How to teach tennis to a group of 3-4 year olds

Do 3-4 year olds need tennis lessons?

I don’t think they need tennis lessons. Children who start tennis at 5-6 years old can be just as good or better than children who start at 3-4, and vice versa. It just doesn’t make a big difference. I’ve seen children who could hit the ball at 2.5 years old, but by 6 hadn’t progressed much.

However, we LOVE doing tots tennis sessions and there are loads of good reasons to offer them. Here are some of them……..

  • If the kids enjoy it, why not? Let them develop a love for tennis from a young age.
  • The parents will love you for offering the sessions. Not everywhere does.
  • Often an older sibling will be taking lessons and the parents appreciate the little one doing a lesson at the same time.
  • It looks seriously cute. I mean who doesn’t love seeing cute little ones having fun playing tennis.

We don’t really teach tennis technique in these sessions – the children are just too young to learn it. The focus is on building all the skills which form the foundations of tennis (and pretty much all other sports). So running, jumping, twisting, turning, hopping, balancing, receiving, sending, co-ordination, agility…….all that good stuff

Here is a video that I made, showing some exercises for 3-4 year olds………..

Tips for teaching tots

  1. I would suggest a ratio of 4 children to 1 adult. This doesn’t mean you need 2 coaches. You can have one coach running the session and a parent or two helping. Or a teenage helper.
  2. You can do the warm up as a group. Something like ‘race cars’ where the children are running in different directions using a cone as a steering wheel.
  3. You can try having them in pairs for most of the exercises shown in the video, but many children of this age are just too young to work in pairs. If it doesn’t work, just abandon!
  4. As you have a ratio of 1:4 you can do all the exercises with you and your assistant feeding to the children one at a time. With that ratio, there is not too much waiting time. If you had a ratio of 1:8 the children would be waiting for ages, get bored, mess around and the parents might not be too happy with it.
  5. There are some exercises which you can have all the children doing on their own. For instance, I use traffic cones – each child has a traffic cone with a ball on top. They hit the ball off the cone at the fence. Every time they hit the fence, they run to get a little cone – this is like scoring a point.

The following 3 vids show a full 1-hour lesson which I did for 3-4 year olds.

There is a lot more you can do with 3-4 year olds in a group – a bit too much to detail in this post – but here’s a few more quick ideas:

Overarm throwing


I often do this with bean bags as you can make it a competition – as the bean bags are different colours and stop where they land, you can see whose bean bag went the furthest. I also have a game where the group is all standing in a line and the coach runs past – all the kids try to throw their bean bag at the coach. 
Flipping pancakes – bean bags on rackets, trying to flip them over.

Hula hoops


Kids try to throw their bean bag into partners hoop – or flip it from their racket into partners hoop. Or there is another exercise where you roll the hula hoop along the ground and the child runs after it and tries to throw a ball through. This needs coach / assistant feeding of course.

This list could go on so I’ll stop there. I’m sure you can use your imagination and come up with plenty of ideas. And of course youtube is a great source of ideas.

I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and questions in the comments section below. And if you enjoyed this article, please share it using buttons below.

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