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
Optimising Early Brain and Motor Development through movement
Judy Murray's Set4Sport programme
Making Physical Activity part of a child's life
Factsheets: UK Physical Activity guidelines
Change4Life's weekly kids activity planner
A discussion on the importance of FMS compared to Game Skills
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 pre-school children develop good movement skills through play at home. We are particularly focusing on the age group 3 to 5 years of age, although this age banding is not rigid as children develop at different rates.
Key skills: Balance and Co-ordination
"Children who can walk on their own should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). This should be spread throughout the day, indoors or outside. The 180 minutes can include light activity such as standing up, moving around, rolling and playing, as well as more energetic activity like skipping, hopping, running and jumping. Active play, such as using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water, chasing games and ball games, is the best way for this age group to be physically active." - NHS Guidelines
This age-group should experience at least 60 minutes a day of structured physical activity. The ideas below can help you achieve that. In addition, children in Early Years should spend at least an hour, and up to several hours, in unstructured physical play.
Activity 1: Walking with a bean bag on your head (Balance)
Alternative: If you don't have a bean bag, try balancing a ball in the palm of each outsretched hand, or holding a stick above your head with arms straight.
Progress: Roll a ball to your child. Can they kick it back while keeping the bean bag (or stick or balls) in place?
Activity 2: Different types of travel (Co-ordination)
Choose a way of moving which your child can do easily, walking for example. Then modify it to make it trickier. For example, walking backwards, walking sideways, going on tip-toes, clapping while you walk etc. Use your imagination and there lots of ways of modifying a simple movement.
Progress: Use obstacles. Walking sideways through some clothes on the floor without touching them, or walking backwards along the pavement without stepping on the cracks.
Activity 3: Jumping (Balance, Co-ordination and Strength)
Try jumping off a small box. Try jumping from one foot to the other.
How far can you jump from a standing position?
Progress: Can you jump back onto the box from the ground? Can you jump and land really quietly?
Try also using a ball to jump over, or try putting one foot on top of the ball and hopping across so the other foot lands on the ball (and back again).
Activity 4: Obstacle course (Agility)
Set-up an obstacle course in the living room. Maybe climb onto the sofa, crawl along the back of the sofa, jump off the other end, walk backwards to the table, crawl under it etc...The more types of movement the better, be imaginative.
Progress: Can the child do the course while holding a ball? This will add new movements and increase challenge.
Activity 5: Soft play or playground play (Agility)
Climbing, sliding, jumping, landing, swinging, balancing: The playground offers some exciting challenges. Soft play areas for children can be expensive, but an occasional trip can really improve climbing confidence and help teach children how to fall and land.
Progress: Variety and challenge are the keys to playground play. To get children to try new things, it can be a good idea to go to the playground with older siblings or other older children.
Activity 6: Throwing (Co-ordination) - see video above
Try throwing at a target. Don't worry too much about technique for very young children, they will probably use an overarm throw to start with and that's fine. Make sure the child achieves success by making the target bigger or closer if needed. This is a good activity to try in the garden using some robust toys which can be balanced along a wall and a small sponge ball to throw at them.
Progress: Can she throw with her other hand? Can she throw while standing on one foot (balance)?
Activity 7: Balloon games (Co-ordination) - see video above
Blow up a balloon and play games like: Keep the balloon off the floor. For how long can your child keep the balloon in the air? Practice the alphabet with your child with a new letter of the alphabet for each hit of the balloon. Start again from A if the balloon lands on the floor.
Progress: Only use one hand. Change hand. Only use head and feet.
Activity 8: Scooter (Balance)
Many children of this age love to ride their scooter. Providing it's safe to do so, scooter riding can be great for balance.
This is also a good age for learning to use a Balance Bike (or walking bike). A Balance Bike is like a normal bike but with no chain and peddles.
Progress: Find a large safe space for scooter or balance bike riding. Set up a course of zig-zags for your child to scooter through.
Activity 9: Running races (Co-ordination and Speed) - see video above
Short, 10m running races can be great fun at this age. Try to include races where you have to touch the floor and come back, as these include the skill of deceleration as well as acceleration.
Progress: Try different starting positions for the race. For example, sit cross-legged on the floor, and say Ready Steady Go! The child will have to get up and start running, which adds new movement. You could try facing the other way, or lying on the floor also.
Activity 10: Two different movements at once (Co-ordination)
E.g. pat head and rub belly.
These types of movements challenge the child to do two things at once. Here are some more to try:
Side-stepping while clapping; Walking backwards while holding a ball or stick above the head; Tip-toeing while rubbing belly. There are lots of options - just use your imagination!
Activity 11: Use songs (Co-ordination and Balance)
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, for example.
Songs are great motivators for this age-group, and many nursery rhymes have actions that go with them. Try to find or invent songs which the child can jump to, can stretch to and can balance to.
Here and here are YouTube channels that have children's songs with actions.
Activity 12: Rolling and stopping a ball (Co-ordination)
Rolling a ball backward and forward between you is a good way to begin practising sending and receiving skills. Children love playing with balls, so it is a good idea to have balls of lots of different shapes and sizes to play with. You can start this activity sitting on the floor and pushing the ball, and progress to rolling with one or both hands from a standing position.
Progress: Try stopping the moving ball under the sole of the foot.
Activity 13: Jump rope (Co-ordination, Strength, Balance)
For this age-group this is best done with a short rope or skipping rope. Hold the rope at one end and make circles with it on the floor. Your child needs to judge when the rope is coming and jump over it so it goes underneath them.
If there are three of you: Two of you could hold one end of the rope each and make big circles with the rope so it goes over and under the 'jumper' in the middle.
Activity 14: Swinging (Strength)Climbing frames in playgrounds usually have a bar that young children can hang on to and swing from. It would be too tricky at this age to move from one bar to another, but just swinging from one of the bars for a few seconds at a time is good strengthening work.
Activity 15: Eyes closed exercises (Proprioception and Balance)
For example: Try closing your eyes and holding your arm, hand and index finger out straight. While only bending at the elbow, see if you can place the tip of your index finger onto the tip of your nose.
Progress: Can you clap your hands with your eyes closed? Try clapping above your head, or behind your back. Try standing on one leg and clapping, or walking and clapping, all with closed eyes.
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