Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds: Laugh & Play

When a child reaches the age of 3 or 4, their parents may seek some outlet to occupy their bustling energy stores and curious minds. Although some might not be ready for sports at that age, for many children, this is the perfect time to start playing.  There are many great options, but one fantastic sport for young people is soccer. 

How do you coach soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds?

For 3 and 4-year-olds, soccer should not be highly competitive. It should be played under special conditions with an emphasis on fun. It’s also useful to help them to develop good habits such as warming up, organization, teamwork, and an appreciation for sports and exercise. 
Kid kicking a soccer ball (Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds)
3 or 4 can be a great age for a child to start playing soccer | Image courtesy of Sheppard AF.

How to Teach Kids Soccer

  • A parent or parents may be the coaches for this age group. Some knowledge of the game is required, but instilling joy and fun in the kids through soccer is more important. 
  • Training sessions should involve lots of fun games and drills. These games should be helping kids with the basics of the game, such as using only their feet, kicking, dribbling, scoring, and teamwork. 
  • For those who are showing greater interest and promise than others, there are soccer programs and classes available year-round that cater for this. 

Throughout this article we will be going through each of the main points outlined above, detailing all you need to know about soccer for 3 and 4-year-old boys and girls.

What does soccer do for kids?

There are countless benefits to playing soccer for kids, particularly under the right circumstances. Here are some of them:

Fun

Soccer is tonnes of fun, especially for children. It’s outdoors and involves running, jumping, and kicking. You can score goals, assist goals, block, tackle, and pass. What’s more, it’s a team sport and all the fun is had alongside your teammates. 

Health

Many kids nowadays don’t get enough exercise. Playing a sport like soccer is safe, and is fantastic for physical and mental health.

Social

Communication and teamwork are essential parts of soccer. Players get to know each other very well and can become lifelong friends. Soccer can help develop strong social skills for 3 and 4-year-olds. 

Little kids having fun on a soccer field  (Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds)
There are many benefits to kids playing soccer, including physical, social and mental | Image courtesy of Creative Commons.

Physical Skills

Learning techniques and skills such as running, dribbling, passing, shooting, tackling, etc., is excellent for developing motor skills in kids. This can aid them in their physical development in the coming years. 

Foundations for playing sports

The core aspects of the game of soccer provide good foundations for playing most sports. It may not be very physical in nature but it’s highly technical. Some of the key attributes of a soccer player are: 

  • High fitness level
  • Quick feet
  • Good balance
  • Fast reactions
  • Low center of gravity
  • Strong legs

Soccer for 3 & 4-year-olds

Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds should be played under unique circumstances. Kids of this age are not ready for competitive matches, or training sessions that focus heavily on technical drills or tactics. Training and games should be fun focused on the surface level, but the coach should be trying to instill some of the core skills of soccer in the session too.

1 day per week is perfect for children of this age to play but it’s not any harm to play more often.

Training sessions should be around 30 – 45 minutes in length. At least for the first few sessions, it’s advised that parents take part in some capacity, even if it means encouraging the kids to participate. 

  • Warm-ups and stretching are essential.
  • The drills/games should be short, plentiful, and must involve using the ball.
  • Here are some fantastic games and drills for 3 and 4-year-old soccer players.
Kids lined-up with soccer balls and coach  (Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds)
Having enough soccer balls at training can be crucial in keeping interest levels high | Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Soccer Drills and Games 3-4-Year-Olds

Shark Island 

Core skill used: dribbling.

Set out 4 cones to make a large dribbling area. The players have a ball each and must dribble around the area. The coach or a parent act as a sleeping shark within the area. Every so often, the coach shouts “shark”, and the sleeping shark chases after the players, attempting to steal the ball from them. The players dribble away or shield the ball from the shark. 

Treasure Hunt 

Core skill used: dribbling and shooting.

Set up a goal with a cone about shooting distance away (5 yards). Leave a pile of cones or markers (treasure) to the side of the goal. 

The players line up around 20 yards from goal. One at a time, the players dribble to the shooting cone and take a strike on goal. If they score, they grab a piece of treasure (e.g. a cone) and run back to their teammates. 

Set a target of getting a specific amount of treasure.

Hot Potato

Core skills used: passing and dribbling.

It can be played with 1 or 2 balls, depending on the numbers and skill level of the players. Players dribble and pass the ball to one another in an area. They can take a maximum of two touches before passing to a teammate. They must call the name of the teammate to whom they’re passing.

This teaches them to kick purposeful passes. When the coach blows his/her whistle, the player that has the ball is knocked out. Repeat this until there is a winner. When a player is knocked out, they should pass the ball amongst one another outside of the game area, or watch and cheer on their teammates.

Boy running at a girl with a soccer ball
Boys and girls should play together at a young age | Image courtesy of Chip Griffin.

Green Light – Red Light 

Core skills used: reactions and controlled dribbling.

Each player lines up at the starting point with a ball at their feet. The goal is to dribble the ball to a finish line, around 30 yards away. When the coach yells green light, the players can run with the ball. When the coach yells red light, the players must stop. 

Little, Little, Big 

Core skills used: kicking and passing.

This is a race from one point to another, where the players kick the ball the whole way. They must do a little kick, then a second little kick, followed by a big kick. As they perform each kick, they should yell “little, little, big”. This is repeated until all players get to the finishing line. 

Cone Dribbles & Shooting 

Core skills used: dribbling and shooting.

Set out 8 cones in a straight line, making 4 dribbling gates, in front of a goal. Each player dribbles in and out, through the cones, before taking a shot on goal. There is no need for a goalie. 

Tunnel Pass

Core skills used: passing technique.

This is a fun game that’s also great for technique and team bonding. All players line up one behind the other, standing with their feet wide apart. The player at the front of the line, using the proper passing technique, tries to kick the ball through the tunnel of legs and out the other side. Once a player takes their turn, they join the back of the line. 

Scrimmage

It’s important for players to scrimmage so that they can apply their skills to a game scenario and learn to play as a team. The end of a training session is a good time to do this. It can be a good idea to enforce a rule whereby players can have a maximum of two touches before they have to pass or shoot. 

Soccer Stretches for 3-4-Year-Olds

Stretching should be performed to warm down post-training. This helps to prevent injury.

Kids doing stretches with soccer ball and coach  (Soccer for 3 and 4-year-olds)
Stretching is an important habit for young players to get into | Image courtesy of Chip Griffin.

The examples shown are by adults, but kids really enjoy these warm-ups and warm-downs. It not only gets them physically warmed-up, but also emotionally, so they can mess about and be kids Here are some key stretches for 3 and 4-year-old soccer players:

Calf 

There are several ways to stretch the calves. My personal favorite is the stretch from 1:10 on the video below.

Hamstring 

Your hamstrings are located on the back of your thigh. They are the most common muscles to be injured in soccer so it’s vital to keep them limber. Check out the video below for the best hamstring stretches.

Seated Groin and Inner Thigh 

Again, there are several ways to do this stretch. Find out what suits you best by looking at the video below.

Standing Quad 

The quads are the main muscles involved in kicking and are responsible for a lot of explosive movements. The standing quad stretch is one of the best for soccer players.

Hip Flexors

These also play a huge role in kicking and are often overlooked, leading to unwanted injuries. A great stretch for the hip flexors is demonstrated at 2:33 in the video below.

Soccer Classes and Programs

For 3 and 4-year-old soccer players, a handful of interested parents might negate the need for a real coach. A small amount of knowledge of the game combined with fun games and enthusiasm is enough to coach most kids at this level. 

However, there are classes and programs available in most areas where kids are trained by qualified coaches. Sessions are adapted and suited to the kids’ ages but there may be a higher level of training.

These programs may also be affiliated with a league, where teams play against each other. This gives kids their first introduction to competitive sports, although the emphasis is generally placed on participation rather than winning. 

Here are some of the most popular classes and programs around. Check and see if they are in your area and if they offer the kind of soccer that your child will love;

Coaching beginning…

Soccer a fun sport that’s easy to understand and can be enjoyed by everyone. Playing at such a young age can lay down the foundations for a great soccer career, but it’s important to remember that it’s just the beginning. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and some players will naturally improve at different ages.

The most important thing is that all the players enjoy themselves. That being said, who knows what could be in store for a 3 or 4-year-old with talent? It could be the start of something special. For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

At what age should my child start playing soccer?

This can vary from child to child but generally, kids are ready to be introduced to sports between the ages of 3 and 4. For others, it might be a year or two later. 

What equipment does a child need to start playing?

Soccer cleats and shin guards are the only specialized gear needed. Other than that, generic sports gear (t-shirt, shorts, etc.) is suitable.

Does a child need to know the rules of soccer before starting?

No. It definitely helps if they have an interest or knowledge of the sport and it’s rules but it’s not a necessity. They will learn as they play.
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