As your child develops from a toddler to a young child, so the world of opportunities develops. By the age of 3, your child is starting to branch out, developing friendships, favourite activities and games, and showing a keen desire to learn through constant activity. As their confidence grows, they start to look for new and different activities to play. Tennis could be one of them!
What is Tots Tennis?
Tots and Parents classes are groups which give 3-4 year olds and their parents a gentle and fun introduction to tennis and the skills to help them to play the game. Many programmes offer these classes as the first step on a tennis programme, and they are seen as a perfect way to introduce tennis at a very young age. A key element is that classes should involve parents on a practical level. In other words, the groups are attended by the child and their parent as a couple, and parents are practically involved throughout the lesson having the same experience as the child.
“What if I don’t play tennis?”
It doesn’t matter-nor does your young child! The important thing is that you are there to help your child to learn and enjoy tennis, and for you to learn about how your child is progressing, and how you can help your child enjoy and learn more.
“My child doesn’t seem to do what the coach asks him to do. What should I do?”
Relax! As long as it isn’t dangerous or disruptive, it really doesn’t matter. Your child has a different agenda to you and your coach, so let them make up their own games and rules and their own way of doing things. All children have favourite games and activities and once they find them they may want to do the same thing for quite a long time, whilst at the same time showing little interest in other activities. Understand too that young children are not cut out for formal learning, so let them discover through play.
“What if my child doesn’t seem to be progressing?”
We all compare our children to others, even if unintentionally. It is vital to understand that children develop in different ways and at different rates. It is more important at this young age to see your child enjoying what they do. Any excessive demands or pressure to perform from the parents is likely to put your child off. Finally, bear in mind that Tots and Parents Tennis is not tennis coaching, so don’t expect your child to become a little tennis player for quite a while
“When will my child learn to play ‘proper’ tennis?”
Tennis is a difficult sport to play at a young age, and whilst in many ways children learn very quickly, in other ways things take a long time. When children enter the Tennis All Stars Mini Tennis red groups at the age of 4-5 years old they will be taught to develop rallying skills and will be introduced to basic competition and you should start to see a game of tennis eveolving. At Tots level, priorities are development of ABCs, developing sending and receiving skills.
“I’d like to buy my child a racket. Is this OK?”
If your child shows an interest it’s a great idea, because they will probably want to play with it at home too! Getting it right is critical though, because a racket that is too big or heavy will simply not help them. Look for a 17”/43cm racket if possible with the smallest grip (handle) possible. Ask at a Club Pro Shop, as many of the major racket manufacturers make them. You should not pay more than £30 for a first racket.
“Why are they just playing games?”
Children learn in many ways. Play is one of them. Young children just love to play, and it forms such an important part of their learning and development. Play is important because it accomplishes a range of valuable things from developing physical and neurological skills to teaching children about rules and boundaries.
“How long will we stay in the tots group?”
It is recommended that young children complete a full year (3 terms) of Tots and Parents Tennis before joining a club Mini Tennis programme. By the age of 4 or 5 years old, your child may be ready to move into the club Mini Tennis red group, already having developed basic movement skills, an ability to throw, receive and hit or catch a ball, greater awareness and confidence.
“We can only go once a week? Is that enough?”
Of course, that’s a good way to start any sport. Tennis helps to build great skills for all sports so you might like to do tennis along with another activity – and, since we all learn through regular practice and play you will learn beneficial games that you can do at home, in small spaces and with limited equipment, although some need a small tennis racket.