We’ve tried a number of different baby and toddler classes over the last two years. What I’ve found is that Toddler L much prefers active ones – those where she can move around, explore and blow off steam, rather than things like listening to stories or singing nursery rhymes.
With this in mind – and being the footy-loving dad that I am – one class which I’ve always fancied getting us involved in is the toddler football classes from Little Kickers. Starting at 18 months old, I’ve obviously had to wait impatiently for her to reach the right age, however that time finally arrived.
I decided to get in touch with Little Kickers directly to see if they’d be interested in allowing us to try out a few lessons in exchange for writing a blog review. They agreed and we were enrolled on six ‘Little Kicks’ classes with Coach Ant at a venue in Amersham.
Prepped with trainers, shorts, t-shirt and a water bottle we began our Little Kickers journey. In hindsight, my shin pads and footy boots probably made me look a little keen, however I wanted to make a good impression – at 31, I’m still at an age where I could do a decent job in the Premier League should I get the opportunity. Anyway, I digress – below, you’ll find my review of the Little Kicks classes we attended.
Little Kickers give your children a positive introduction to sport by teaching high quality football skills in a friendly, pressure-free environment. There are four different classes tailored specifically to the needs of children between 18 months and seven years of age.
Little Kicks (18 months to 2 years 3 months) is the perfect introduction to the fun world of Little Kickers. Children are introduced to the basics of football (dribbling, striking, goal scoring etc.) in a play-oriented yet structured format, using child-friendly but realistic football equipment.
Each child is given the opportunity to work within their ability level but taught in a group environment. Classes also provide a fantastic opportunity for you to assist in your child’s early education, helping them develop physically as well as improving cognitive and social skills.
The main focus of Little Kicks is what we call ‘learning to learn’. Our coaches are taught specific techniques that enable children to get the most out of our classes. We believe that play is one of the greatest development tools and when combined with repetition and structure, ensures effective learning.
Classes involve a number of games that require parents to put on their running shoes and get actively involved in the session. However, some games are specifically targeted at developing independence. These transition games mean children as young as two will be able to play independently of their parent or guardian. Key features of Little Kicks include:
- 18 months to 2 years 3 months
- 45-minute class
- Weekly classes
- One coach with up to 12 children OR two coaches for 13 to 16 children
- Each child receives a football kit
We’ve attended six separate Little Kickers classes in Amersham and have just booked onto six more – the fact that we’ve decided to continue after the ‘review classes’ says everything you need to know about the classes. OK, maybe not everything, as that’d be a pretty crappy review, so let me elaborate below.
Before we go any further though, let me bust a myth for you – this isn’t really a football class. Yes, you use football related equipment – cones, a football, a pop-up goal – but attending won’t turn your kid into the next David Beckham or Kelly Smith. It might, but it’s not a guarantee.
Your kid isn’t taught step overs, when to feint a shot or how to deliver a perfectly struck free kick from 35 yards. Instead, it’s more about developing their gross motor skills, teaching them to listen, showing them how to follow instruction, building their independence and helping them to become more aware of other kids. This probably won’t come as a surprise for most, but I can picture some parents wondering why their toddler hasn’t been scouted by Chelsea’s academy considering they’ve been to ‘football classes’.
Each session we’ve attended has been very similar in terms of the activities we’ve done. I guess this is to get the little ones used to the structure and type of games, whilst providing enough variation each week so that they don’t get bored. For illustrative purposes, let me give you a breakdown of an example class:
- Arrival – Greeted by the coach, toddlers get to have a bit of ‘free play’ with footballs, cones and goals.
- Activity 1 – Collect all of the footballs and put them into a bag, collect all of the marker cones and put them on traffic cones.
- Activity 2 – Sit in a circle and copy the actions Coach Ant does, e.g. wiggle legs, wiggle head, thumbs up.
- Activity 3 – Stand at the ‘magic wall’ and await instruction, collect all of the red marker cones and place onto a particular traffic cone, collect all of the yellow marker cones and place onto a particular traffic cone etc.
- Drink Break.
- Activity 4 – Stand at the ‘magic wall’ and await instruction, run across to the other side of the room whilst Coach Ant tries to catch you.
- Activity 5 – Sit in a circle, given a football, copy the actions Coach Ant does, e.g. put football on head, rub football on belly, sit on football.
- Activity 6 – Practice little kicks with the football, practice big kicks with a football, practice throw-ins with the football, practice volleys with the football.
- Drink Break.
- Activity 7 – Build a rocket using a football, traffic cone and marker cones, then kick the ball.
- Activity 8 – Line up against the ‘magic wall’ in two teams, take it in turns to run around cones and then take a penalty at goal.
- End – Sit in a circle and get a hand stamp.
Each of these activities are done to achieve something different. Obviously, you’ve got the physical side of things, so stuff like working on their balance, improving co-ordination and learning to run without headbutting the wall. You’ve then got the cognitive aspect, such as learning to be patient, improving their confidence and teaching them to listen. Then, finally, you’ve got the football side of things, so learning how to kick, how to stop the ball or to get enjoyment out of scoring a goal.
Judging by her performance at @littlekickers today, she’s more likely to make it as a goalkeeper than a striker. Bit of a shame, as I was pretty prolific in front of goal before a lack of talent ended my career. She obviously takes after the missus…
A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on
Although some of the activities are simplistic and can probably be described as ‘tidying up’, kids of this age love this type of thing – for example, when taking the washing off the line at home, I often just throw the sprog the pegs so she can put them into the peg basket! Seeing the enthusiasm, determination and joy on the toddlers’ faces as they find a football, pick it up and run over to Coach Ant is pretty cool. Similarly, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride when your kid tells everyone her name or does something that you never knew she was capable of.
During our time with Little Kickers, I’ve noticed a big improvement in Toddler L. She’s always been active and a good mover, so I’ve not noticed much change in the physical department. I have noticed that she’s become more comfortable with a football though – she’s got better at kicking and rolling it under her foot, plus enjoys putting the ball into the goal, for instance.
The biggest area of improvement though is the social, emotional and cognitive side of things. She is quite a stubborn child with a short attention span who is easily distracted – although I guess this could describe a lot of toddlers! As such, trying to get her to wait patiently at the ‘magic wall’ or to only pick up the red cones, has been challenging and a little stressful, particularly during the first one or two lessons. However, her patience, attention span and understanding has definitely improved each and every week.
This hasn’t stopped her being a toddler though. If she’s not wanted to do something, then she’s cried, whinged and run off. Similarly, if she’s bored of doing a particular activity, then she’s often gone over to the side where she’s preferred to climb on the chairs. This isn’t down to anything ‘wrong’ with the class though – I think this just depends on your kid’s personality, what mood they’re in and how you deal with it.
A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on
I just want to pick up on this latter point. I’ve actually found that going to Little Kickers has helped me as a parent. For example, I’ve had to try different techniques to slowly coax her to do things when she’s distracted. If she’s decided to go and sit on the sideline, it’s given me a better understanding of how to deal with her in this situation rather than just getting annoyed. Similarly, if she’s not playing a particular ‘game’ properly, I’ve started to work out how to get her to follow the correct instructions and develop more patience.
This actually leads on to a wider point about Little Kickers and parent participation. As a parent, you need to get involved in the classes. If you’re planning on dropping your kid off and letting someone else look after them, then this isn’t a class for you. You need to show them what to do, you need to encourage them, you need to make it fun and you need to celebrate their successes. The Coach does interact with every child separately, however his role isn’t to be the kid’s parent.
The Amersham classes are held in a large hall, which gives plenty of space for the kids to run around. In our classes, there’s been anything from five to nine kids (with parents) per session, although it usually averages at around seven which feels a good size.
Something I have noticed though is that Toddler L is the only girl at our lessons. Little Kickers is obviously open to boys and girls – and they actively encourage participation from everyone – however I guess there’s still a perception with some people that ‘football is only for boys’. I think this is a huge shame and actively try to get Toddler L involved in anything and everything.
Little Kickers offer enrolment on a six or thirteen week basis. For the Little Kicks class I did in Amersham, six sessions cost £50 (£8.33 per session) and 13 sessions cost £96 (£7.38 per session), however there is also a one-off registration fee of £18 which includes a Little Kickers kit.
This is inline with my expectations of a toddler class which involves instruction, a teacher and use of equipment. For comparison purposes, we also do Tumble Tots which costs £8 on a pay as you go basis (slightly cheaper if you sign up for block bookings) and Water Babies which is £152 for 10 sessions (£15.20 per session). Therefore, I’m pretty comfortable with the cost of Little Kickers and think it’s value for money.
However, I would like to see a pay as you go option made available. Parents aren’t always able to make the class each and every week – holidays, illnesses etc – so having this flexibility would be good. This way, you could attend when you want to without the commitment of block booking. At present, if you miss a session, then it’s tough luck – you may have paid for six, but if you miss two, then you only get four sessions for the price of six which feels a little harsh – pay as you go gets around this.
We’ve really enjoyed attending Little Kickers and have actually signed up for six more weeks following this review period. I’ve been really impressed with the thought that goes into the classes, not only from a football perspective, but also from the physical and emotional side of things. The classes are some of the most structured I’ve been to, however this doesn’t take any of the fun out of them – it could be argued that it’s the opposite.
I’ve found that the Little Kicks class has been a great introduction to the concept of football, but in a way which promotes play, fun and enjoyment. It’s not a football boot camp, it’s simply a very active class that uses football equipment and is overseen by a friendly, engaging and knowledgeable Coach.
I’d thoroughly recommend the Little Kickers Little Kicks class for anyone who has a toddler who likes being active. Even if they – or you – haven’t shown an active interest in football, there’s so much more to this class than just kicking a ball. For me, football is actually the bi-product – the main things learnt have been around listening skills, patience and following instruction.
The DADventurer Star Rating
5 Out Of 5 Stars
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N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion. We were provided with enrolment for six Little Kicks classes by Littler Kickers with the purpose of writing an honest review in exchange for the lessons.
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