Monday 9 December 2013

Helping Toddlers Concentrate

In the course of our work at Little Kickers, we frequently come across parents who are concerned about their child’s ability to concentrate (or lack of!). Many parents tell us that prior to starting Little Kickers classes they are concerned that their toddler is “not ready” because they will not listen to instructions and will “do their own thing” and disrupt the class.  These concerns are completely normal - toddlers’ brains work in a different way to those of fully grown adults – a fact which is sometimes hard for parents to grasp!

The fact is that most preschoolers are so interested in their surroundings and exploring the world around them, that sitting in one place for an extended period just doesn’t interest them.  They are notoriously self-directed, and as a result they may choose to sit still for a long time if they are totally engaged in something that really interests them.  However, at the age of 2 – 3, they haven’t developed the physical ability or a strong enough emotional urge to please others to keep them involved once their interest flags, which is something we find refreshing!  The key to getting and retaining their attention is to make whatever activity they are doing fun for them, and to ensure it remains entertaining.

In our experience, it is normal for a toddler to be able to follow basic instructions and communicate their feelings, but it is not normal for every toddler to be able to sit still for extended periods of time or follow specific instructions to complete set tasks.  Your toddler will be required to sit still for a large part of their life and at this early stage they are meant to be active, so this should be encouraged.  Pushing a preschooler to sit still and concentrate for too long will only lead to you, and them, becoming incredibly frustrated.

So how do toddlers typically develop the ability to concentrate?
A typical toddler is constantly on the go, rarely focusing on the same activity for more than a few minutes.  With limited concentration they are happiest when moving quickly from one toy or game to the next.  And with so much energy, they can only focus for a limited time before they are hit by an overwhelming urge to play with something else.  This is completely normal – concentration takes time to develop.
A child’s attention span improves significantly in three distinct ways as he / she matures:
1.  Passive to active – as a baby your child only looked at objects when they came into his / her line of sight.  As a toddler, concentration is more active and controlled.  Now, they start to look around and choose what to look at more closely, rather than just randomly viewing objects directly in front of them.
2.  Unsystematic to systematic searching – unlike a baby, who looks at a toy in a haphazard way – perhaps gazing at one end, then chewing the opposite end, your toddler uses concentration to investigate the object systematically and methodically.  It’s sometimes surprising to parents to see the intensity with which they can study every day household items such as keys or a mobile phone.
3.  Broad to selective – a baby has difficulty filtering out other sources of information.  Your toddler, however, concentrates more selectively – for instance he continues to watch his favourite show on television even though you keep asking him to tidy his toys away!

Are there games / techniques which can be employed to encourage my preschooler to develop concentration skills?
All pre-schoolers are incredibly responsive to fun, so the key to any game you use to promote the development of concentration is that you make it entertaining, and that they enjoy it.  There are a few ways in which you can create an environment that is more conducive to your child developing concentration skills:
-         Minimize distractions.  One of the most common causes of short attention spans in toddlers is the amount of distractions they encounter, so it stands to reason that if you minimize the amount of external distractions they have to contend with when they are trying to concentrate, their attention will be held for longer, so when you do reading or creative play activities with them, try to ensure you do so away from the phone or television.
-         Turn the ringer off on your phone while you and your child enjoy an activity, this way both of you can avoid being distracted and spend quality time enjoying an activity together. 
-         Avoid games and television shows that foster short attention spans such as those with lots of flickering lights or fast moving images.
-         Let him / her practice looking for items.  When shopping ask your toddler to find a nearby item.
-         Encourage listening.  Read a book to your toddler then ask them questions about the storyline.
-         Create a quiet area.  Put a child-sized table and chair for your toddler to sit at when he wants to play in peace
-         Stay on top of mess.  His concentration will benefit from having an organized, uncluttered environment.
-         Respond to his progress.  Begin with short activities and, as his concentration improves, gradually make tasks longer
-         Encourage your child to look at you when you talk to him.  Eye contact reduces distractions, focuses his attention and leads to better understanding
 And why not try these fun games to help your child’s concentration skills?

-         1. Memory games – in order for something to be committed to memory, attention must first be given and held.  This is why memory games help to build focus in young children.  Take a deck of cards and pick three cards from the deck and ask your child to focus and remember them.  Once he says he is ready, take the cards, shuffle the deck and have him find the three cards from before.  If this is too easy, have him put them in the correct order as well.  If it’s too difficult, limit the game to one or two suits.  Coins also work for this game.
-         2.  Hidden object games – Examples of this type of game include  I Spy and Easter egg hunts.  These types of games encourage your child to notice things he or she may otherwise ignore.  It requires concentration and comprehension to discover what he / she is trying to find and children tend to find these types of games very rewarding when they achieve the end goal.
-         3.  Word games – these games not only build attention, but they are also great ways to improve your child’s vocabulary and spelling skills.  Plus, you don’t need any equipment to play these games as they are verbally-based.  Saying one word and having your child rhyme that word is a good example. 
-         4.  Story based games – these games require your child to pay attention to the details of a story.  While reading to a child you can ask a question about something that happened earlier in the tale.  Eventually they should start habitually listening and remembering at story time, especially if you make the game fun.  Another easy game is the “continue the story” game.  You start a story and stop after a paragraph or so, then your child should add on to the story, making sure the story stays vaguely logical.  Then you both alternate adding on to the story until you decide on a conclusion.
-         5.  Puzzles – puzzles are considered great brain exercises because they’re fun and they require focus and patience.  Children with attention problems tend to respond well to them.  Puzzles which appeal to toddlers include picture puzzles and jigsaws.  Whilst puzzles are great concentration building tools, parents should be sure the puzzle they choose is age appropriate or they may cause frustration, resulting in the opposite effect.
With Christmas approaching and friends and relatives asking what toys your preschooler might like, the following pointers will enable them to pick out toys which will appeal to your child, and help hold their attention:

-         1.  Does it have novelty value?  They are more likely to focus on a new toy that they haven’t seen or played with previously
-         2.  Is it colourful?  Toddlers prefer colours (especially bright ones) to black and white, because they are sensitive to specific wavelengths.
-         3.  Does the toy stimulate his curiosity?  Your toddler is naturally inquisitive and likes to explore, so a toy that’s challenging is more likely to grab his / her attention
-         4.  Is there movement?  Your child will be more interested in a toy that has parts that turn and make a noise when they are touched, than one which has no movement

Toddlers are not, in general, good at concentrating.  No child is born with powerful concentration skills, and every child’s ability to concentrate will develop at his / her own pace.  The world is a new and exciting place for your child, and there’s so much they want to see and experience.  The activities and ideas above may help your child improve their concentration skills, but it’s important to remember that the key to active, enthusiastic participation for any pre-schooler is making an activity fun. 

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive

The stockings are hung from the warm, cozy fireplace and you can smell the fresh cut tree full of bright lights decorated with the prettiest angel you’d ever seen on top. You find yourself singing along to the jingles playing from the radio as you bake homemade ginger bread cookies. Can you guess what time of year it is again? Yes, Christmas is on its way, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Every year our kids’ get older, but when is the right time for them to know the truth about Santa or is there even a right time? Kids at school may start to say Santa isn’t real so how do you respond to your kids when they ask?

Here are easy tips to help answer the difficult questions that surround Christmas, without telling your child what to believe, but rather have them decide on their own, let them use their imagination.

  • What do you think? This one may sound obvious, but it often works – and gives you a precious glimpse into your child’s own reasoning around Santa.
  • I like to imagine… This is one of my favourite ways to answer Santa questions. The truth is, I have such a vivid memory of how I imagined Santa as a child that I can paint that mental picture with total truth and incredible detail.
  • When I was little, I thought… Again, it’s the truth, and it lets us be imaginative together without giving a definitive answer.
  • Isn’t it magical? Mysterious? Amazing? Yes, it is. And it’s okay not to understand it all.

Christmas is about love, family, giving and receiving – it’s not about who wrapped the presents or how they got there, but the feeling you get when surrounded by those who love you, that in itself is magical and that’s all we can really hope for our kids to understand as they get older.

Happy Holidays!

Friday 6 December 2013

Seasons Greetings from Auckland Central West


What an awesome year it's been!

We've had such a fun time with your little kickers and have plans to develop the fun even further, including an Auckland wide Mega Kickers tournament later in 2014.

2014 Enrolments
Classes return on Jan 31st and many of our classes are already full. If your child isn't currently enrolled and you're looking to return in the new year I strongly advise you e-mail ( or call us (09 815 8607) and get your child on the wailtist for your preferred class time so you don't have to wait too long.

Some classes will be taken outside, your coaches will let you know if this is looking to take place and then we'll ask for sunscreen, hats and plenty of water to be at the ready.

Coaching Updates:
Mt Eden: We would like to congratulate Coach Kathryn on getting a paid job as a Lifeguard, she looks to return with us once the summer season has finished. The lovely Coaches Merren and Raj (on his return from Singapore in Feb) will do a great job having a ball with your kids. 

We are sad to see Coach Raphael leave us as he follows his dreams to become a Policeman. Both Rapha and Gabi, his wife, have been such a pleasure to have on-board and will be surely missed by all that have being coached by them and worked with them.

I would like to thank all our coaches for all the hard work they put into making our classes so much fun, we can't thank them enough for their commitment to Little Kickers and love of what they do.

Office Update
The lovely Jo who was our Office Administrator has gone on early Maternity Leave with pregnancy complications with her twins - you'll be pleased to know the twins are still growing well inside and all is well with both Jo and the twins. I enjoyed coming back into the office and answering e-mails and speaking to many of you and now we've recently welcomed on board Gina who I call our calming influence in the office. You'll be hearing from Gina in the office via e-mail and phone from now on so please take a moment to welcome her on board.

On behalf of our wonderful coaches and those in the office we wish to thank you for all your support this year and all the lovely feedback which always makes us smile. 

We hope you have a special Christmas and summer break,


Director Little Kickers ACW & NZ

Ho, Ho, Ho from Auckland Central East

Ho, Ho, Ho everyone!  

Where oh where has our year gone? Here at Little Kickers ACES we have been super busy.  Our classes have been really busy and we even had time to open a brand new venue at Kohi.  Our next stop will be Remuera, and apologies that this didn't happen this year, but 2014 is when we will look to open.

Our coaches have really enjoyed coaching your little ones and they all seem to have such a great time that they tell me 'it's the best job in the world!'  Looking to next year we will start back on 1st and 2nd February and continue to develop our games and make them even more fun.  We are also hoping to get our Mega's together with other areas and have a mini competition later in the year!

On behalf of all of my lovely coaches and myself we wish all our super parents and amazing children a SUPER SUNNY SUMMER, and we look forward to seeing you all again in February!!

Big Santa hugs


North Shore Summer Update

It has been a really busy year on the Shore, we have just opened our Birkenhead Saturday classes so now have sessions running at Takapuna, Mairangi Bay, Devonport, Birkenhead, and Sunnynook each week. 

2014 Dates & Summer Sale: Our summer break this year’s runs from the last sessions on 14 December through to starting up again on the 1 February – we also have a Summer Sale on at the moment for any renewals booked before 14 December (contact Sally on for up to 30% discount on sessions).

In 2014 we will be opening Saturday classes in Albany and Orewa – so plenty of football being played on the North Shore!

Creating Partnerships: Little Kickers are also pleased to announce a partnership with Albany United football club  – Albany have a strong reputation in Junior football (they currently work in conjunction with the Ricky Herbert Academy) and Little Kickers will be running sessions with them at Oteha Valley School in 2014. Our little kickers will directly link into the club, graduating to junior football with a defined pathway and skills base. 

Watch this space as we are also going to be putting together a similar partnership with another local North Shore team in early 2014 for one of our current venues.

With the summer coming some of our Devonport sessions will be held outside – so remember sunnies, hats and suncream with plenty of water to drink.

We will also have some new coaches starting in the new year – Piers is from the UK and used to be a body double for Fernando Torres! alongside some other new faces across the franchise.

Have a great Summer and keep practising!

Sally, Matt & the North shore team

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Little Kickers classes are coming to Howick & Manukau!

Little Kickers provides boys and girls from 18 months through to 7 years of age with an early introduction to football (soccer) and is coming to Howick and Manukau in the New Year by young mum Janet Cho.
Janet had always wanted to do something to engage children in the local community, and to run her own business. With two sons, aged 2 years and 4 months, Janet knew that going back to work full-time wasn’t going to work for their family.
“When I first came across Little Kickers I knew it would be perfect for my energetic two year old, then when I learnt of the franchise opportunity I knew it would be perfect for me too!
It enables me to spend more time with the children and I won’t feel like I’m missing out on part of their childhood.  I also noticed that there was little around offering a gentle introduction to little team sports for pre-school kids in the local area."

We have so much demand coming from the area and Janet is just so in-tune with what Little Kickers is all about that we can't wait to get classes started and have a ball with your kids!
Janet is starting classes in Dannemora and Pakuranga in Feb & March 2014 and more due to start throughout the year so enquire today to secure your place.

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: enrol now and get 50% off registration + 1 free trial class or an additional class onto your enrolment saving over $30.00!

Phone: (09273 3338


Play not Push - Little Kickers Philosophy 
The Little Kickers pre-school football programme first started over 10 years ago in London, England.  Since then, the programme has grown phenomenally, and now provides over 20,000 enthusiastic young footballers with the chance to let of steam and get fit each week.  There are classes operating in locations as diverse as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Ecuador and of course NZ each week.   This growth looks set to continue as children from around the world take the opportunity to gain an early introduction to the beautiful game of football. 
The program was developed by early childhood educators in conjunction with top UK FA coaches and works on the basis that children are much more likely to learn if their imaginations are engaged and skills are introduced through fun games, rather than formal drills. The company’s motto “Play not Push” reflects this, and the emphasis that Little Kickers place on providing a fun environment for children to learn in, rather than a competitive one. 

Sunday 21 April 2013

Future All White in the making

We interviewed William Gillingham, 14yrs, Center Back player who went on a football trip with his team to the UK and got to visit Wembly! 

Full name: William Finbar Gillingham


When did you first start playing football?
Age 3 – 4 for Mel Soccer in the UK.

Who do you currently play for?
Wynton Rufers Soccer School of Excellence. Onehunga Football Club

How long have you been playing for them?
6 Years

What is your position on the team?
Centre Back

What is one thing that you enjoy while playing football?
Scoring Goals and winning games.

Is it hard to juggle school and practice and games?
Yes as sometimes they are on the same day.

What makes a great football player?
Someone with the desire to succeed

What did you do in the UK?
We played many Premier League Academies such as Fulham FC and West Ham United. We also  visited Old Trafford, Emirates Arena, and the Highlight; Wembley!

What was your favourite part about your trip?
Playing and beating West Ham 1-0

Who is your favourite soccer player?
John Terry

What is the next step for you?
The next step for me would have to be to make the under 17 All Whites squad.

We wish William all the best for a successful 2013, William is already off to Australia to compete in the Nike Cup!

Player Profile - Lucas G - 3 1/2yrs

We have the adorable 'Super Hero Lucas' as our Player Profile from Mt Eden...

Name: Lucas Gibbons

Age: 3 1/2yrs

Venues: Mt Eden

How long have you been coming to Little Kickers? 2 years

Favourite Little Kickers game?  Scoring goals!

What do you like best about Little Kickers? Playing with the other kids and having a lot of fun

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Super Hero – like Super Man!

Favourite healthy food? Sushi

Who is your favourite coach? Andrew!

What do you love? My Mummy and Daddy and my little sister Pippa

Dad's Perspective on Little Kickers:  It’s great to see Lucas learning skills and coordination in the drills. He really loves it and likes playing with the other kids in his class.

Thank you Lucas (& Dad) for answering our questions, I hope he does grow up to be a Super Hero of some sort!

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Phoenix & Little Kickers Competition Winners

Thank you for all the entries to our Phoenix Competition

The winners have been randomly drawn by Kidspot ...

Congratulation to:

First Name Last Name Winners Suburb
Louise Irvine 1st Prize Waiatarua
Hagop Iskenderian 2nd Prize Unsworth Heights Albany
Aran Brown 3rd Prize Te Atatu Peninsula
Kym Maynard Runner Up Waiuku
Debbie Blundell-Lord Runner Up Beach Haven
Julianne Krebs Runner Up Pakuranga
Gemma Bergin Runner Up Royal Oak

The prizes will be with you by Friday, sent to your specified address as per entry. Enjoy the game and see you at Little Kickers soon!!!


1st Prize
1 x Family Pass (4 tickets) to watch the Phoenix v. Perth 02nd Feb at Eden Park
1 x Signed Phoenix Mini Ball
2 x Phoenix kids packs
1 x 6 week Little Kickers course (valued at $85, valid until Dec 2013)
1 x Size 3 Little Kickers Ball

2nd Prize
1 x Family Pass (4 tickets) to watch the Phoenix v. Perth 02nd Feb at Eden Park
1 x Signed Phoenix Mini Ball
2 x Phoenix kids packs
1 x Size 3 Little Kickers Ball

3rd Prize
1 x Family Pass (4 tickets) to watch the Phoenix v. Perth 02nd Feb at Eden Park
1 x Signed Phoenix Mini Ball
1 x Phoenix kids pack
1 x Size 3 Little Kickers Ball

4 x Runner-up Prizes:
Each receive a Phoenix Kids Pack & Little Kickers Voucher 

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