3 July 2023
Children can start playing football as soon as they can walk, and you often see toddlers having a kick about at the park. However, the English Football Association set rules for children’s football clubs and they only allow children to play in matches once they’re at least six years old. There are many providers of football training for younger kids though.
For toddlers, there are organisations running dedicated sessions which introduce them to football in age-appropriate ways, while making friends and learning social skills. You can also introduce your kids to the game in your garden or a local park. Little ones are still learning their balance and coordination and a full sized football may be too big and heavy for a toddler, so use a lightweight ball your child can kick. Don’t try to introduce too many rules at once, just let your child get used to running around, dribbling and kicking the ball.
You may be hoping you have a future England player, but keep training fun when they’re young, to avoid turning them off football. Some children find it more enjoyable to take part in activities with other children their own age, where they can make new friends. If you have children of different ages, explain to the older ones how to be considerate to their younger siblings, to prevent the little ones from getting frustrated by their lower skill level.
Young children tend to be accident-prone. If you are worried about your child injuring themselves while playing football, they might not be ready yet, and you might be best to wait until they have better balance. Try to play on grass rather than hard surfaces or Astroturf, as it is much more forgiving when children fall over on it. Stay away from walls, benches and metal goalposts to prevent young children running into them.
From the age of six, children can join an under 7s team. Football Association (FA) rules mean Kids don’t play in leagues until they are older, but they can play in up to 3 trophy events per year, in order to get used to winning and losing. The pitch is smaller and the teams are five-a-side, with 20 minute halves, rather than the 45 minute halves in adult football.
There’s no need to start football young, especially if you only want to play for fun. Football is an incredibly versatile game, which can be adapted for people with a range of disabilities or reduced mobility. Blind people can play a version of football with a rattling ball, while those in powered wheelchairs can play a four a side version. There’s also walking football, popular with older adults.
Hopefully this article has given you more clarity on the age at which your children can begin playing football. If in doubt, ask a professional football coach for advice.