With tennis on the television all weekend, at Wicken Toys we've been inspired to get outside and knock a ball about.
Tennis is great fun, and simple enough for the whole family to join in. Younger children however can get frustrated by how quickly the ball escapes, and the complicated scoring system.
Here are some ideas for developing their love of tennis, while having fun and burning energy.
Understanding Force To help younger children understand how to control the speed of the ball, play this game with a racket, ball and a garden slide. On your garden slide, use a sticker or piece of chalk to mark a position near the top, one around the half-way point, and one about a quarter of the way up. Then call out instructions to hit the ball either low, middle or high. The child needs to use the tennis racket like a cricket bat to push the ball with the appropriate level of force to reach the target, but not go beyond it. Understanding In / Out Tennis is a fast-paced game and it can be difficult to pick up the rules about boundaries wither when watching or playing a match. Slow the pace down by using beanbags, since they stay wherever they land, allowing plenty of time for discussion. In this game you both throw beanbags up into the air, either one at a time, or by spinning around and releasing them, or you could launch a big armful up in one go. Then walk around the court together inspecting where the beanbags landed. For each beanbag ask if it is 'in' or 'out' for a serve, a singles match or a doubles match. For younger children you may need to stick with singles boundaries only.
Developing Co-ordination A child vs adult tennis match probably isn't going to be much fun for either party. Instead of trying to beat each other, you can work together to play the longest rally you can. Keep count of the number of touches you both manage, and try to better your score next time.
Developing Racket Grip Just holding a racket for any length of time can be difficult for a child, let alone trying to hit a ball with it. By bouncing a balloon on the racket, and seeing how long they can keep it off the ground, your child will learn how to hold the racket comfortably, and strengthen their grip, improving the length of time they can hold it for, and how hard they can hit the tennis balls.
Bringing the adult world into line with your child's development helps them learn you skills, and makes it easier for you to enjoy each other's company. These simple tennis games are fun to play, and will help children develop the skills and knowledge they will need to be able to play a competitive tennis match either against you or their friends, when they are older.
Look out for more sporting activities on the Wicken Toys blog.