Many children’s games include the skill of kicking. Kicking requires that children contact a ball with their foot while maintaining the balance necessary to propel the ball as straight and as far as they desire.
Children should have a variety of opportunities to practice kicking skills. When children practice kicking the emphasis should be on development of the mature kicking pattern. Children develop this mature pattern by participating in activities where they move their kicking leg through the full range of kicking motion. Therefore, initial kicking experiences should emphasize kicking hard or kicking for distance as opposed to kicking for accuracy.
Initial kicking tasks for young children should include:
- Kicking a ball from a stationary position
- Running to kick a stationary ball
- Tapping a ball along the ground while moving behind it
- Kicking toward a target
The cues for development of skill in kicking include:
- Contact the ball with the top of your foot—not your toes
- Contact the ball in the center
- Place the non-kicking foot beside the ball
- Focus on the ball, not on the target
A cue word or phrase is like a movement secret that helps your child learn or perform a skill better. Cues help children focus on one specific part of a complex skill. There are two rules parents should understand when using cues to help their child develop skill. The first step in skill development is to allow your child to simply explore the skill. Provide a ball and ask your child to kick it any way she would like. Don’t worry about where the ball goes just have fun kicking. The second guideline, when your child is ready, only present one learning cue at a time. For example use only the cue, “before kicking, place the non-kicking foot beside the ball.” Too much information when learning a new skill may be confusing. Practice emphasizing one cue for several weeks and when your child has learned that cue then move on to another.
A 10-inch diameter rubber playground ball or foam or soft covered soccer ball should be used. Do not use regulation soccer balls with hard coverings that may hurt a child’s foot when kicked. This may discourage children from practicing. Practicing kicking skills is an outdoor activity and should not be done inside. A large grassy area is ideal for this activity.
This activity will give children the opportunity to practice the skill of kicking a ball as hard and as far as they can. The focus should be on moving the kicking leg through a full range of motion. “Don’t just tap the ball, kick it hard.”
What Should Parents Do?
- Initially ask your child to place the ball on the ground and ask that they take one step back and kick the ball hard and as far away as possible.
- Then retrieve the ball and kick again.
- After your child gets the idea of kicking far, ask that they take several steps back away from the ball and run toward the ball and kick it.
- It may be helpful to place cones or markers out in the field so that your child has a direction in which to kick.
- A marker or cone in the field can also be used to challenge your child to kick farther. “Show me how far you can kick the ball. See if you can kick the ball past the cones.” Initially place cones about 10 to 12 yards away.
- As your child gets the basic concept of kicking far and hard ask that he travel throughout the grassy area continually kicking their ball. “Kick your ball far and then run up and kick it again.”
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE, 2004) has developed benchmarks in this area that suggest that by the time a child completes kindergarten he/she should kick a stationary ball using a smooth, continuous running step and demonstrate progress toward the mature form of kicking. This suggests that the kindergarten child should show progress toward understanding and being able to kick for distance.
- Can your child identify and perform the critical elements of kicking for distance (contact the ball with the top of the foot, contact the ball in the center, place the non-kicking foot beside the ball, and focus on the ball, not the target)?
- Ask your child to stand on one side of a line and to kick the ball as hard as she can? Measure how far the ball went by counting how many steps it takes to get to the ball.
- Measure 20, 30 and 40 feet from the line and place a marker at the distance. How many times in a row can you kick the ball past 20 feet? 30 feet? 40 feet?
- Cut out the assessment forms below and place in the child’s room or on the kitchen refrigerator. Record your child’s progress and discuss the cues that are important to learning how to kick for distance.