Pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, has been gaining popularity as a family-friendly sport that offers a great way to bond with your kids while staying active. This easy-to-learn game can be enjoyed by all generations, making it an ideal choice for family fun.
As a mom, I am intimately familiar with the challenges of teaching young kids how to play sports, but our kids absolutely loved Pickleball! Our kids are under 10, and we kept the lessons short. Possibly, and most importantly, we were always loaded with snacks and Gatorade.
Coach Simone Jardim, our favorite YouTube Pickleball coach, teaches her 7-year-old son how to play.
Before starting to play, it’s essential to understand the basic rules and equipment used in pickleball. Pickleball is typically played on a court, but don’t worry — courts may be readily available. In our city, we have local parks that give the public free access to outdoor badminton courts, and we play on the city-provided courts quite often. And there’s also nothing more fun than watching your dad tripping, trying to capture flying Pickleball balls while park-goers walk their dogs.
The game requires a perforated plastic ball, much like a wiffle ball, and paddles. Here’s a quick overview of the essentials:
- Pickleball Paddles: These are solid paddles, usually made of wood or composite materials, with a flat surface on one side and a textured surface on the other.
- Pickleball Ball: The ball is lightweight and has holes, similar to a whiffle ball.
- Net: A net separates the two sides of the court, which should be 20 feet wide and 44 feet long.
People (including kids!) usually play Pickleball in doubles. However, we enjoyed playing one-on-one with each of our children. We found by not initially playing in doubles, they were more able to focus on the flow of the game.
Individuals or teams win Pickleball by being the first team to score 11 points and win by at least two points. Only the serving team can score a point.
For more fun and engagement with your kids, consider having a chalk scoreboard. You can even assign your child to be the one to keep score. Our kids got so excited whenever they could give their team a point.
The server must serve diagonally, and the ball must bounce once on each side of the court. The serve should be underhand, and the paddle should remain below the waist.
After the serve, the game follows a “volley” rule, where the ball should not bounce before it is hit. The goal is always to hit the ball over the net and onto the opposing team’s side of the court. A team scores a point when the opposing team fails to return the ball properly.
Tips for Playing Pickleball with Kids
Start with the Right Gear
Before getting on the court:
- Ensure that you have suitable pickleball paddles for your kids.
- Opt for lightweight paddles designed for beginners, which will be easier for them to handle. You can find junior-sized paddles that are perfect for kids.
- As for the ball, use a softer, slower ball, which is easier to control and less likely to cause injury.
Practice using the paddles and Pickleball balls in your driveway to help your kids get comfortable with their new gear. Pro tip: remember to check your local re-sale sports shops for your Pickleball necessities. They often have lower prices and more options to choose from.
Choose the Right Court
Select a court that is appropriate for beginners. If your local community has designated pickleball courts (or badminton courts), that’s perfect. Otherwise, you can set up a makeshift court in your driveway or backyard, marking the boundaries with chalk or masking tape.
Teach the Fundamentals
Spend time teaching your kids the basic rules of pickleball, such as serving, scoring, and proper court positioning. Keep the explanations simple and allow them to practice before diving into a game.
To make learning pickleball fun for your kids, consider starting with mini-games that focus on specific skills. For example, play a game where the goal is to rally back and forth without letting the ball touch the ground. Gradually introduce more advanced skills like forehand and backhand shots.
Safety should always be a priority. Make sure your kids understand the importance of wearing appropriate footwear and using sunscreen to protect their skin. While pickleball is generally a low-impact sport, minor injuries can occur, so be prepared with basic first-aid supplies.
Create a Friendly Competition
Pickleball is a competitive sport, but it’s important to focus on fun when playing with your kids. Encourage friendly competition, but always emphasize good sportsmanship and respect for opponents.
Pickleball is a game of skill, and it might take some time for your kids to become proficient. Be patient and provide constructive feedback as they improve. Celebrate their successes and encourage them to keep trying, even when they make mistakes. Also, make a big deal every time they score a point or remember a rule. Positive reinforcement goes a long way when teaching your children new sports or activities.
Make it a Family Activity
Pickleball is an ideal family activity, and it’s even more enjoyable when the entire family participates. Invite other family members, like grandparents, aunts, or uncles, for a friendly doubles match.
Remember that pickleball is about having fun. Enjoy the time spent with your kids, appreciate the opportunity to bond, and savor this active time with your family. Our family plays at least once a week, and we’ve even made friends with other families playing Pickleball with their kids, too. I highly recommend Pickleball and hope you give it a try!