So…..there is a right and a wrong way to do warm ups for young children in group lessons. This article is primarily about mini tennis (under 10) but some of these principles also apply to groups of older children (and even adults).
For young children, the idea of the warm up is really to set the tone for the lesson and to get the energy levels up. With this in mind, here are some principles to stick to:
Make it easy to explain
We don’t want the kids spending their first 5 minutes of the lesson listening to complicated instructions.
Get them moving straight away
This continues from the first point really. A quick explanation, then go! Get EVERYONE moving at the same time. So no standing in lines. In my opinion, this is why relay races aren’t a great warm up – if there are 2 lines of 4 kids, this means only a quarter of the kids are moving at any one time. Or another way of looking at it is that any one child will only be moving for a quarter of the time.
Don’t do games which exclude anyone
This means games where children are ‘out’ for some reason. This is self explanatory so I won’t say any more.
So a quick and simple explanation, then get everyone moving in a way that is fun. Here are some examples of good warm ups for young children:
Snowballs AKA Tidy Your Room
Half the kids on one side of the net, half the kids on the other. Coach spreads a load of soft balls around the court. When the time starts, the kids throw the balls over the net to the other side (you tell them how it is their job to ‘tidy their room’ by clearing all the balls). They keep doing this for 2 minutes. When the coach shouts ‘stop’, the team with the least amount of balls on their side wins. The kids always seem to like this one, even though it’s so basic!
Like the old video game, there is a Pacman who is trying to catch the others. However, everyone (including the Pacman) must only run along the lines of the court. When someone gets caught, they also become a pacman trying to catch the others.
Every kid knows Simon Says. Change it to your name, so when I play it, it’s ‘Karl Says’. This is good for really little kids. You can get them doing all kinds of movements in a short space of time and have fun catching them out – but as mentioned earlier, don’t actually make them ‘out’ of the game.
This game is also a good sneaky way of getting the kids to listen to the coach’s instructions early on by making a game of it.