If you are a children’s soccer coach, then you will probably know that this can sometimes be challenging.
Children often have limited attention spans, and you will often have to make training sessions very exciting and engaging, or else they will quickly grow bored.
Due to this, you cannot simply spend an entire training session teaching the children ball skills. Instead, you will have to switch it up a little.
One of the main ways that coaches switch up children’s soccer training is by adding fun training games to the session.
It is a great way to get the children looking forward to the session, making friends, and also picking up skills along the way.
As long as the games aren’t too complex and confusing, it is guaranteed to be a success.
But finding training games to teach the children can be difficult. However, there’s no need to worry because we’ve put together this handy guide packed with 10 different soccer games that are perfect for children between 5 and 8 years old.
So with no further ado, let’s get started.
Quick Tips for Training Children
Before we take a look at some of the best training games for children, we’ve put together some quick tips for training this age group.
There’s no denying that training young children can be tricky, so it is worth checking out these tips to try to make your sessions run more smoothly.
As long as children are enjoying themselves, they will very rarely be naughty. But, if you begin to use training techniques that are beyond their capabilities, you might find that you begin to lose the attention span of the children.
However, it is also very important that you do not make training sessions too easy, as this will also lose the focus of the children.
So, as you can see, training children to play soccer really is a balancing act.
Using games in training is a great way to make the session enjoyable, but it is also important that they are honing their skills at the same time.
You cannot simply play any game, you need to ensure that the game will help build upon their current skill set.
Some tips to help make training sessions more enjoyable, include:
- Always use the correct size ball for the age group you are teaching.
- Take an interest in the players, speak to them and ask questions to ensure everyone feels involved.
- Mix up the teams every training session so that no player becomes dominant, and everyone gets a chance to meet each other.
- Be prepared and plan every training session in advance.
- Keep explanations simple, and make all activities straightforward to avoid confusion.
- Be positive, happy, and inspirational - not only in your words, but also in your actions.
- Have fun, and enjoy every moment! Not all children will play soccer throughout their lifetime, so make their time with you enjoyable.
Now, let’s move onto some exciting games that you can use in soccer training sessions to keep the children engaged and entertained.
Number One: Play ‘Simon Says’
As you will realize as we continue down this list, a lot of soccer training games are existing children’s games which have been modified to move the focus onto soccer.
Due to this, you probably already have heard of ‘Simon Says’ - the classic game where one person becomes Simon, and everyone has to do exactly what you say (unless Simon doesn’t say it, of course).
To modify the game for football, you should mark out a large square on the field, and give each child a ball. Every player will then dribble their ball around inside the square until they are given a command by ‘Simon’.
As the coach, you will become ‘Simon’, shouting out commands that will help build upon the children’s skills.
These commands could include:
- Left/Right foot only.
- Change direction.
- Stop the ball.
- Juggle the ball.
- Dribble backwards.
This game is an excellent training option as it helps the children listen to commands, and builds on their skills at the same time.
If you want to make it even more fun, you can switch it up by giving commands without saying “Simon Says”.
Anyone who has then done the command is ‘out’, making this a great way to wrap up the game, ready to get on with the rest of training.
Number Two: Play ‘Fill the Bucket’
Alternatively, if you want the children to build upon their teamwork skills, then ‘Fill the Bucket’ is a great choice.
This game is extremely exciting for children, and it is great for getting the different players to interact with one another, as the whole group will be divided into two teams.
To play this, simply split the entire squad in two, and give each player a ball. You should then split these groups in half, and make half line up on one side of the square, and the other half on the opposite side.
In the middle of the two groups, you should then create a ‘bucket’ using 4 cones marked out in a square shape.
So, you will end up with two ‘bucket’s in the center of the field, with each team split in half on either side of this bucket, with around 10 meters between the first person in the line, and the bucket.
On the blow of your whistle, the first player on the team runs to the bucket with their ball dribbling beneath their feet.
Once they deposit their ball in the ‘bucket’, the player continues to run to the other side of their team, and their teammate in the opposite line then repeats what they have just done.
This process continues until the entire team has deposited their balls in the bucket. The team to do this the quickest is the winner.
This is a great game as it is fast-paced, and guaranteed to hold the children’s interest. It is also great for learning how to dribble, and also how to do this quickly.
Finally, it is great for breaking the ice between players, and a great way to kick-start training at the beginning of a new soccer season.
Number Three: Play ‘Piggy in the Middle’
Another classic game that you have probably already played is ‘Piggy in the Middle’, and it is very easy to modify this so that it can be used in soccer training.
This is a wonderful game to kick off a training session as it can help children warm up, and ease into the actual training.
Of course, ‘Piggy in the Middle’ as a soccer game is very different from ‘Piggy in the Middle’ as a game played for fun.
To use it for soccer, you should pick one or two players to be the ‘piggy’, and then have the rest of the players form a circle around these players.
You should then pass one ball into the circle, and the players around the outside will continuously pass it around the circle in a clockwise direction. It is then up to the ‘piggies’ to try to intercept the ball and win it back.
Should they successfully steal the ball, they will then join the circle, while the player that lost the ball will become the ‘piggy’.
This game is really basic to set up, and easy to enjoy. It is great because it will help the children learn skills without even realizing it. Skills that will be a massive help when they play a game of soccer.
Number Four: Play ‘Tag’
Alternatively, a great and simple game for soccer training is ‘tag’. You can play this as you would play a standard game of ‘tag’, or you can switch it up by adding some balls into the game.
The basic principle of ‘tag’ is simple. You set up a square which is the playing area, and pick two players to be the taggers.
All the players will then be allowed to run around within the square, trying to avoid being tagged by the taggers.
When a player is touched by one of the taggers, they must freeze, and remain like this until another teammate unfreezes them (usually by tagging them or running underneath an outstretched arm).
It is a good idea to begin using ‘tag’ in its generic form to make the children comfortable, and then introduce a new level of difficulty by adding soccer balls into the mix.
To do this, you should give each player that is not the ‘tagger’ a ball, and have them dribble it around within the square. They should do this while trying to avoid the taggers.
Once they have been tagged, that player must then freeze until another player dribbles their ball through their legs.
Again, this is a great game to get players interacting with each other and also for developing their dribbling skills which will be essential for playing actual soccer matches.
Number Five: Play ‘King of the Ring’
If you want to switch up your training session, you could instead play ‘king of the ring’. This game requires you to set up a circle (instead of a square) on the field, and to give each player a ball.
Every player should then run around the circle, dribbling their ball, and avoiding their teammates.
This might seem a little strange, but it is important to avoid teammates as this game is every man for themselves, and each player is a threat.
This is because the objective of the game is to knock other players' balls out of the circle (and out of the game), until you are the last man standing and the winner.
This game is excellent for targeting the competitive side of your players, and also for building their skills without them realizing.
Not only will this game help build dribbling skills, but it will also help grow attacking skills. Both of which will be essential for future soccer matches.
Number Six: Play ‘Musical Balls’
You might have heard of ‘musical chairs’ before, but you probably haven’t heard of ‘musical balls. The premise of both games is very similar, except musical balls doesn’t actually include any music.
To play ‘musical balls’, you will need to set up a large square on the field, and give each player a ball. Within this square, each player should then dribble their ball, moving around the square as they please.
Each player should try and keep their ball as close to them as possible, eagerly awaiting the moment that you (the coach) shout ‘Change!’.
When you shout ‘change!’, each player should stop what they are doing, leave their ball, and find a new one to begin dribbling.
You should do this a couple of times to ensure the children begin to get an idea of how the game works, then slowly begin removing a ball every time that you shout ‘change!’.
Slowly more and more players will be left without a ball, and eventually you will find a winner.
This game is great for training children because it is very fun, and it mirrors games they have probably already played in parties, so it will make them feel at ease.
It is also excellent because it will help build upon lots of different skills, including coordination, control, and dribbling.
Number Seven: Play ‘Don’t Feed the Monkeys’
Another super fun game for soccer training is ‘don’t feed the monkeys’. This game is guaranteed to get the children laughing, and jumping around with joy as it mirrors something that all children love. The zoo.
Within your training square, you should set up a circle in the middle using cones. Within this circle, you should choose two players to be the ‘monkeys’ and order them to go inside the circle (or cage).
Just outside this circle, you should choose 3 or 4 players to be the zookeepers. These players will float between the ‘monkey cage’, and an outer circle made up of 6 cones with a player and a ball on each one.
From there, the game works similar to ‘piggy in the middle’, as the players on the outer circle should try and pass the ball to the ‘monkeys’ without the ‘zookeepers’ intercepting the pass.
With each successful pass, a point is scored. The ball can then be passed back from the ‘monkey’ to the outer circle, and a point is scored if that pass is not intercepted.
Not only is this game incredibly fun for children to play, but it is also great for building skills in every player involved.
Not only does it help build passing skills in the ‘monkey’ and outer circle players, but it also helps the zookeepers learn how to anticipate passes, and how to defend them.
Due to this, it is very important that you switch players around throughout the game so that everyone gets a chance to work on their different skills.
Number Eight: Play ‘British Bulldog’
This game is a total classic across the pond, and it is also a brilliant way to help young soccer players develop their skills.
‘British Bulldog’ is excellent because it simultaneously works on multiple skills, including dribbling and spatial awareness.
For this game, you will need to set up a rectangle on your pitch. On either end of this rectangle there is a ‘safe zone’ and the space between these ‘safe zones’ is the danger zone.
In this space, you will have two players who are the ‘bulldogs’, and it is their job to try and steal the balls off of the players who are passing between the two safe zones.
This game is great because it gives the players the opportunity to use different methods to pass through the danger zone.
Some players might use stealth and speed, others might use advanced dribbling skills to dodge the bulldogs, and others might just go slowly and hope for the best.
Either way, this game gives the children a lot of choice, and this is essential for helping them develop their skills.
When a bulldog successfully intercepts a ball and steals it, the person whose ball has been taken can either become a bulldog, or stand on the sideline.
Slowly, the bulldogs will pick away at the players until there is just one player left. This person is the winner.
While this game is very fun, it can be a little confusing to begin with. Due to this, it might be best to play the game without balls until the children understand how it works, and then introduce the soccer element.
Number Nine: Play ‘Four Goals’
If the children that you train are very active, then ‘four goals’ could be the perfect game. This training exercise is very frantic, making it perfect for busy children who need to run off excess energy.
It is also very simple to set up, making it great for training.
To set up this game, you need to place four goal posts opposite each other with roughly 20 meters between each post.
In the middle of this area, you should place the soccer balls, and then have the children line up next to each goal post. It is best to only have 2-3 players per goal.
On the blow of your whistle, the first child in each line should run forward (to the pile of balls), select their balls and dribble it towards the goalposts.
When they are in reach, they can then shoot. If they successfully score the goal, then their teammate can then repeat the same action, and the process continues until there are no balls left.
The team with the most successful goals wins.
However, if a player doesn’t successfully score, then they will be slowed down as they must run to retrieve the ball before once again attempting to score a goal. They will need to repeat this until they successfully score.
This game is excellent for training because it can activate the children's competitive nature, while also making them work hard on their skills.
Additionally, it will encourage the children to focus, as a momentary lapse of attention could cause them to miss their goal, which could lead to their team losing.
Number Ten: Play ‘Red Light, Green Light’
Finally, you could play ‘red light, green light’ as part of your training session. This game is quite similar to ‘British Bulldogs’, so it is excellent for developing skills in young soccer players.
It is also excellent for encouraging young players to listen.
This game actually actively involves you, the coach, so to play this you need to set out a rectangle on the field.
You should then get all the players to line up on the field with a ball, and then you should head to the opposite side of the rectangle and turn your back on the children. You should be about 20 meters away from them.
It is your job to shout either ‘green light’ or ‘red light’. The children will have to listen intently as these two commands have very different meanings.
On a call of ‘green light’ the kids should begin dribbling their ball forwards toward you (the coach), keeping close control of the ball ready for when they need to stop.
This is important because when you call ‘red light’ the players will need to freeze immediately with their ball stationary between their feet.
When you call ‘red light’, you should wait a moment and then turn around to check whether the children have done as they are told.
If anyone, or their ball, is still moving, then they will need to go back to the starting line. The first player to reach you (the coach) is the winner.
This game is great because it not only develops dribbling and control skills, but it also actively encourages the children to listen. This is very important when it comes to playing soccer matches.
In short, there you have it, a complete ‘how to’ guide for 10 exciting soccer games that are perfect for children aged 5-8 years old, and a great way to make soccer training even more fun.