Playful Parent Soccer


Using these preschool-appropriate tips, you can help your child learn the basic skills needed to play soccer--and you'll enjoy just kicking the ball around together.

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Passing
In soccer--as in any sport--passing is all about accuracy. A great way to improve your child's accuracy is to make passing the ball into a game of skill. Set a cardboard box on its side or set up some plastic cones in your yard. (If you don't have cones, you can make them by stacking a few plastic cups.) Take turns kicking the ball at the target from just a few paces back. Gradually increase the distance from the box or cups as your child improves.

Tip: Encourage kids to use the insides of their feet when kicking--not the toe or top of their feet--as this will greatly improve their control of the ball.

Dribbling
You might think that the best way to teach dribbling to young children is just to drop a ball at their feet and let them run like crazy. There's nothing terribly wrong with this, but it does tend to encourage two big soccer no-no's: staring at the ball while dribbling and letting the ball get too far away from your body. A better option might be to set up an obstacle course using cones, old boxes, or flags. Encourage kids to weave in an out of the obstacles, send the ball through a box and meet it on the other side, and generally let their own creativity lead them through the course.

Tip: Emphasize that it's okay to stop the ball sometimes in order to change direction.

Shooting
Shooting is something that the vast majority of soccer players never learn to do correctly. That's why there are millions of soccer players in the world, but only a few great goal scorers. The first thing to teach your child about shooting is that's it's not about how hard you hit the ball, it's about how well you hit the ball. So the first thing to concentrate on with young children is form.

To help your child improve her form, volunteer as the goalie and then sacrifice your garage door or a back wall of your house while she wails away.

Tip: Emphasize the correct form: head down, eye on the ball. And remind children that the ball will go in the direction their planted foot--not their kicking foot--is facing.