Why I Created This Kit
I discovered soccer once I became a mom. My oldest son lives, breathes, and eats soccer. (It’s safe to say that his muddy cleats and stinky shin guards have secured permanent spaces on our porch!) Thanks to my son, I’ve learned more about this incredibly popular sport and its ever-infectious spirit. Whether your child is a budding soccer fan or a mini- Pele or mini-Mia Hamm, I hope this kit provides him/her with a deeper look into this deliciously addicting pastime.
General Information for Parents
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, organizes and regulates all of the soccer competitions and rules. It was established in 1904 and is credited with organizing the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930. I enjoy looking at images from past World Cup competitions, as they often reflect the social-political climate of the times.
General Information for Children
Did you know that soccer is the most popular sport in the world? It’s true! Millions of people all over the planet watch soccer competitions, including the biggest one: the World Cup. The World Cup works in this way:
32 international teams are divided into 8 groups of 4
Games are played in two stages: the group stage and the knockout stage
Group stage: Each team plays 3 games, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stage (16 teams)
Knockout stage: Also known as the “Round of 16”; 8 elimination games are played
The winners of the knockout stage move on to the quarter-finals
Quarter-final winners go to the semi-finals
The last two remaining teams play in the World Cup Final
If you’ve ever wondered how a professional soccer play could play for a different country, listen up. Here are the FIFA rules on that:
A player could switch “allegiances” one time.
A player has to be a citizen of the new country. Usually, this just means that he/she has to have two passports at the time of his/her first call-up for either country.
A player may not have represented his/her original country in a competitive game at the senior level.
Next World Cup
Oh, and just so you’re ready: the next two World Cup tournaments will be held in Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022).
More Fun Facts
Looking for more fun soccer facts? Here you go:
Soccer players run an average of four to six miles per game.
Only people in the United States and Canada call it “soccer”. It’s called “football” in all other countries.
The first soccer games originated in China. Modern day soccer started in Europe.
There are 32 panels on a traditional soccer ball, one for each country in Europe.
My Soccer Book by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction authors for small children. In true Gail Gibbons fashion, the author approaches the technical aspect of soccer with respect for her young audience by not shying away from complex terms. I love that she often uses labels on her illustrations to teach readers about important aspects of soccer (i.e. “SOCCER SHOES with SOFT SPIKES called CLEATS”, “PENALTY AREA”, “The MIDFIELDERS helps the defenders and try to score a goal.”). This book is perfect for 4-5-year-old readers as an introduction to soccer.
Let’s Play Soccer (DK Readers 1) by Patricia J. Murphy
This soccer book is part of the DK Readers series and is best for 5-6-year-olds. It provides readers with a look into a day in the life of a young soccer player named Erik as he goes to practice. The photographs show boys and girls of varying ethnicities and serve as visual reinforcements for a number of soccer terms, such as “shin guards” and “goalie”.
K is for Kick: A Soccer Alphabet by Brad Herzog
Don’t let the title fool you: this is a definitely a text for 6-8-year-olds. Readers will learn a lot about soccer through age-appropriate simple rhymes. "J is for the Jerseys that soccer players wear. But often in the World Cup, opponents tend to share. In a gesture of respect after a game ends, They simply swap their jerseys as if they are old friends." This is a book that has grown with my son, especially because he “gets” more of the content as his knowledge of soccer increases.
Fiction Picture Books
Dino-Soccer by Lisa Wheeler
Dinosaurs and soccer – it’s a winning combination! Little ones will be on the edge of their seats while reading this action-packed, laugh-out-loud story about the Biters vs. the Grazers. (Get it? Carnivores and Herbivores?) If your child likes this book, be sure to check out others in the series that center on different sports.
Winners Never Quit! by Mia Hamm
I came across this book at my local library and immediately honed in on the book’s lesson about winning and losing. I believe that it is a natural response for kids to want to win, win, win, no matter what…but at what expense? Enter Winner’s Never Quit! In this story, Mia HATES losing so much that she quits in the middle of a game. (I’m not naming names, but I TOTALLY know someone who used to do that.) As the book shares, "Mia didn't want better luck next time. She wanted better luck now.” Hahaha! By the book’s end, Mia learns how to “lose gracefully,” a lesson that isn’t lost in the fact that Mia Hamm is a three-time Olympian who obviously knows a lot about not giving up.
Goal! by Mina Javaherbin
Sigh. This is a stunningly beautiful picture book for 7-8-year-olds. Goal! takes place in South Africa and tells the story of Ajani, his friends, and the brand new “football” that Ajani won for being the best reader in his class. There are so many literary layers within this text: themes of teamwork, courage, and bullying; metaphors/similes; and writing about small moments, just to name a few.
Captain Awesome, Soccer Star by Stan Kirby
My 8-year-old son loves the Captain Awesome series for its funny characters. I love them because they combine illustrations and text in a way that is perfect for growing chapter book readers. In this title, Captain Awesome isn’t quite as awesome at soccer as he thought he would be…and learns some valuable lessons as his soccer team tries to defeat the Westville Kickers.
Stacey the Soccer Fairy (Rainbow Magic Book: The Sports Fairies, No. 2) by Daisy Meadows
The Rainbow Magic Books are a huge hit with the second-graders at the school where I work. Stacey the Soccer Fairy centers upon the Fairy Olympics (cute, right?) and teaches readers valuable lessons about sportsmanship, teamwork, and believing in oneself.
Try one of these literacy-centered activities with these apps:
After playing, ask your child to make up a story about two of the characters in the app. The story could be based on the game or it could tell what happens after the soccer match is over.
Pretend you are a sports announcer. In a sports announcer voice, narrate one of the games in the most exciting way possible!
Interview one of the players in the app (for iSoccer, you may be interviewing yourself!). Be sure to ask open-ended questions that do not have just a yes/no answer such as, “What is the most important thing a soccer player should know and why?”
Make a soccer word search puzzle using soccer vocabulary seen/heard in the app (score, goal, player, referee, whistle, trophy, etc.).
Kids Football Game – Soccer Games by Happy-Touch (for iOS)
Soccer lovers in the 5-year-old set will have a good time playing this not-so--competitive game. Users play by passing a ball back and forth between two teammates until one player automatically shoots the ball into the goal.
From the developer, Happy-Touch:
Which national team is going to claim victory in the Soccer Competition? Yours, of course! Your skills are put to the test: How many times can you pass the ball from player to player?
Pick one of 32 national soccer teams and take the trophy home in the name of your favorite country. From qualifying over k.o. rounds to the finals… the challenge increases. Will you reach the next level?
- Hand-eye coordination
- Patience and concentration
- Reaction rate
- Matching flags and jerseys with different nationalities
Head Soccer (for iOS and Android)
This really, really fun app is a way for 6-8-year-olds to “play” soccer. Instead of playing on a team, one head goes against another in various game modes: Arcade, League, Survival, Head Cup, and Tournament (my son’s fave). Bonus: children get to choose from one of 47 different avatars, making the game more personal.
FIFA 14 (for iOS and Android)
I like to think of this FIFA 14 app as the “Madden NFL” of soccer, with its realistic graphics and current roster of worldwide soccer players. I like that the developers allow users to obtain this app for free with satisfying gameplay (which suffices my son). That being said, users do have the option of purchasing in-app supports to unlock different tournaments and modes. Best for 8-year-olds.
iSoccer (for iOS)
Looking to improve your soccer skills? Try out iSoccer’s various challenges and activities, fit for 6-8-year-olds.
From the developer, iSoccer LLC:
…Play iSoccer and turn practice into a game!
- Earn badges and levels by taking soccer challenges
- Receive points for getting higher scores and for practicing at home
- Check in to soccer activities every day to earn real world rewards
- Compete with teammates and friends
For any player who wants to take their game to the next level faster... Get the iSoccer Trainer! It’s the paid section of the app that gives you everything you need to become a better player.
- Log scores on soccer challenges and track your progress
- Compare to average scores based on age and gender as well as college / pro level
- Access Personal Training Videos (recommendations based on your level)
To encourage your child to become an active viewer, ask some of these questions before or after watching the films listed below:
Based on the title, what do you think the movie will be about?
What do you already know about soccer?
What questions do you have that this movie may answer?
What was the story about?
What lesson could be learned from the movie?
How was soccer used in the movie?
How would the story be different if the main character was a ______________?
What was the most interesting part? Why?
Would you recommend this movie to others? Why or why not?
- What would you like to learn more about after seeing this movie? Where could we find that information?
Air Bud 3: World Pup (Movie)
“In AIR BUD: WORLD PUP, Buddy and his owner Josh (Kevin Zegers) join the school soccer team, which includes a pretty new student from England named Emma. While Kevin falls for Emma and Buddy finds love with Emma's dog Polly, the soccer team gradually continues to improve, despite an opposing coach's attempt to get Buddy banned from the league. After Polly has a litter of puppies, a pair of nefarious dog-nappers steals the pups on the day of the championship soccer game. Kevin, Emma, and Buddy track down the thieves and return to the game in the nick of time for Buddy to score the winning goal.” (Common Sense Media)
Kick Like a Girl (Documentary)
“'Kick Like A Girl' is the story of what happens when 'The Mighty Cheetahs', an undefeated third grade girls soccer team competes in the boys division. With humor and honesty this documentary reveals the reality of the boy-girl issues and what 'Kick Like A Girl' really means on and off the playing field.
The film is narrated by 8 year old Lizzie, a self described soccer girl, who doesn't let juvenile diabetes, elbow blocks or grass stains interfere with her desire to compete.
Refreshing and triumphant, Kick Like A Girl reminds us all of the lessons learned in competitive athletics and how sports has been one of the most effective instruments of social change in our lifetime.” (Jenny Mackenzie Films)
We Are One (Ole Ola): The Official FIFA World Cup Song (Audio)
Listen to J.Lo and PItbull sing the 2014 official FIFA World Cup song, which has catchy and inclusive lyrics:
Put your flags up in the sky (put them in the sky)
And wave them side to side (side to side)
Show the world where you're from
(show them where you're from)
Show the world we are one (one love, life)
Pizza Box Football
If you can’t get outdoors to play soccer, just pull out last night’s pizza box and let’s go! Family Fun magazine developed an easy-to-make Pizza Box Soccer game for kids of all ages. You’ll need:
A clean pizza box
Green poster board
The first step is to make the field. Cut and glue the green poster board to the inside your opened pizza box, drawing lines where needed (I used this image to help me). Make holes for goalposts at each end and place the pipe cleaners in the holes. To play, use a straw to blow the cotton ball across the field to try to score a goal!
Suggested Family Experiences
Soccer Ball Book Review
After reading a story (or having a story read to you), ask your child to evaluate the book using this downloadable soccer ball book review template. If your child is not yet writing, have your child illustrate his/her response or simply transcribe for your child. Once your child has completed a few book reviews, ask him/her to notice any reading patterns: Does s/he prefer reading fiction or nonfiction? What was his/her highest rated book? Lowest rated book? What was his/her most read author?
Major League Soccer Game
See a real-live Major League Soccer team in action! There are 19 teams in the Major League spanning the U.S. and Canada. Not sure if there’s a Major League Soccer team near you? Click here to find out. Regular season games run from March to October, with postseason playoffs in November and December. I went to my first Major League Soccer game with my boys last year and fell in love with the action on the field. I can’t wait to go back to see the New York Red Bulls take on another opponent.
Right to Play
All children deserve to play. An incredible organization called Right to Play uses “sport and play to educate and empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities.” Talk to your child about the power of play, sports, and connecting with others through shared activates. Volunteer at a local sports camp or let your child invite some friends over to kick around a soccer ball. No matter what you do, the point is to relish in the beauty of play.
Connections to Other Subjects
An interdisciplinary approach to learning allows children to make connections between various subjects in order to increase learning and meaning making. Soccer could easily be integrated into other subjects such as geography (identifying and locating soccer-playing countries), math (adding numbers after scoring; geometric shapes seen in the soccer ball and field), science (the aerodynamics involved with kicking the ball) and social studies (the history of soccer). Researchers state that interdisciplinary learning helps children study a topic deeply and understand the links between subjects.
About Sheila Frye
Sheila is a Jersey girl (or should we say "mom"), with a passion for teaching and literacy. She is Jersey bred, currently living in Montclair. Sheila has 16+ years working as a teacher and reading specialist and recently completed her dissertation on children's literature and technology. We "met" Sheila through her blog, teachingliteracy.tumblr.com.