As our England footballers begin to ramp up preparations for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, many of us are left to wonder – will we watch Steven Gerrard lift the trophy?  Will we get to see our young dynamos Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling in action?  Will Wayne Rooney sustain a freak injury that leaves our national media praying for a speedy recovery? 

We are at an age in England where everybody expects – the media expects, the fans expect and even our politicians chime in with their two cents (well on the subject of football shirt prices…).  One thing that all of these individuals fail to look at is the role that toddler activity classes and toddler sports can have in shaping the next generation of sporting heroes.

So why are children no longer as engaged in sport?  A lot of this comes down to the “Playstation” generation that we are all too aware of – children would rather sit on their iPad than kick a ball against a wall.  How do we beat this problem?  Through the development of passion in our toddlers! 

Toddlers kicking footballs or throwing rugby balls?  Ludicrous!  Well perhaps not.  When a child is born it is a little bundle of neurons that responds enthusiastically to the stimulation of their five senses – bright colours, interesting noises and sweet smells all arouse our little ones’ thoughts and feelings.  These senses also happen to be the best way to engage our toddlers in sport.  Showing children interesting colours – reds, blues and yellows – not only helps teach language, but can also be used in sport.  Try asking toddlers to match coloured cones in a room and their faces light up – they love learning, sorting and matching colours with their peers.  Now add in a football at their feet and ask them to kick it while they carry the cone and you will find that the child continues to smile and enjoy the challenges of kicking and matching at the same time.  Obviously a sports coach goes a long way in making the task interesting – funny voices, lots of laughs and smiles all make a large difference in the toddler building positive associations with sport.

To harness the development of passion, toddlers need repetition.  Repeating games over and over again is something that toddlers absolutely love – familiarity is a human need after all.  Try adding in little progressions to your toddler games – ask them to pick up two cones at a time or stop the football with their foot when dribbling.  As long as your little one is smiling, they are engaged and a passion for sport will develop. 

If we all play with our toddlers – laugh, smile, clap and encourage – engagement will form and passion will follow – along with lifting the World Cup in 2034!