Training kicking skills in young children

Children practice kicking from a very young age 

From a very early age young children show an interest in kicking a ball. This early kicking practice is important as it teaches the child to predict the path and move towards a moving ball to be in the right place for a successful kick.

Early kicking actions involve nudging the ball with the foot. The leg stays straight.

With practice young children learn to bend the knee and move the foot backwards in preparation for swinging the leg forwards to kick the ball. 

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Kicking and standing on one leg 

Kicking a ball involves standing one leg while moving the other vigorously. This obviously requires the ability to stand firmly and balance on one leg. 

If your child has poor one leg balance it may be helpful to also practice standing on one leg. You will find instructions for graded activities for improving one leg stance here. 

The basic elements of a mature kicking pattern

However it is only by the age of  6-7 that most children have a acquire the basic elements of a mature kicking pattern and have gained some control of the direction and final destination of the ball. 

The basic elements include:

Kicking ball 1 plant foot.jpg1   A forwards step onto the support leg This is referred to as planting the leg. 


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2    At the same time the kicking leg is lifted backwards with the knee bent. 

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3    A forwards swing of the kicking leg with simultaneous bending of the hip and the knee. 

The foot may make contact with the ball either on the front or side of the foot, depending on the position of the supporting foot relative to the ball. 

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4    Vigorous extension of the knee of the kicking leg imparts momentum to the ball.l.

5    kicking ball 5 follow through_1.jpgThe leg continues to move forward as the hip bends and knee extends. 

The arm opposite to the kicking leg swings forwards to help maintain balance. 

Developing accuracy: importance of visual pickup

There are two important bits of visual information needed for accurate kicking.

1  In order to prepare for the movements leading up to the contact between the foot and the ball it is necessary to know the exact position of the ball. 

When kicking a static ball, this information is used to plan the size and direction of the steps needed to bring the planted foot into the right position which allows the kicking leg to contact the ball as it is moved forwards. 

If the ball is moving, it is necessary to predict the trajectory of the ball and make an estimate of where and when to make contact with the ball. 

2 Children with good kicking skills also briefly focus their visual attention on the spot where they want the ball to go. This information is used to plan the kicking action. 

This child has developed the basic components for an effective kick, but has not yet learned to predict the trajectory of the ball and to plan her movements so that her foot contacts the ball at the right moment. 

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Graded activities for training kicking

Simplify the task: kicking from a standing position

In this activity the child kicks to ball from a standing position towards two widely spaced goal posts a few meters away. This is a fairly easy task and allows the child to succeed. 

Starting from a standing position and kicking a stationary ball means the kicking action is easy and  the child can concentrate on paying attention to picking up the visual information needed for contacting the ball and determining the direction of the ball's  movement. 

Activity instructions

Create goal posts. Use chairs of cones placed about  2 meters apart. 

Let the child stand about 3 meters away from the goal posts. The ball is positioned a step away from the child.

Instruct the child to:

  1. Look at the position of the ball
  2. Then look at a central point between the goal posts. 
  3. Step forwards and plant the stance foot next to the ball
  4. Swing the kicking leg forwards and kick the ball so that it passes between the goal posts. 

Provide feedback and talk about the action

  • If the ball is kicked between the goal posts: provide brief positive response. Great - that was a good kick.
  • If the ball does not move between the goal posts: let your child talk about what went wrong. 

Making the task more difficult 

First increase the distance between the child and the goal posts. 

Next decrease the distance between the goal posts. 

Let the child start a further away from the ball so that he/she needs to take 2-3 steps towards the ball. 

Kicking a moving ball - learning to intercept and kick a ball. 

Once your child can kick a stationary ball, it is time to start practicing kicking a moving ball.  Now the child need to learn to look at the moving ball and predict where and when it will be in a good position for kicking. 

Start by kicking the ball straight towards your child so that it is easy to predict the position and time of the ball being in a good position for kicking. 

Let your child stand a 4-5 meters away from you. Kick the ball to her/him so that it approaches  from the front at a medium pace. 

Instruct your child to: 

Watch you as you get ready to kick and then briefly look at the ball as it moves away from your foot. 

If the ball is moving quite slowly it is possible to visually track the ball. It is better to kick it so that it moves fairly fast so that the child learns to predict the predict the speed and direction of the ball and then make a decision about when and where to intercept it. 

Once your child is able to kick a ball that is moving in quite a predictable path, you can start to vary the direction of the ball so that he/she need to step sideways to intercept and kick the ball.