Toddler Tennis Sessions
What are the benefits to toddlers who take a Tennis4Toddlers session?
Toddler tennis is an all about fun activity, this way the children are kept engaged and interested. Having fun is a great benefit!
All of our toddler lessons start with a warm up, some information about one of our favourite warm ups follows below, followed by more information and benefits of the overall lessons.
The Lines Warm up for Tennis4Toddlers
This is one of a few different warm ups we do that will get the children fired up both mentally and physically. This warm up is also really simple, so ideal for the little ones.
First we teach the names of the court lines to the toddlers of which there are five to remember. The children are then told that they must run to any of the line once it is called. This activity benefits attention spans, listening skills, memory and reactions. When lines are reached they must stop on them and stand still on them, great for coordination. The game is made fun when the coach asks the children to run to a line that they are already on as a test or when the tempo is increased, all done in jest to maintain the fun.
Moving on to another activity
After the warm up we move on to another activity, it is best to stick to one activity for no longer than ten minutes, to keep the variety and interest. The next could include throwing, catching or both or a skill with the racket (not a full stroke yet).
Catching is a great hand eye coordination skill and can be made loads of fun by the coach. I get the children to place their rackets on the court floor, a couple of meters away from them and treat their racket as their own trophy cabinet. If they catch a ball they get to put it on their racket, if a child is struggling it is good though to say great effort you can put that one on your racket as you did so well. Children should not feel like they are failing at this early age.
There are two types of throws that we teach the children, under arm and over arm throws. At Tennis4Toddlers we start with under arm throwing which is a great skill and similar to a tennis stroke, which we believe would be wrong to attempt with a toddler in their first lesson.
The under arm throw really involves the child needing to get the ball to go from a low to high position with a controlled arm swing, just like a forehand. To get the child to throw up we play a game called Making Ice Cream Cones. Again a very simple exercise, we ask the parent to hold a cone up at about chest height (a small plastic cone that coaches use primarily as targets for players of all ages to hit to). The child then takes a dollop of ice-cream ( a tennis ball) and must through the ball up to try and get it in the cone, parents can be kind and assist by moving the cone to catch the ball if required. A simple but great way to groove the throwing technique and throwing skills can help children in so many other sports too.
A Racket Skill
Introducing the racket to the child in a first lesson, I will actually talk them through the anatomy of the racket, pointing out the grip, throat, head and strings. Then start with an easy to do skill, like Walking the Dog. This is taking a ball for a walk with the racket, having the ball on the court floor and slightly in front and moving it forward by pushing it with the racket bottom frame, so with grip up and racket head down, the children can just start by going to the net from baseline and back.
Toddlers can hit some strokes, volleys are great because they are more simple and they really boost the children’s confidence when they can hit them and they all can really. We have some great teaching methods to actually bring about a technically sound volley, it is amazing to see 3/4 year olds hitting such technically good looking shots. I will talk more about how we get to other strokes, such as ground stokes in a future blog post.
Conclusion – Finishing the session on a high
Always finish on a high, one way is a game of Cross the River, here children run from one tram line to the other across the court, but they have to dodge tennis balls aimed at their feet by the marksman tennis coach. Balls are rolled slowly and are soft so will not hurt a child. The children love this game, you can have as many goes as you want so that they cross the river about 10-15 times. It is great with older kids too, who also love it, I introduce elimination with them, but never for my toddlers, they all stay in until the end and I try not to hit them too many times if they are easy to get.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave your comments below.