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
This page explores how parents and families might help infant school children develop good movement skills through play at home. We are particularly focusing on the age group 7 to 11 years of age, although this age banding is not rigid as children develop at different rates.
Key skills: Flexibility, Strength (age-appropriate) and Balance
For those aged 5-18: "At least 60 minutes (1 hour) of physical activity every day, which should range between moderate-intensity activity, such as cycling and playground activities and vigorous-intensity activity such as fast running and tennis." - NHS Guidelines
Children of this age may still enjoy some of the activities in the younger age-group pages, and parents should use these activities alongside those below.
Activity 1: Dribbling a ball (Balance and Co-ordination)
Some of the movements in the videos above may be tricky for some children, and lots of practice is needed before children feel as comfortable as those demonstrating in the video. (There is a video of simpler moves on the age 5-7 page).
Activity 2: Riding a bike (Balance)
Riding a bike is great for balance. Ideally parents should encourage and teach children through the phase of using stabilisers, as balance skills are much better learnt once the bike is free to wobble.
Activity 3: Lunging, squatting, pushing, bracing and rotating (Flexibility, Co-ordination and Strength)
Use the exercises below, developed by Kelvin Giles and tested and approved by the British Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine:
See a video of the exercises on this BBC webpage.
National guidelines on physical activity for those aged 5 years and above recommend using activities that strengthen bone and muscle are used at least three days a week.
Activity 4: Bat and ball (Co-ordination)
It is essential to continue developing hand-eye co-ordination at the age, and a great way to do this is by using bat and ball games. Table-tennis in particular is popular with the age-group. A child on their own can benefit well from playing bat and ball against a wall. As suggested for the 5-7 year age-group, swingball is a popular game for children also.
Tip: You can get many of the benefits and enjoyment of table-tennis even if you don't have a table to play on. Just get a bat each and a few table-tennis balls and play while kneeling on a hard floor.
Progress: Try kicking a football against a wall. This is great for the development of football techniques, and can be brilliant for balance and co-ordination.
Activity 5: Passing a ball while on the move (Balance, Proprioception and Co-ordination)
This activity is similar to throwing and catching, except that it is done while moving. For example, you work with your child to throw and catch a ball from one area to another. You could use the rules of Netball or Basketball to help you - so you can either bounce the ball to move (Basketball), or you cannot move when you have the ball (Netball).
Progress: Try using feet instead of hands, and kick the ball between you from one area to another.
Activity 6: Skipping, bounding and hopping (Strength and Balance)
Try different forms of movement. Aim for smooth, efficient and quick movements. When hopping allow time to balance between hops.
Bounding is like a very long hop from one leg to another. The idea is to spring from one leg by driving upwards powerfully. Aim for height and length and to land on the other foot, letting your knee bend to absorb the impact. The photo shows a man bounding. Click here for a video. Regular bounding practice can help develop leg strength and good balance.
Activity 7: Swimming (Strength and Co-ordination)
Swimming is an excellent all-round exercise.
Progress: Think of fun games and challenges to play in the water. This could be for example a game of water polo where children need to retreive a ball and throw it a goal to score points.
Activity 8: Two ball activities (Co-ordination)
Throwing and catching and sending and receiving skills and be enhanced by the extra challenge of using two objects at the same time. As the video shows, there are various ways of challenging yourself.
Progress: With a partner, try to throw and catch one ball between you while simultaneously kicking and controlling another ball with your feet.
Activity 9: Climbing trees (Agility, Strength, Balance and Co-ordination)
This age-old activity deserves a come-back. Trees are awesome places to explore, and climbing them involves so many of the major movement skills that time spent in a tree is seriously good learning time.
Questions for finding the right tree:
- Am I allowed to climb this tree?
- Are the tree's branches big enough to support me?
- Is the tree safe to climb?
Children should be supervised when climbing trees.
Activity 10: Dance (Balance, Co-ordination and Flexibility)
Many children will be best motivated to exercise by music and dance. This is great, as dance can encorporate many of the fundamental movement skills (FMS).
Click here to try Change4Life's "Let's Dance" steps and games.
Tip: To make the best use of dance for the development of FMS, make sure you include squats, lunges, jumps, hops, reaches, twists and turns.
Activity 11: Gymnastics (Flexibility, Balance and Strength)
Children will vary greatly on what gymnastic routines and movements they are confident with. However whatever level they are at, children can develop strength, develop balance skills and improve flexibility by practising routines.
Here is a useful YouTube channel with good videos of moves and tutorials for gymnastics.
Activity 12: Monkey bars (Strength)
Monkey bars at playgrounds offer the chance to develop strength by swinging from one bar to the next.
Progress: Try to move along the bars backwards.
Activity 13: Learning to juggle (Co-ordination and Proprioception)
Juggling is fun to learn, and is great for hand-eye co-ordination and proprioception.
The video on the right shows you how...
Activity 14: Tug of war (Strength)
A mini-game of Tug of War can be a good way to develop strength. Tug of War requires a long rope or similar and a person or small team of people at each end. Each person or team tries to pull the rope in their direction, and wins if they get the rope past a certain point.
To play this successfully with children it is recommended that an adult be on one side and children on the other. That way the adult can adjust the challenge such that the children have to work hard to be successful.