Kids can look adorable when playing or practicing with a regulation-size football, but unless you want to see them get frustrated or hurt, it’s best to give them the football that’s appropriate for their age group. The best footballs for kids nurture their confidence and help them grow as players.
If you’re looking for an affordable, high-quality football that can help teach your little one the game, the ESPN Future Pro Pee Wee football is the top choice.
The shape, size, composition and feel of the football have a drastic effect on your child’s performance and enjoyment of the game. A good football fits in the hand so that both the ring finger and the pinky easily reach the laces.
Additionally, footballs all have slightly different feels based on how they were made. Some footballs have a tacky coating while others have a smooth feel. Leather feels dramatically different to composite, and it hits the hand differently when catching the ball. A firm ball is more likely to bounce away while balls with softer exteriors are easier to grip.
Take the childrens’ age and size into consideration before purchasing them a football. Most kids under 14 years old have difficulty catching an official-size football, which is why this size isn’t used in games until high school. The best practice is to go by standard league size depending on age group. Pee Wee footballs are 17.5 inches x 24 inches (size 5) and are made for kids ages 6-9. Junior footballs are 18.5 inches x 25 inches (size 6) and are made for kids ages 9-12.
Youth footballs are 19.25 inches x 26.25 inches (size 7) and are made for kids ages 12-14.
Footballs aren’t made of pigskin as the nickname suggests. They’re most commonly made out of leather, rubber, PVC or some other composite material. Leather feels better to the touch, but it can also become too smooth after prolonged use. However, when a leather football is new and properly maintained it is easier to catch and throw.
Footballs made with composite are much tackier, meaning they stick to your hand easier. Composite footballs are also more likely to resist wear and tear and won’t become too smooth or slick like leather ones. The composite material is easier to catch but can be more difficult to throw accurately as it sticks to your hand.
The laces on a football are important for throwing accuracy and control, but not all footballs have them. Nerf balls might have foam protrusions, but they’re normally painted on. Some composite footballs only have painted on laces as well. If you’re a casual player, laces aren’t essential, but if you want more accuracy and ball handling, make sure the ball you buy has real laces.
What you need to know: The guidelines on the ESPN Future Pro help young kids learn the best way to hold and throw the football, while its soft composite feel makes catching easy.
What you’ll love: Beyond simply being made with high-quality material, this ball encourages your kids’ growth. Some kids are visual learners, so they’ll love having proper hand placement marked on the ball.
What you should consider: Kids will like this football and get a lot out of using it, but the grip is a bit slick.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: The NFL Super Grip uses an advanced composite leather covering that helps it stick to your hand.
What you’ll love: This tacky football was designed to be caught. The material is pebbled with real laces, and it retains air better than most footballs. It’s true to the name, “super grip.”
What you should consider: This ball is for 9-12-year-olds, but it is still fairly heavy and can hurt if thrown with a true spiral. Take care to maximize its durability by not throwing it indoors or on rough surfaces.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: The real leather on this ball has been treated to be softer than normal, allowing fingers to sink in for more control.
What you’ll love: The laces have a pebbled texture for enhanced control and the patented sewn-on stripes improve accuracy when thrown. It’s handcrafted by the same people that make NFL game balls, so they know what they’re doing.
What you should consider: The downside to leather is it’s more expensive but also more absorbent, making it easier to stain and to get waterlogged in the rain.
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Sam Bramlett writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.