As I discussed in the Tennis for Children: Bounce-Catch article, having a child catch a ball is probably the most basic way to introduce spatial awareness. This introduces ball tracking and the hand-eye coordination responsible for much of the skill set a young tennis player requires.
As we move on from “bounce-catch” to “bounce-hit,” the timing is what translates for the child. The child will learn to wait for the ball to bounce and enter the hitting zone before attempting to strike it with their racquet.
Make it fun! Have your child try to hit something with the ball. This requires a bit of aim which means the child should be facing perpendicular to their target. The phrase that I use in this situation is “point your toes.”
Pick one side of the court (or basement, or garage, or driveway) and have the child “point their toes” to that spot. Read more about “point your toes.”
Pick a spot directly behind them (180 degrees from their target) and have them point their racquet there. This turns your child to the side and gets their ‘racquet back’ so they are ready to swing.
Tossing the ball from directly beside the child, drop the ball so it will bounce up into the hitting zone. This takes a bit of practice as the child’s early success if based on how well you toss the ball!
Remember to have your child say (out loud), “Bounce. Hit.”
If the timing is off, go back to “bounce-catch.” If the swing pattern is off, have the child swing without hitting a ball and help them begin with the racquet behind them, and end with the racquet over their far shoulder and high. Let them use one or two hands depending on their strength and comfort.
If this seems easy, then I should remind you that it is easy. Once your child has accomplished the transition from ‘bounce-catch’ to ‘bounce-hit,’ then you are ready for the next steps!
Good luck, and remind your child of Rule #1 for Ankle Biters Tennis:
Never try to hit the ball with your face!