How young?

Last week, our son and his family visited us; and my 22-month-old grandson had his first chance to see Grandpa play tennis. While the fine points of the game did not capture his attention, I did throw him an old ball to play with. After watching for two minutes or so, he volunteered to his father, “I need racquet too!”

So, the questions are:

  • How young can you start someone “playing” and how do you best start a toddler off in this game?
  • Do they make really small and light racquets, or is it better to buy something like a badminton racquet and cut down the handle?
  • My local pro says he starts toddlers off by pushing the ball on the ground with their racquet. Are there any other techniques to use?

Our grandson’s other grandpa is a golfer; so he will also soon have a golf club in his hands too. And both his parents are volleyball players; so he will at least be a three-sport star.

4 thoughts on “How young?

  1. Our kids all started taking clinics when they were about 4……the pros here would have the kids race around the court while trying to balance a ball on the racquet. Also, they did a lot of games where the kids would catch the ball with their hands or a cone. There are junior racquets, but my guess is these would still be too big for a 2-year old. I’m just back from a tennis weekend in Wild Dunes, SC. The pro had a crazy grip and forehand swing which he explains evolved from the way he held his racquet when he fell in love with tennis as a 3-year old. He squeezed the adult-sized racquet between his waist and elbow/arm. Not sure I would advise that, although this pro had an awesome forehand!

    Also, you could buy one of those tennis balls connected to a bungee style rope which goes around your ankle and your grandson could play with that.

    There are special balls used with young children, too. Good-luck!!

  2. Hi George,
    I think it’s great to get kids started in tennis as soon as they show an interest.
    Major manufacturers have “real” Jr. racquets starting as small as 19″ in length
    (Jr. racquets are sold according to length, with grip sizes to match accordingly).
    As the kids get older and taller, they graduate to a longer racquet (with a bigger
    grip size.)
    Many of these companies now also make a softer “nerf-like” ball, some of which
    are larger than a regular ball. They bounce lower and slower, are a bigger target,
    and don’t hurt if the kids get “bonked” in the nose. They’re sold as a training ball,
    and are also a lot of fun for adults to use (a great equalizer, and point-extender).
    I think it’s great to get the eye-hand coordination going early, keeping the “play
    time” short, to match the younger attention span, and ending the play on a good
    note, while it’s still fun.
    Happy hitting!

  3. Hi George, Age 4 is good to introduce the concept -Andre’s dad had him pawing at balloons in his crib. Youth racquets are great and they make nerf-like balls so the impact doesn’t rip the racquet out of their hands. A normal court is the worst thing for a tiny child……. It’s overwhelming. I started my kids when they were very young in our driveway hitting softly over a wooden ladder. Due to the small area and very low obstacle the ladder made, they caught on to the essence of the game quite well…..keep the rally going. Without the need to kill it they derived great fun by counting how many times they could keep it going with me. They learned to hit up when they were in trouble, how to recover in the best court position…..and the most impressive thing was watching my son work his feet so much trying to get that racquet on the ball just right.


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