As a mom of two active little boys, I am a firm believer in getting outside each day to burn off extra energy. We run around the yard, play games, take walks – whatever we can do to get out of the house, move our bodies and have some fun.
I don’t know about you, but we just cannot stay cooped up in the house all day long. On those days when we do, the tranquility of our family room quickly turns into a disaster area with couch cushions strewn about, toys everywhere (and I mean everywhere), boys running room to room racing to see who’s the fastest, and sporting equipment flying. Did I mention that my boys are active?
During the colder months when the temperatures dip too low to go outside for long periods of time, I desperately search for activities we can do inside that are engaging and get my kids moving with as little destruction as possible.
My older son has recently found an affinity for tennis (hooray!) thanks to his recent participation in the TGA afterschool tennis enrichment program. He wants to play all the time. And I couldn’t be happier about it! With equipment sized right, tennis is fun for kids of all ages and skill level and it boasts numerous benefits such as learning lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship as well as building physical strength and endurance.
Considering he is just a very early beginner, I definitely want to keep his interest and give him the chance to have fun with tennis when he wants. That got me thinking: what tennis activities could we do inside at home while we wait for sunnier days and warmer temps more accommodating for time out on our local tennis courts.
So I went right to USTA Mid-Atlantic’s own resident expert on playing tennis in non-traditional spaces (aka our manager of school programs) Alicia von Lossberg. She assured me that, very easily, everyday spaces can turn into the perfect places for tennis fun for you and your children.
She explained that all of the activities are suitable for a basement, playroom or even the garage and that activities range from racquet and ball handling to fitness fun. You don’t even need to have a net! You can get creative with items you likely have on hand at home. Masking tape or painters tape is perfect for marking the perimeter of the “court” on the floor or simply mark a line for where a net would be. You can also use two chairs with tape stretched between them as the net.
This is just the solution I want to have at the ready should we find ourselves indoors but chomping for an activity.
So, the next time you are stuck inside more than you like and you hear “I’m bored,” for the umpteenth time, grab your racquets and foam balls and try these six fun tennis activities at home to break up the monotony and calm the crazy.
Ball balance, tap downs and bump ups are all great activities to practice racquet and ball handling. For ball balance, have your little tennis star try to balance the foam ball on the strings of the racquet while touching the floor with their opposite hand. Tap downs are when you bounce the ball down at waist level and bump ups are when you bounce the ball (carefully) up at eye level without letting the ball hit the ground. Have your child do as many of those as they can. You can even do these activities with your child and see who can do the most in a row or go the longest balancing the ball.
Helpful hint: if this is too hard for them, try a beach ball or balloon for quick success before moving on to the foam ball.
Partner up and practice hand-eye skills. Put some tunes on and partner up with your child or partner your kids up to work on hand-eye coordination. A fan favorite is ball pass where you work together to pass a ball back and forth “catching” it with the racquet. For each catch, keep stepping back a step and see how far apart you can get. Set a record and see who can break it.
Helpful hint: for younger kids, use a bean bag to pass instead.
Get in a rhythm with “drop, hit, catch” and “toss, hit, catch.” These games are sure to bring a smile to your child’s face and even work their rhythmic pattern skills! Partner up with them and have them gently drop the ball and hit it toward you so that you can catch it – drop, hit, catch, and repeat. Every catch is a point! After six hits, change roles and see who can get the most points. Try toss, hit, catch to work on forehand and backhand skills. Begin about three steps apart from your child and toss the tennis ball to the forehand or backhand side and have them rally the ball back to you to catch it. Toss it six times and switch!
Helpful hint: Give your child a target (like your knees or hat on your head) to keep balls from being hit like home runs.
Rally over the net. Remember those chairs with the tape (or rope, ribbon, or streamers) stretched between them? Set them up as the net and work with your child to rally the ball over to each other. You can make this activity easier by rolling the ball on the ground or make it harder by switching between forehand and backhand off the bounce. See how long you can rally with each other.
Agility, footwork and speed are all valuable skills for tennis that can be worked on at home. If you are playing in a more open space of the house, a few minutes of jump rope is a great way your child can work on footwork moves. See how long each of you can jump without stopping. Hop scotch is also a great game to work on balance and agility by hopping on one foot and then two. But the best game of all IMO is the “Ball Kid Burst.” Put imagination to action and pretend to be a ball kid dashing to grab the tennis balls for superstars like Rafa and Serena during an intense match. Place a racquet on the floor and then place a pile of tennis balls directly across from the racquet, about 10 to 15 feet away. Get your stopwatch ready and race to grab one ball at a time and place them on racquet. Record the time and see how fast you can get all the tennis balls picked up. Take turns to see who is the fastest. Try this one at the end of play time, when all the foam balls are scattered about. This is a GREAT way to make clean up fun.
Strategize a new game. Tennis is all about game strategy so work those intellectual skills and have your child invent their own tennis game that can be played indoors. Kids love to make up their own games, and you never know what kind of creative ideas they will come up with that can work a new tennis skill. Just make sure you remember it for next time to add it in the rotation.
Hopefully you found this list to be a handy reference so that on the days when you just can’t get enough outdoor time or make it to the courts, you can still work with your child on their budding tennis skills and love of the game! And speaking of love of tennis, don’t forget, kids 10 and under new to the USTA are eligible for a free junior membership. Find out more and sign up!
Lauren Hoffmann is the director of marketing, communication and membership at USTA Mid-Atlantic. She would write a really clever little line here but she’s a mom and she’s exhausted.
Illustration images are from the USTA Kid’s Tennis Clubs Organizers Playbook. Illustrations are thanks to Skillastics, Inc.