What is the Ideal Age for Kids to Begin Playing Tennis?

What is the Ideal Age for Kids to Begin Playing Tennis?

Kids are like sponges.  They have a thirst for learning and can excel at sports when they start at a young age.

It doesn’t matter what it is: football, soccer, hockey, basketball or tennis, they’re going to grow with the sport while both their brains and bodies develop.

At a certain point it becomes more difficult to learn new skills as an adult.  It isn’t impossible, but having a primer during your younger years could make a world of difference.

These days kids have options for so many activities.  You don’t want to run them ragged trying to teach them tennis, but if you start them early, you can watch them do exceptionally well if they continue with the sport.

But what is the perfect age for kids to start playing tennis?

Starting Age for Kids to be Playing Tennis?

Group of kids playing Tennis

For most situations it starts with the interest.

Since you play, your children see you going off to matches every weekend.  There’s a good chance they’ll want to emulate you.  If your two-year-old grabs your racquet wanting to mimic you, give it a shot.  What’s it going to hurt?

Children love to imitate their heroes, and they’re able to identify a passion.

Children respond best to happy emotions, and what’s going to make you, the tennis-playing parent, happier than doing what you love most?

There are rackets that can fit very small children – even one-year-olds.

We’ll talk more about the sizes later, but for now, it is sufficient to say that their interest will guide their love for tennis.

If your child isn’t really interested in any sport and you want to get them involved in tennis, starting them out at age six often works well.

Without a core interest before that point, it will be like pulling teeth to try and get them to pay attention.  You know your kids and kids like what they like.

How do You Make Tennis Fun for Kids?

Kids Playing Tennis

If you decide to enroll your child in lessons or tennis clinics, the instructors will be in charge with keeping their attention.  Kids will play tennis for hours if sessions are structured.

If you decide to test the waters at a local court because your child is very young and you don’t want to invest in instruction yet, there are all kinds of ways to make tennis enjoyable.  Below are a few games to make it fun for them while still learning about striking the ball and hand-eye coordination. Those include:

Catch Me If You Can

This one’s a bit silly but it’s very fun for kids. Bounce the ball and tap it with your racket so it goes close to the net, while each of you stands on the far end of the court.

The first one to get the ball is the winner. Keep a score going so they can get used to it when they start playing tennis the right way.

Target Practice

Bring a target of some sort (empty 2-liter bottles or traffic cones) and put them at the service line.  From the other side of the net, have your little one hit the ball while aiming to hit the targets.

Your first goal will be them successfully hitting the ball over the net.  Once they accomplish that, have them try to knock over the targets.  If they knock five targets over, they win!

You can set up a reward system depending on their age and engagement with this activity, but usually winning will be enough to keep them entertained.

Have them challenge themselves by trying to knock over the targets without missing anything.

Bounce Back

Stand with them and feed a tennis ball so that it bounces off a backboard (if available).  Any wall will do – even your garage door though it could get loud.

Let your child hit it back against the board and see how many times they can hit it without missing.

Keep a tally of how many times they hit it and keep trying to increase the number!

Try to remember their high score and slowly pull back from the backboard so they have to hit the ball further as they’re more and more successful.

How Much Time Should Your Child be on a Tennis Court?

Young Boy Playing Tennis

With every sport, practice is key.  In order to get better, time will need to be spent on the court.

Kids can take things to an extreme so you need to make sure they’re not overdoing it.

For newcomers who don’t know how much they like the sport yet, they could practice one to two times per week, for 60-90 minutes per session without going overboard.

This gives them time to decide if they like it without overwhelming them at all.

Very little kids likely won’t have the attention span for more than an hour.  Every child is different so it’ll be up to you to read the situation and decide what’s best.

At this point, it’s just a fun activity that they get to do and there’s no pressure to perform or be something they don’t want to be.

If they enjoy the sport and they’ve already done a full term of tennis camp, or they’ve been playing for a year and still love the game, two to three times per week for 60-90 minute sessions is perfectly okay.

You’re indulging in their interests and letting them do what they want, but it’s still something that’s a life skill and that give them athletic attributes.

Some kids are intense though, and they just want to do their favorite thing as often as possible.

They have focus, drive, determination; you want to foster that while still being wary of pushing them too far.

Five to six times per week for 60-minute sessions are perfectly okay here.

When we were all kids and running around outside, we’d play for 3-4 hours on end and still want more.

If it’s that fun for them and they’re safe, you might as well let them play.

What Size Tennis Racquet Should I Buy for My Child?

Tennis Rackets On Display

Junior tennis racquet sizes have basically five different age ranges and averages specs.

These are those five sizes, with brief descriptions as to why they’re good at this age and developmental level.

  • Age 1-4: Children will see appropriate racket sizes between 18” to 19”, with an average head size of about 90 square inches. These offer great weight distribution for your children to begin learning on.
  • Age 4-5: At 21”, these rackets are slightly bigger, but the head size usually stays the same at around 90 square inches. Consider this to be like taking the training wheels off by putting a slightly longer handle on a similar racket that they’re used to.
  • Age 6-7: 23” rackets start seeing surface sizes of about 100 square inches of string, giving them a slightly wider angle to be able to hit the ball from. (This tends to be the last age where the prices remain low for new rackets.)
  • Age 8-10: 25” rackets are already very close to adult sized rackets, which is 27”. This can be a bit of a leap as they have to learn how to handle the new weight and length in tandem. It’s a learning curve, but if you’ve upgraded them throughout the years it won’t be that difficult.
  • Age 10-12: 26” rackets are the last step. Slightly more length mixed with almost ounce-for-ounce weight comparisons to adult-sized tennis rackets.

Are All Junior Tennis Rackets the Same?

Three Junior Tennis Rackets

Not at all.

There aren’t a lot of disparities between different racket types, but the brand can really have an impact.

For instance, one of the best junior rackets is the Wilson US Open Junior racket, and not because it’s vastly different from every other racket, but because it’s a high quality racket.

Kids are tough on just about everything they own.

These are made for dropping and huge dings in the side without getting majorly damaged so they’re perfect for kids.

The important thing to keep in mind is that your child is going to outgrow their junior rackets pretty quickly.

If you get your child a new racket at each of these age points, they’ll go through five sizes alone just until they’re a teenager.

You might want to pick and choose and base their racket needs on how well they’re progressing.  There’s no need to shell out the big bucks when they’re little.

While no two junior rackets are the same, there are enough similarities that you can keep things cheap.

Because of the narrow market age, almost all junior rackets use nylon or polyester strings and aluminum frames.  Polyester strings and aluminum frames are wonderfully durable so they’re perfect for kids to use.

Skill Building from a Young Age

All skills should be developed from a young age and tennis is no exception.

Check out other posts on this site to help find the perfect junior racket for your child.

Have them hone their skills now so that later on they’ll be naturals at the game.  Kids who play tennis often become adults who play tennis.  It’s a wonderful lifelong sport.

You never know where tennis might take them.  College scholarship anyone?