When the weather is nice, you probably go out and play with your kid’s many sports: soccer, basketball, football, or baseball. But, what to do when your kids ask you to play tennis? Although it is not as straightforward as the other sports mentioned above, it’s simple if you know how to do it!
How can you play tennis with your kids at home? First, you’ll need to find a place at home with enough space around to make an improvise mini-tennis court. Once you have the location, you can make the net with two chairs and caution tape. After that, make the tennis lines with masking tape or chalk. Then, you’ll need to get small tennis racquets and the appropriate foam ball.
Before you start playing, you’ll need to know the basic rules: no double bounce, the ball must go over the net and inside the court, and a point is won when the other player is unable to return the ball back to the other side of the court. Once your kids understand the main rules, explain them in a basic way how to hit the ball. After following all these steps, you should be able to play tennis with your kids and have a lot of fun.
Below, I’ll elaborate more on each step, keep reading to find out more ideas and details on how you can play tennis next weekend with your family. This guide is meant for kids of around 6 – 12 years old; however, if your kids are younger or older, you can still give it a try!
FIND A LOCATION
Before you decide to play tennis with your kids at home, you need to make sure that you have a place with enough room for your mini-tennis court.
How much space do you need?
Usually the more space, the better, however, the ideal area needed is around 20 feet wide by 40 feet long. I understand that for most of us that might be more space than we have. So, if you need to do your court smaller, it’s okay. Just try to keep the court measurement proportioned.
Your location should ideally have a flat surface; however, if it’s not entirely flat, it should be ok. As long as, the ball doesn’t make weird bounces, the surface should be fine. If the only place that you have enough space is in your garden, you can still make your court; check the following article to find more about it: ”How to name a mini tennis court on your home garden – Wimbledon edition.”
These are some places at home where you could make your mini tennis court: Garage, driveway, parking lot, front or back porch, deck, patio, backyard, and or an empty room.
MAKE THE MINI-TENNIS COURT
You’ll need the following materials:
- Two chairs
- Caution tape or a rope
- Measuring tape
- Masking tape or chalk
The two chairs and the caution tape will be used to make the net. Caution tapes are those yellow tapes with warning signs.
To do the lines of the court, you can use either the masking tape or chalk. If you planned to use the courts many times, I’d recommend you use masking tape; otherwise, if you use chalk, you’ll have to do the lines again every time.
On the picture below, you can see the exact measures of the court.
- The court should be 18 ft wide by 36 ft long.
- The net should be around 3ft tall and 18 ft long.
- The baseline and sidelines are 18 ft long.
- The center service line is 9 ft long.
- The service line (4.5 ft from the baseline) is 18 ft long.
When starting to make your mini tennis court, I’ll suggest starting with the net. At the center of your selected location, place both chairs at 18 feet apart. Then to connect both chairs and make the net, I’ll recommend using a caution tape. They are thicker which makes the net more visual, as well as, more realistic. Nevertheless, you can use any rope; make sure that is longer than 18 feet so that you have extra length to make the knot. Ideally, the length of the tape should be around 20 feet long.
On one of the chairs tie one end of the caution tape so that the tape will be hanging at about 3 feet tall. After that, tie the other end of the tape on the second chair. Make sure that the tape is straight and fully extended, so that is tautened at a heigh of around 3 feet tall.
If you’re willing to spend money and want to get fancier, you can buy a portable net. They are well made and makes the court look like a real tennis court. You can find portable nets on Amazon for around $50.
Once you have the net set up, it easier to make the lines for the court. I’ll recommend using masking tape since it will last longer. If you decided to use chalk, know that it won’t last for long, so you’ll have to do the lines every now and then. Another option is to use marking spray paint; they are a little expensive, but it would last longer than chalk, and it will look very nice.
Use the picture above as a guide to do the lines of the court. You can start with the baselines and the sidelines. And then, continue with the service lines and the center lines. Use a measuring tape and a marker to measure the lines and keep the court proportionate. However, if the lines are not perfect, don’t worry, just try to do the best you can.
APPROPRIATE RACQUETS AND BALLS
Although you could use a full-size racquet, I’ll suggest using a smaller size racquet. In similar racquet sports like pickleball, touch tennis, or paddle small size racquets are used.
To play on your mini tennis court at home, I think the ideal tennis racquet size should be 22 or 23 inches. Using a smaller size racquet will allow you to swing more freely on small spaces, and hit the ball harder but still manage to hit the ball inside the court. Remember that the smaller the racquet, the less power you’ll get.
Since you’re are playing on a mini tennis court you can’t use a regular tennis ball; otherwise, it’ll be tough to hit the ball back and forth. The ideal types of balls to use are foam balls. There are two types of foam balls that I preferred to use: the Qst 36 and the Zsig foam ball. They are both made of foam; however, the Qst 36 is bigger, bounces higher, and travels faster than the Zsig foam ball.
Although you could use both to play on the mini tennis court, I’ll suggest using the Zsig foam balls. They bounce less and travel slower, allowing you to use full swings and more power when hitting the ball. Also, it’s easier to play with these balls so your kids will pick up the game faster.
KNOW THE BASIC RULES
Now that you have the mini tennis court, the foam balls, and the small size racquets, it’s time for your kids and you to learn about the most basic rules of tennis.
One bounce only.
One of the most basic rules is that the ball is only allowed to bounce once. If there is more than one bounce, the player loses the point. Also, you can explain to your kids that they are allowed to hit the ball in the air (with no bounce)
Over the net and inside the court.
The ball must go over the net and bounce inside the opposite court. Explain to your kids that if they hit the ball on the net and the ball doesn’t go over, they lose the point. Also, remind them that if the ball hits the line is considered in.
Can only hit the ball once.
Players can only hit the ball once before the ball goes to the other side. If the players hit the ball more than once to make it over the net and into the other side, they lose the point.
Winning a point.
A point nine when the other player is not able to hit the ball back inside the court.
“Serving” or starting the point.
Since we’re trying to keep it simple, I’ll suggest explaining to your kids that they can start the point by either hitting the ball over their head (like a regular serve) or underhand. If they can hit it like a serve, great; if they can’t, give them the option to do it underhand.
Also, explain to them that to start the point they need to serve the ball in one of the two boxes (service boxes). To start, I’ll recommend you to give them the option to serve every point in either box (deuce or add boxes)
When playing points, you guys can have each player serves two points in a row and then switch. Another option is that the player who wins the point starts (or serves) the next point.
Keep it simple.
You can show your kids the following video so they can get an idea on how to play the game.
Although I understand that there are many other rules to know to play a real game of tennis, I think it’s better to keep it as simple as possible. Teaching your kids these basic rules would allow them to play tennis points. Naturally, as they get better and more into it, you can introduce more rules, as well as, how to keep regular score.
LEARNING HOW TO HIT THE BALL
Remember that the primary goal is for your kids to have a good time playing the sport. So, it’s essential that we keep the technique basic enough, so they can hit the ball back and forth, and enjoy playing tennis points. I’ll try to explain in simple words how to hit each shot and also include videos for some of them. *If your kid is lefty use the (___) words.
- Stand sideways facing east (west)
- With your right hand (left-hand) hold the grip of the racquet as if you were to shake hands with it.
- Bring your racquet back and your non-hitting hand in front.
- Swing forward and catch the racquet with the non-hitting hand.
- Stand sideways facing west (east)
- With both hands hold the grip of the racquet. The right hand (left-hand) at the bottom and the left-hand (right-hand) at the top.
- With both hands, bring your racquet back.
- Swing forward and try to touch your back with the head of the racquet.
- Stand sideways facing west (east)
- With your left hand (right hand) hold the ball and with your right hand (left hand) hold the racquet.
- Toss the ball up, high enough so that you can hit it over your head.
- For both forehand and backhand volley use your right hand (left hand).
- A good way to explain the volley to kids is to tell them to “high-five” the ball.
These are simple steps to hit the four most important strokes in tennis. I think it is essential for your kids to focus on timing and hitting the ball back and forth, without worrying too much about the technique. I’ll suggest introducing the forehand and backhand first, and then take it from there.
GAMES & DRILLS
These are some ideas for ways you can play tennis with your kids.
In this game, you’ll be hand feeding balls to your kid.
- You’ll be in one side (3 ft away from the net) and your kid on the other side (close to the baseline).
- Every time your kid hits the ball over the net and inside the court, she gets a point.
- Every time she hits the net or hits the ball out, you get a point.
- You can play the first to 21 points.
For this drill, you can either use foam balls or red balls. Keep in mind that the more balls you have, the easier is going to be because you won’t have to pick up balls so often.
I’ll suggest starting with forehands, and then doing backhand. Also, if you need to make this drill harder, you make your hand feeding more difficult by throwing the ball further away from them.
In this game, you’ll be hitting the ball back and forth with your kid, and both of you will be on the same team.
- You’ll be in one side and your kid on the other side (both close to the baseline)
- The goal is to rally 21 balls back and forth in a row.
- You guys have “3 lives” in total, which means that you guys can miss no more than twice to get to 21.
- If you guys loss all three lives and didn’t get to 21, it’s game over! And you guys have to start from zero.
For example, on the first try, you guys get to rally 9 balls back and forth and then you miss. As a result, you guys have 2 lives left and will start the next rally from 9. You can make this game easier or harder by adjusting the numbers of lives you start with, and the number of rallies you need to get up to.
This is the most common way to play tennis. When playing regular points, you hit the ball back and forth and at the same time try to win the point. A point is won when the opponent is not able to hit the ball back inside the court.
- You’ll be on one side and your kid on the other side.
- When starting the point, you can do it by hitting overhead or underhand.
- As mention before, the serve has to land in either service box.
- You can play sets up to 11 points, and the first to win 3 sets win.
Doubles points (for four players)
If you have two kids or more, you can play doubles. Maybe you can ask your spouse to join you guys! Doubles points are played the same way you play a singles point with the exception that you have two players on each side and you play with the doubles alleys.
- Any player can hit the ball; you don’t have to alternate like in ping pong.
- Is okay if your mini tennis court doesn’t have the doubles alleys, you can still play doubles on the singles court. Remember that we’re just trying to enjoy the game of tennis, so it ’s okay if we skip certain rules.
Here is a video of a doubles point on a mini tennis court:
What to do if you don’t have space at home for a mini court?
If you don’t have enough space to make a mini tennis court, you can (1) find a wall at home where there is enough space around where you can try playing by hitting against the wall, or (2) you can go to your local park, and build an improvise mini tennis court there. For the net, you’ll need two chairs and any rope, and to make the lines, you can use chalk. The lines don’t need to be perfect, just do them by eye.
So there you have it! I hope that this guide can help you in any way to play tennis with your kids at home. Please share your experiences or ideas on the comment section!