Tennis is fun and exhilarating pastime that children enjoy. It is a particularly good sport for children as it simultaneously improves their physical fitness, hand-eye coordination, speed, and strength.
Encouraging children to play tennis also helps them make new friends and spend more time outdoors.
To help your child make the most of their tennis, it is important that they own a high-quality tennis racquet. Their tennis racquet should be appropriate for their grip size, height, and playing style.
It should also be durable enough so it can handle being dropped by your child — which will happen a lot if they are new to the game.
This guide is going to share all of the information you need to know when choosing a tennis racquet for your child.
Let’s get started!
When should you buy a tennis racquet for your child?
One of the many great things about tennis is that children can start playing at a very young age. A child as young as two years-of-age can swing a paddle around and hit a ball. In fact, toddlers love the excitement of hitting a tennis ball with a paddle and it quickly becomes one of their favorite games.
If you want to get your toddler into tennis, you can buy them a lightweight plastic paddle or an ultra-light tennis racquet designed for small children.
The smallest tennis racquets have an all plastic design and are extremely lightweight, so they are safe for young children to use. Combine this racquet with a tennis ball on a string. They will love hitting the ball and watching it spin around!
If you have an older child, you should consider buying them a racquet once they have shown a clear interest in tennis. If they already play more than 4 games a month, then a tennis racquet would be a great investment that would help them enjoy the game even more.
It’s important to realize that giving your child one of your old racquets to use is usually not a good idea. In most cases, the grip size will be wrong for their hands and the racquet will be too heavy. This could make playing a frustrating experience for your child. They will enjoy the game much more if they have a racquet that is suitable for their body size.
If your child is still very young, it is usually better to purchase an inexpensive racquet initially. That’s because a three or four-year-old doesn’t have particularly good hand-eye coordination. They are likely to drop the racquet frequently and it will get damaged.
By the time your child is five, you can invest in a more expensive racquet. They will be developing their fine motor skills and can already become quite skilled at tennis at this age.
Considerations to keep in mind when choosing a child’s tennis racquet
The key considerations to keep in mind when choosing a tennis racquet for your child include:
1) Find the correct grip size for your child’s hands
Finding a racquet with the correct grip size for your child’s hand is crucial. Having the right grip size will ensure that your child can:
- Maintain control of the racquet when playing shots
- Feel comfortable while on the court
- Avoid dropping the racquet
- Avoid injuries to their wrist or elbow
The tennis racquet’s grip size is the perimeter of the handle’s octagonal cross-section. In other words, how thick the handle is when measuring from the outside. Finding the right grip size for your child is fairly simple. Start by measuring from the middle line on your child’s palm to the top of their middle finger. That will usually be the correct grip size for your child.
Most tennis racquets have grips that range in size from 4″ (101.6 mm) to 4¾″ (123 mm). Children can usually be comfortable with a 4″ grip. However, if your child is below 10 years of age, or has small hands, they may require a grip that is between 3⅝″ to 3⅞″ inches.
In Europe, adult tennis racquets use the sizes 0 through 6. We’ve included a chart below so you can compare US/EU sizes. Most junior tennis players (12 to 18) will use a racquet with a grip size of 1 or 2.
|Sizes in Millimeters
For children, tennis racquet grip sizes are often less standardized and they may not feature a number that tells you the grip size.
You may have to measure your child’s hand and manually measure the racquet. Here are a few additional tips for choosing the right grip size for your child:
- Check the butt cap for size first
Tennis racquets will often show the grip size on the butt cap at the end of the handle. This will immediately give you an idea of how suitable the racquet is for your child.
- Use the finger test
To double check the size of the grip, have your child hold the racquet in their dominant hand using a basic tennis grip. Then have them place the index finger from their other hand between the fingertips of their racquet-holding hand and the base of their palm. If there isn’t enough room to squeeze their finger in, the racquet’s grip is too small. If there is plenty of space around your child’s finger, the grip is too large.
- Choose the smaller grip when in doubt
If there are two different grips that you are stuck between (both are in the “acceptable” size range), choose the racquet with the smaller grip. You can always add an overgrip to the handle later to make it larger. An overgrip typically adds about 1/16” of an inch to the grip’s size.
- Avoid handles that are much too small
Avoid handles that are way too small because they will force your child to constantly squeeze their hand — leading to fatigue in their hands, wrist and elbow. A poor racquet choice can even cause injuries like tendonitis. If your child has owned a tennis racquet for a long time, check that their grip size is still correct.
- Avoid handles that are much too big
Avoid handles that are too large because they will make it difficult for your child to move their wrist and will require much more strength to use (making tennis a difficult game for your child).
- Look for a full range of motion
When your child is using the racquet, make sure they can easily swing the racquet with a full range of motion. Ask them if the racquet allows them to move easily or they feel constrained.
2. Consider the racquet’s length
The racquet’s length is the measurement from the handle base through to the top of the racquet head. The appropriate length of the racquet is usually based on how tall your child is. The following chart is accurate for most children:
|4 years or younger
|< 40 inches (100 cms)
|40-44 inches (101-110 cms)
|45-49 inches (114-124 cms)
|50-55 inches (127-139 cms)
|10 years or older
|> 55 inches (139 cm)
Some teenagers will begin using an adult racquet in their early teen years, which will usually be 27 to 20 inches (68.6 to 71.1cm) in length. There are also 29-inch racquets available for extremely tall players.
Longer racquets give the player more leverage, which helps them push more power into each shot. The downside of using a long racquet is that they are less maneuverable and can be difficult to aim.
There is a simple technique that you can use to test the length of a tennis racquet for your child. Have them stand as straight as possible, then place the tennis racquet next to them, with its head on the ground and handle facing the sky.
Have your child place the palm of their hand on the butt of the racquet, like they are using it for a walking stick. They should be able to comfortably reach the butt of the racquet with the palm of their hand. If the child has to bend their arm because the butt is too high or bend at the waist because it is too low, you might want to try another racquet size.
3) Choose the right racquet head size
The design of the average tennis racquet has changed substantially over the past few decades. There are now many options when it comes to the size of the tennis racquet head. For adult racquets they are categorized as follows:
- Midsize heads 80-94 square inches
- Midplus heads 95-105 square inches
- Oversize heads 110-115 square inches
- Super oversize heads 116-135 square inches
The racquet head sizes of Children’s racquets typically begin around 60-80 square inches and go up from there.
The main advantages of having a larger head on a child’s racquet is that the sweet spot of the racquet will be larger. There is also a higher chance of your child landing each shot and a racquet with a larger head can generate more power. Larger heads can be very useful for children, as they make it easier to get started on the tennis court.
Skilled tennis players tend to use midplus or midsize racquets. They are highly accurate players, so they don’t require a larger sweet spot and they already have plenty of power in their shots. By the time your child is a teenager, they may be able to move to a smaller racquet head size.
4) Consider the racquet’s weight
The racquet’s overall weight can be an important factor when choosing a tennis racquet for a child. Usually, it is best to opt for a lightweight racquet as it will allow the child to use it more easily.
If your child is serious about tennis and already starting to become a highly skilled player, you should also consider the weight distribution of the racquet. Some racquets will have a heavy head, which allows the player to generate more power. Others will have a light head, which allows for more control. A racquet with a balanced head will offer a mixture of power and control. You should ask your child which racquet type they prefer for their play style.
5) Consider the racquet’s materials
The most common materials used to make tennis racquets include:
Graphite is a very lightweight material that is made from carbon. It is a fairly durable and stiff material that can help the player put a lot of power into the ball. Many graphite frames are “composite frames”, which use a combination of graphite and other materials.
Composite frames often use kevlar, titanium, tungsten, copper and fiberglass in conjunction with graphite. These materials will change how the frame handles and where weight is distributed across the racquet. Composite frames tend to have less vibration when hitting the ball compared to pure graphite frames.
Boron, Kevlar and Carbon Fibre are even lighter and stiffer than graphite. The main downside is that the additional stiffness in the racquet can make them harder to use for novice players. Their stiffness can also make them more tiring to use.
Aluminum frames are strong and cheap. They are light, but not as light as graphite, boron or kevlar. Most aluminum frames are tubular or hollow to reduce the weight of the racquet.
The shape of the racquet and the thickness of the frame will determine how durable it is. However, most aluminum racquets can really take a beating and are still usable even if the frame is slightly dented.
Aluminum offers the player a moderate level of power and feel. There is more flex in an aluminum racquet compared to other materials and they are heavier than graphite, Kevlar, boron, or carbon fiber racquets.
Which one to use?
If you are purchasing a racquet for a child who is very young, aluminum is usually the best choice. It is a tough material that will survive being dropped on a tennis court again and again. The paint may come off but the racquet will retain its shape well.
If your child is a little older or a more experienced player, a graphite racquet will usually work well. Your child will find it easier to use because it is lighter and they will be able to achieve more power with each hit.
Most children would find a Boron, Kevlar, or Carbon Fibre hard to use because they are such stiff materials. They are very unforgiving to mistakes made by the player. However, if you have a teenage child who is a keen tennis player, they might enjoy a racquet made from these materials.
6) Consider trying a few out
If you are still unsure about which racquet to purchase for your child, ask other people for advice. Other parents who have children that play tennis regularly would probably know a lot about tennis racquets and be able to suggest some models. They could also let your child use their child’s racquet for a couple of games to see how it feels.
Local tennis coaches would also be able to give you a number of suggestions and they might have some children’s racquets available to try out. If your child has friends who play tennis, see if they can test their racquets out also.
7) Consider your budget
Your budget will also be a major factor when choosing a tennis racquet for your child. The best idea is to spend an amount of money that is appropriate for your child’s:
Are they 4 or 5 years old? There isn’t much point spending a lot of money, because your child is still developing basic hand-eye coordination.
- Commitment to tennis
Do they play every day? Are they interested in participating in competitions? Considering spending a little extra money on a high-quality racquet.
- Skill level
Is your child clearly talented or are they struggling with the basics? If they are a natural, spend a little more.
Tennis is a rewarding game that can be played for many years. Choosing a high-quality tennis racquet won’t just keep your child happy, it may encourage them to remain fit and healthy into adulthood, make more friends, and enjoy an expanded social network. By taking the time to find a racquet that your child will enjoy using, you will help them enjoy this terrific sport.