Monday, 14 August 2017

Five ways football can boost learning

The footy season has kicked off, which, in my house, means endless discussion about transfers, goal stats, referee decisions and absolutely no chance of watching anything else on TV until next May.

I usually dread the start of the football season as I'm expected to know who plays for which team and my rather flimsy grasp of the offside rule means I struggle with a lot of dinner table discussion.

However, this year I've decided that if you can't beat them, it's probably best to join them and capitalise on their interest.

So here are five ways I can exploit my kids' obsession with the beautiful game to enhance their learning (maybe I should have trained as a teacher after all!).

  1. Geography: Grab a map and help your child find where all the teams in the Premier League are based. Even better, if you are travelling around the country on holiday, see if you can take a quick detour to drive past a ground. Lots of the grounds are pretty near major routes, which is helpful. We frequently drive past the Brighton ground on our way to the in-laws and the highlight of our recent trip to Derbyshire for my five year old was the fact that we saw the Stoke ground. If you want to further the geography lesson, grab an atlas and point out the countries their favourite players are from. Or show them where are opponents are on the globe when we're playing international fixtures. For older children, you might want to investigate a bit more about the countries involved and find out about the country's cuisine, main exports or industries and what a typical home might look like. You can head to the library and look in the children's reference section or even search on Google to find out the answers.
  2. Foreign languages: Follow up on the geography by talking about the different languages spoken by their favourite footballers and managers. See if you can learn how to say "I love football." or "What a goal!" in all the different languages spoken by the players on their favourite team.
  3. Maths: I love using football to help with maths. There's the obvious adding up of points to see where their team is in the table. But my favourite game involves football trading cards. My sons love collecting Match Attax and sometimes I'll give them an imaginary figure and ask them to create their ideal team within budget. For my five year old, I ask lots of questions about the score: asking how many goals were scored all together requires him to add together the goals scored by each team. As they get more confident with numbers you can ask how many goals were scored in the whole league over a weekend.
  4. History: Why not capitalise on their appreciation for a team by finding out more about its history. I particularly love the German teams for this as many were founded as works teams and you can still tell this by their names (Bayer Leverkusen was set up by workers at the Bayer pharmaceutical company). Find out when their favourite team was founded (this information is often on the club badge). What are the most significant events in the club's history. Lots of football clubs have museums so you can take your child to visit and find out more about how the team has changed through the years.
  5. Science: What happens when you drop a football and why? How do you get the ball to curve into the top of the net? Experiment with your child about what might happen if you use a different force or angle. For younger children you might want to talk about different ball shapes and why you might need to use a different type of ball for a different sport, such as golf or cricket.
These are just some of the ideas I've had - I'd love to read your suggestions for other ways I can harness my children's love of football to encourage more curiosity about the world around us. 


  1. We tried to get ours into football to no avail!

    1. I was desperate for them to get into rugby. But despite taking them to Twickenham and to Sandy Park they still opted for footy! You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

  2. I'm actually shuddering. I'm all for embracing interests to help learning, but you're talking about actually knowing something about football teams. Hats off to you! I go as far as kicking the ball towards the goal and executing a mean tackle, but that's as interested as I'm prepared to be.

    1. If I didn't get up to speed on who plays for which team I'd struggle to participate in any conversation with the rest of the family until May 2018! And now both the older boys commentate their entire lives as though they were in an ongoing cup final.