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  • Anyone For Tennis?

    Inspired by Andy Murray's success in making i to the final of the Australian Open (he plays Djokovic at 8.30am tomorrow), we're in the mood for some tennis.

    However, as much as we love to play outdoors, we don't like frost bite. So to keep all of our fingers and toes warm and toasty, we've come up with tennis inspired games that can be played indoors.

    Learning To Rally Over A Net

    You'll need something that moves really slowly, and won't cause any damage when it inevitably bashes in to furniture and the TV.

    Bashing a balloon back and forth works really well. You can use your hands, short tennis bats, or even large circles of cardboard to hit the balloon.

    Add a little extra challenge by creating a net to hit the balloon over. You can tie a piece of string across the room and drape a light sheet over it. You could also use sticky tape and empty cereal boxes to make a wall and stand it between you.

    Keeping In The Lines

    Learning the scoring system for tennis, and whether a ball is in or out can be a challenge on an outdoor court, with a moving ball. If you don't sport where the ball lands immediately there's no Hawk-Eye or instant replays to help you out. Use masking tape to mark out a court in your kitchen or front room. Use marshmallows to play this game instead of balls so that when it lands, it stays put. The aim of the game is to get the marshmallow into your opponents side of the court. They must hit it back with a tennis racket, before it touches the floor. If the marshmallow lands outside of the lines, the person who received it score the points. If it lands inside the lines, the person who hit it score the points.


    Obviously not the type of set that must be staked into the ground as that would make a terrible mess of your carpet. But if you have a Swingball set lingering in your shed that has a box base, why not fetch it indoors.


    Sure you'll be cold for a few minutes while you make the dash across the garden, but you could count it as your morning workout and reward yourself with a hot chocolate once safely back inside.

    Just Play With The Balls

    You could just play with tennis balls instead. Line up some empty plastic drinks bottles for a game of tennis ball bowling. For added fun and a little injection of addition practice, you could write scores on the bottles.

    Or you could line up empty boxes or buckets and take turns trying to land tennis balls inside without them bouncing back out again.

    With a few tennis balls to hand and the right intention you'll be able to come up with plenty of your own tennis-inspired games.

  • Teaching Tennis To Kids Part Two | Wimbeldon Edition

    Earlier this year, during the excitement of the Australian Open, we brought you some top tips for teaching kids how to play tennis. Now with Wimbledon well underway, we have even more tennis based activities to get the children outside and get you all active.

    Side Stepping Being able to run backwards and forwards along the baseline, without taking your eyes off the ball is an essential skill for any tennis player. Practice this lateral movement with a game of catch. Mark out two white lines, approximately 20 feet apart (you may want them closer together if you are playing with a young child). Each player must stay behind their white line and keep their eyes on the ball. Now play catch, but keep moving. Add an element of competition by keeping count of your longest rallies of successful catches to see if you can beat your own scores. Keep the pace slow for younger children.

    Mastering The Ball Have you noticed how the professional players bounce the balls over and over on the grass, then examine them before choosing which balls to serve with. They aren't doing this to show off (much), it enables them to get a good feel for the properties of the ball, and predict how it will behave in reaction to their serve. How embarrassing would it be if they bounced the ball on the grass then failed to catch it, or pinged it off their shoe? Tennis players must be masters of the balls, not at the mercy of their furry green unpredictable nature. Teach your children to calmly be the boss of the ball by bouncing it on the floor and catching it with one hand, and by gently bouncing it up and down on their racket.

    Varying Hitting Strength To be able to play a variety of shots, a tennis player must have great control over how hard they hit the ball. During the match they are thinking ahead to which shot they would like to play next, and must hit the ball with the corresponding amount of strength. Children can learn to hit with different levels of strength by playing this easy game, ideally within a fenced tennis court so you don't need to keep retrieving the balls. Devise a labeling system for three levels of hitting power, for example 'mouse', 'cat' and 'lion' or 'bike', 'car' and 'rocket'. As you through the ball to them, call out the level of strength they need to hit it back with.

    Volleying Secure a bucket to the top of the climbing frame and teach your children to volley the ball skywards, but in a controlled fashion, so the ball lands in the bucket.

    The easiest way to practice tennis in the back garden is with a swing ball set. There's no hassle setting up a net, and no need to run around retrieving balls from the neighbours gardens.


  • Teaching Tennis to Kids | Part One aka The Melbourne Edition

    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.

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