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Children Improving Physical Ability Organising and Planning

Boing Kids: Using Fun Games to Coach Movement Skills

Available free until 23 February and then exclusive to UK Coaching Subscribers. The Boing Kids project provides children’s coaches with a selection of evidence-based games to improve physical literacy in children. Charlotte Potterton listened in on a session led by founder and Director of Research Will Roberts and Lead Coach Kit Cutter at the 2019 UK Coaching Conference to find out more about the project

Boing Kids is a research project that was founded to target physical inactivity in children through a play-based approach to PE and physical inactivity. Alongside their involvement in schools, Boing Kids makes freely available a series of replicable, evidence-based games that can be modified to meet the requirements of a variety of sports and the needs of the children at the sessions.  

Their mission statement: learning through play.  

“We came up with Boing to look at how we can create games that promote good human movement in young, primary age kids,” explains Director of Research at Boing Kids Will Roberts. A football coach and researcher at University of Gloucester, Will has previously conducted research into human movement. 

He hoped to create simple, intuitive games that would be fun and enjoyable for the children involved, encouraging them to build sustainable active habits while facilitating skill development in a pressure-free environment. 

But why games? 

Because ultimately, children want to have fun and play, and “the game is the environment to offer movement solutions,” Will explains. It provides a key starting point both to engage each child in enjoyable physical activity and to enable the coaches to start coaching.

The results: implications for skill development

Through the course of the research, Will identified that introducing skill development into games – however simple and fun the game – can be off-putting. It can put unwanted pressure on the children taking part, negatively impacting both on their enjoyment of the activities and on their progress, making it less likely that they will develop long-term active habits. 

As a result, while Boing’s games are purpose-driven and designed to encourage skill development in movement-related areas, such as balance, they’re stripped of any obvious sport identifiers.  

The children taking part are supported to hone the skills they need to achieve success within the parameters of the game. At that stage, it’s unnecessary for them to consider how the abilities they’re developing might, for example, have application on a rugby pitch. 

What does this achieve?  

“We’ve tried to build all the games to not be reliant on skill,” Will shares, “allowing everyone to participate and get a sense of confidence.”

Widespread participation is one of Boing’s key aims, as their hope is to see more primary age children engage in physical activity at a level suitable and appropriate for them. Achievable games – that are appropriately challenging – provide a confidence boost as well as an incentive to commit to the process. 


Is skill development an explicit aspect of the activities (not drill-based) that you lead during sessions? If you’re working with young people or are hoping to drive participation, removing that obvious element may help with engagement.


The results: the importance of context

Will strongly emphasises the importance of context in the creation and utilisation of Boing’s games. Context, he explains, ensures that the games mean something to the people taking part. 

“Your context drives their engagement and fun,” Will explains. “It’s going to be very different in the North-East to the South of London to rural areas in Yorkshire. Take the principles and contexts and apply them as needed.” In that way, use context both for a bit of fun and to unite the people at your sessions on common ground.  

Have a go

At your next session, try amending an activity to add local context that the people at your sessions are familiar with. This could be as simple as using the names of local football teams as group names.


What do the games aim to achieve?

Will explains that improving physical literacy also has an influence on social, cognitive and emotional skills, which the Boing Kids project deliberately taps into. As Will explains: “We’re creating games that are socially good or emotionally good,” facilitating positive development on multiple levels.  

To achieve this, all the Boing Kids project’s games are active, with an emphasis on movement. They also: 

What do they do? 

“As we witness all the time in sport, there are so many ways that we might solve a problem. If we started with ‘this is how you jump,’ and ‘this is how you land,’ then we’re taking away all those different solutions,” Will explains. 

To combat this, Boing games have a set goal or problem to solve (such as gathering the greatest number of beanbags) but no set method as to how that must be achieved. The children taking part must decide on their own strategy (which can be constrained by additional parameters if the game is progressed) and make their own decisions. 

The intention is to facilitate creative solutions that work both in the game environment and for that child as an individual. Crucial to this is stripping out any obvious pointers to sport. If children joined in with an idea of building rugby or tennis skills, they might have a predefined idea of how to play the game and solve the challenge, limiting their creativity.  

Instead, they're encouraged to think on their feet, making in-the-moment, independent decisions, and testing out strategies to measure their success. Further, using the same game in multiple sessions – and applying modifications to present new challenges – encourages more informed, sophisticated decision-making as well as increasing their confidence. 

Why is this important?  

“Decision-making is a really important part of movement,” Will explains.

We’ve often thought of movement as a product of your physical capabilities, but actually movement is the outcome of a decision that’s been made at some point as well as those physical capabilities.”

By structuring their games so freely, they’re leaving space for all different kinds of decisions to be made and trialed during the game. 

Will adds that if your approach to skill development is predicated on the use of drills without encouraging the children taking part to make their own decisions, then they don’t have the opportunity to learn how to make them effectively. This can pose a problem both for those children that will go on to build a career in sport, but also because independent decision-making is an important life skill. 


Simply creating new in-game goals or changing the environment can make the challenge more complex. 


What do they do? 

Many Boing games have an element of teamwork – or can be modified to include one. This can be as simple as pairing up the children taking part to encourage them to work together to achieve a specific goal. Progression in this area would involve increasing dependence on partners to strengthen the challenge.

Why is this important? 

Instructing children to work together encourages them to consider perspectives other than their own, and to measure their impact while completing certain tasks. It also creates new challenges in movement-related areas such as balance and spatial awareness. 

As well as good preparation for involvement in both team games and individual sports – for which an understanding of how to use space is typically crucial – teamwork, and an awareness of other people’s perspectives, is an important life skill with wide application. 


A slightly more difficult challenge could be created by instructing children to hold hands (if appropriate for the group) while navigating a specific area to achieve their goal. It could be included as another progression once they’re familiar with the space and have already tested some solutions to the task.


What do they do? 

Lots of Boing games prioritise balance-related movement to build skills in that area. For this to be successful, they vary the structure of the games and the progressions to ensure that they don’t feel repetitive or dull.  

As such, while the games chosen for a session might all be intended to improve landing technique, the distinct goals of each game give the children involved something new to aim for and enjoy, honing their skills as they become familiar with the parameters of the game.

Why is this important? 

As explicit skill development can be off-putting, variation in the structure of the games and progressions can support the children who attend your sessions to engage and build their skills without getting bored or losing their motivation. 

What do they do? 

Boing’s games are not one-size-fits-all but are intended instead to provide coaches with a workable starting point. They should be modified both to suit the sport or physical activity and to ensure that they are appropriately challenging and achievable for the people attending the sessions. Use your knowledge of the people at your sessions to choose the games that are right for them. 

“It’s just constantly dealing with the individual,” Will explains.

Think: what is it that your young person needs?”


One method for achieving this could be to allow the child or group to make decisions about how to progress the game themselves, with your support. When appropriate, this gives them an opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and development.


Why is this important?

Taking the time to recognise and understand their differences – and motivations – will give you the tools you need to ensure your sessions are appropriate to everyone's development. Enjoyable sessions that people want to engage with are much more likely to keep them interested and involved.  

If we start to think about each individual and their journey, we have a better chance of getting them physically active.”

Further, this is a crucial starting point when dealing with more complex situations. To illustrate, Will gives an example from his own coaching experiences.  

“There was one young man who had some really difficult behavioural issues and was ostracised a lot [because] he was quite unruly, and he was doing things that were damaging to the culture of his class.”

He wasn’t doing very well at anything and just wanted to be engaged with something. He was fed up of being last.”

The Boing solution was to grant him a leadership role in one of their games, providing him with an opportunity to excel and have a sense of responsibility.


Have you experienced disruptive behaviour in your sessions? Check Nick Levett's tips, Behaviour Management Toolbox, for key strategies to inform your intervention tactics.


What do they do? 

While promoting and enabling good human movement is clearly prioritised in Boing’s aims, the premise of their games is fun and enjoyment. That's how they ensure that the children at their sessions will be motivated to keep coming back and enthusiastic about getting involved.  

Why is this important? 

“You have about 30 seconds to capture the interest of the group you’re working with,” Boing Lead Coach Kit Cutter explains. “If you haven’t captured them in that 30 seconds, you’ve lost them for the 45 minutes or the hour.”  

Their solution?

Get the game up and running as soon as possible, in the simplest way possible. Start big, with simple rules. Then you can make it harder and progress it.”


What’s next for the Boing Kids project?

Both Will and Kit hope that the Boing Kids project will have a wide-ranging impact in the sport and physical activity sector, empowering not only the children that take part but also their parents, giving them the confidence and the experience to support their child’s sport-related interests. 

“My dream is that we will produce an athlete from this but also we’ll produce a parent that, when faced with their child, and not much space or knowledge, will realise that they can play Boing games,” Will shares, “because they’ve experienced them before and have the imagination to think up new games and rules.” The hope would be that they would feel adequately prepared to play a positive role in their child’s journey.  

“If we’ve got those two journeys and everyone in-between, then it’ll be quite powerful.” 

To deliver this, they’re looking into building a core team at Boing to help bring the project to more coaches and activators and to train them in the core skills. 

The team behind Boing also recognise that more work needs to be done to ensure that Boing’s games are inclusive and applicable to people with specific needs.

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UK Coaching has created supplementary learning resources for anyone who couldn't make the 2019 UK Coaching Conference or simply wants to maximise the learning experience. Exclusive to UK Coaching subscribers, our conference content includes key soundbites and videos, a huge series of official photos, and a myriad of written work

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Related Resources

  • The Importance of Coaching Fundamental Movement Skills

  • How to Make Activity Engaging

  • Boing Kids: Creating Fun Games That Promote Physical Literacy


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