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Five boys in the Play Phase take part in a small-sided game on a grass field.

Research has shown that a positive first start will encourage them to remain fit, healthy, and active throughout their lives. 


Your goal is to create a safe space where the children can play. Your sessions should engage and involve them. Let them have fun while being physically active. 


Physical development

Introducing... your ABCs. This refers to three of the fundamental movement skills set out in the National Curriculum for PE. 

Agility is the ability to change direction at speed and in control of your own body. 

Balance is the ability to stay upright and in control of body movements. 

Coordination is the ability to move two or more body parts under control smoothly and efficiently. 

The ‘s’ in ABCs stands for speed. It includes speeding up, slowing down, and stopping while controlling a ball or near a player. Although it’s not a fundamental movement skill, it works with them and is key when playing invasion games like football.


Social and emotional development 

Children will be constantly developing and building their social skills alongside their emotions. They’ll begin to experience others’ emotions and understand that others don’t think the same way as they do. They will start to be able to tell when someone is happy or upset. They may struggle to regulate or control their emotions. For example, they may close their eyes when frustrated or remove themselves from new situations. 

At this age, they may show more appreciation for the rules. Remember that too many rules may be hard for them to follow. 

You may find that they are very changeable. One minute they cooperate peacefully, and the next, they are demanding. This is normal for this age, so be patient and understanding. Parents and carers should be on hand to help.


Creating a supportive environment that meets the specific needs of very young children must always be your priority. 
Working with children aged 4 – 6 needs extra planning and safeguards. And remember, it’s essential that parents and carers understand they must be present to look after their child. 

For more information, why not look at our safeguarding courses here


Every session should include: 

  • Movement – in each session, the children should be enjoying moving and understanding how their body works. This could be running, jumping, or dancing. The possibilities are endless.
  • Skills – they should also be developing their skills. This could be catching a ball, creating imaginary scenarios, or working on their dribbling skills. 
  • Play – each session should have play at its heart. Aim to bring out all four types of play from the Play Framework over a few sessions. 

Let’s hear from Pete Sturgess, who’s talking with a parent of a child involved in Play Phase. 

1. Communicate

Children’s stages of development impact their sharing skills and ability to work as a team. So, when running a session, think about the best way to communicate and help the children. Tell them what you're doing and why it's important. 


2. Add more equipment 

Young children have less experience to draw on. This means the games will be driven by impulse and instinct. This means they will want to be on or near the ball or whatever the focus of the activity is. So, why not add more equipment into your sessions? 


3. More than football  

Your sessions will not always be a game of football. Try to get the children moving in different ways. Tag and chase games are great for introducing stopping, starting, dodging, and evading movements. They can help the children understand the importance of looking around for information to help them. Although this may not look like the game you know, all of these movements will help the children to develop in football and other sports. 


4. Keep it fun 

Children have fantastic imaginations – tap into this. Most children will be happy to try moving like a snake or crawling like a bear, so use this unique, childlike characteristic to get them moving. Use their imagination to bring your sessions to life in a fun and engaging way.