As a proud, football-loving parent, it is only natural that you’d want to instil your love of the beautiful game in your children. But being too pushy too early can sometimes have the opposite effect. Any fan or player’s love of the game starts with the element of fun, and if it’s missing, falling in love with football is a long shot.

Whether you’re running a local team or you’re desperate to get your toddler into football, there are a few things you can do to make the initial introduction fun and memorable.

1. It All Starts with Kicking

Kicking a ball comes naturally to most children. Put a child and a ball on a lawn, and you can be reasonably certain that kicking will begin without prompting. There’s something so satisfying about it, and it doesn’t require any skill other than the ability to swing a foot at a spherical object. Without goals, a common purpose or the need for skill, all that is left is fun – and that’s a powerful emotion that can last long in the memory.

2. Invite Their Friends

Children love to share their favourite experiences with their peer groups. The fun is often amplified, and special bonds can form. If your children are toddlers, avoid the temptation to split them into teams. Instead, encourage them to share the ball, and work together to kick it into a makeshift goal. Friends will talk about their exploits afterwards, and that will make the experiences much more special.

3. Play for Fun

At the age of two and three, children usually aren’t bothered about competition; they’re more concerned with having lots of fun. And if something is fun, children will want to do it at every opportunity. Although they won’t even know it, their ability will be improving at the same time.

4. Show Them the Basics

As well as the basic act of kicking, there’s nothing wrong with teaching the basics of control and shooting if it adds to the fun. However, it is absolutely crucial that you remain calm and patient throughout. If your child doesn’t seem interested or is struggling to follow your instructions, simply ramp up the fun again — there’s no hurry.

5. Watch a Match Together

A lot of children become interested in football after seeing professionals play on the TV. If your child is particularly young, it’s probably best to stick to highlights. Choose a game you know will be exciting and full of goals. If possible, watch your favourite or local team in action.

6. Take Them to Local Events

Family fun days, festivals and fairs often feature football-related activities. This might be a great opportunity to give your child a fresh perspective on the game.

7. Visit Local Club Open Days

Once your child is going to school every day, their interest in football might increase rapidly. This might be a good time to expose them to a more structured and disciplined footballing environment. Most local football clubs hold open days in order to attract new talent, so it might be a good idea to take your child along – if only to watch. Seeing how coaches interact with youngsters can give a youngster an accurate idea of what it means to be part of a team.

8. Introduce Them to Your Favourite Team

Let’s not forget that football is a game of passion, loyalty and family allegiances. Many of us don’t choose our football team; it is our football team that chooses us. We gradually fall in love with our club, and that often works as powerful motivation to take up the game ourselves. Whether you support your local club, a club your family supports or one of the elite teams, explain this connection to your child. While it might be too early to attend a match, try to arrange a tour of the stadium. You may also be able to attend an open training session. Finally, buy your child a replica strip, which might instil a sense of great pride.

Children all develop a bond with the beautiful game in their own way. Instead of being a stereotypical pushy parent, simply give your child a subtle push in the right directions.