If your kids haven't tried soccer, they must!
Our son has played 3 summers in a row now, since age 3, and he LOVES it! This was our daughter's first time playing.
In this post, I'll show you the difference between age 3 and 5 soccer and tips for making it a fun experience for all.
For our big kid, he was like a pro this summer at age 5 1/2, totally into it, able to run the entire time, not needing to sit out for long breaks, not getting bored, totally engaged and listening to the coach. It was AWESOME to see. He was called "awesome" by his coach and praised for being the first one to sit down in the group of age 3-6 year olds. A huge difference from the first two summers he played. Age 5 is the sweet spot, I have found, the best time for kids to learn this sport. It's great to start sooner, but this age, perfect!
Tip #1 for making soccer fun:
Before soccer started each afternoon I made sure my kids drank a bottle of water so they were ready and hydrated to start. It's hot in August out on a big open sunny field. They quickly dehydrate, especially considering how fast they run and move along.
Then we put their water bottles in the fridge early and added ice cubes to them. I always brought a backup water bottle in case they finished theirs.
Tip #2 for making soccer fun:
SUNBLOCK AHEAD OF TIME
Before you get to the filed, put the sunblock on. Don't do it when they get there and see their buddies and all the soccer balls going all over the place. It's like trying to get a dog to sit and listen to you patiently at a field full of balls to chase. Really?! Not going to go smoothly.
Also, the reason to put the sunblock on ahead of time is so that it sinks into their skin long enough before they get out and run and sweat it off!
Our soccer started at 5 p.m., so typically I'd not think we need sunblock then really, but the sun was BRIGHT. We surely did need it!
5 year olds:
- Need shinguards. The socks make it more real, my son loved those.
- They don't necessarily need the cleats, but at this age they're really getting more into it so it was helpful having those to run faster.
- Having a net and ball at home to practice is good. It's a fun game to play on their own or with siblings or parents.
- They are bigger, probably running faster, they will need more snacks and more water. Remember this. They aren't the same as the 3 year olds who maybe only need a few sips or one small snack.
- They are finally big enough to really grasp some of the rules and instructions of the game, that otherwise you ignored when they were 3 and 4 years old. So this summer I taught my son about using the side of his foot to kick the ball instead of his toes, he could grasp that and act on it.
Tip #3 for making soccer fun:
DRESS COMFORTABLY - THAT GOES FOR YOU, TOO, PARENTS!
Dress them in loose fitting shorts and tank tops or t-shirts. They should be able to move, scrunch down, bend, kick, turn, etc. They need good sneakers or cleats, something they can really run in.
Most age 3-4 year old soccer programs have parents participate also, so wearing sneakers and comfortable clothes yourself is key!
Tip #4 for making soccer fun:
SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS
I know kids are pretty annoying asking for a zillion snacks a day... but they really are growing so fast and have tiny bodies and stomachs, so they will need to eat more frequently. This is even more apparent during soccer time! Make sure they eat something before going to soccer, you have a snack for right after soccer, and something easy to eat if they get a quick snack break during soccer.
Granola bars, fruit, raisins, trail mix, apple sauce pouches, etc. are all great quick snacks to pack.
GET READY A HALF HOUR EARLY
It takes a lot of time to get them into their gear, especially with two kids! Put sunblock on, drink water, hair back, go potty, drive there, etc. Don't think it's a quick trip to the field.
You also should feed them ahead of time, by at least a half hour, that way they can digest and potty before leaving the house.
I also pack the soccer bag the night before so it's ready. When you do soccer camp it's likely Monday through Friday for a couple of hours each night. That's a busy week! We make quick dinners (sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pizza, salad, etc.) and then head out with snacks in hand! Packing the bag the night before ensures I don't forget anything!
Tips for the 3-4 year old crowd:
- Be prepared for breaks. They can't do it all and that's OK. I remember when our son first tried soccer at age 3. He was all over the place, resting every now and then. Our daughter is 3 and she just sat out every other minute this summer at soccer. They don't have long attention spans, it's OK, let them do their thing.
- Have lower expectations with the little ones. They are there to have fun. Everybody knows that. Be prepared for your child to not participate at all, give up easily, be bored, or make up their own game with the cones (that look like construction truck cones!), or even go potty nonstop. Just go into it knowing it'll be FUN and a bit chaotic, but not perfect, not following all the soccer rules. It's all good.
- Go potty ahead of time. It'll be one less trip you'll take during the practice!
- I remember being SO pumped and excited for our son to start soccer, I wanted to invite all grandparents and Godparents and aunts and uncles to cheer him on! That's awesome, definitely include family, but wait. Don't have family and friends come at the start, don't invite anyone the first day, let the kids get into the routine first. They get so easily distracted, my daughter played horribly the night her grandparents came this week because all she wanted to do was sit with them. It was hard for us to get her back on the field. That's also part of it, it is what it is, it's great for grandparents to attend and watch, just know ahead of time some tricks. You can even ask family to arrive 15 minutes late so your child can get into the game/practice before they arrive and not get as distracted.
- This age doesn't need cleats, just sneakers is great. Shinguards are helpful though and most soccer camps will ask you to get some.
When you're three, the net is like your own little princess castle!
Just go with it. Don't be embarrassed. All other parents are feeling the same way... this is cute and nuts at the same time!
Soccer is AWESOME! It's fun, outside, fresh air, sunshine, exhilarating, cute, adorable, and FUN! Just embrace the craziness of having uncoordinated, impatient kids with short attention spans, and it'll be great!
Seriously, it's fun!