 'Game Skills' or 'Game Understanding') refers to the skills needed to understand the game of football, and include problem-solving and decision-making skills such as when and where to pass the ball or dribble the ball. These skills can be taught and learnt by playing the game or modified versions of the game. We teach Game Sense at Ministry of Football in our skill development classes, which provide expert coaching in game-based sessions.
Most children are only at MoF for an hour or two a week, and it is vital that FMS skills are developed at home between sessions. FMS skills are just as important as Game Sense skills for the proper development of children. By providing Game Sense development in skill sessions, alongside ball work and FMS activity at home, we believe children will develop most rapidly along their football learning journey.
Links to age/stage relevant activities to develop FMS