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If you are planning on, or have just introduced your child to tennis, then this article is a must-read—especially if you’re only familiar with traditional yellow tennis balls. Using the right tennis ball with your child can even be more impactful to their development than using the right racket.
If your child is young and in the early stages of tennis training, then it is crucial that they practice with kids’ foam tennis balls. Here’s why.
Soft Foam Tennis Balls Enhance the Tennis Development Cycle
You shouldn’t use professional-grade hard baseballs when coaching baseball to young children with undeveloped strength. It’s unwise to use full-size footballs when when coaching American football to toddlers with small hands. It’s exactly the same with junior tennis.
Hence, there are now specialized foam tennis balls specifically made for kids, in order to improve and quicken the learning process. These soft foam balls are extremely lightweight, and require very little effort to hit using full tennis strokes. Consequently, they are PERFECT for young children, especially beginners.
The USTA only introduced this scaled down concept in 2008, and we (coaches) are just beginning to see the massive benefits of using foam and other colored tennis balls for early training.
The most important feature of foam tennis balls is the fact that they are incredibly lightweight, even though the surface area is larger. This means your child doesn’t need to have developed muscles and coordination to hit complete forehands and backhands, making it much easier to learn the essential tennis techniques from a young age when instructional information is absorbed like a sponge.
As a parent, it’s natural to have safety concerns about any sport. Tennis tends to be on the safer side, but there’s always the risk of getting hit with a ball. Compared to standard yellow tennis balls, the foam version feels like a feather if you or your child are pelted. Less crying on the court is always a good thing.
Ball-tracking can be difficult from a young age when eye-hand-coordination is not close to being fully developed. The larger size of foam balls paired with their typical bright red and yellow color scheme makes tracking the ball all the way to the racket a much easier task.
Lastly, foam tennis balls for kids are tailored to bounce lower, so they can practice full strokes using proper technique without having to reach up and develop bad habits. Normal yellow balls naturally bounce way too high for the typical young player.
Of course, foam training tennis balls shouldn’t be used for all beginners. Age and skill level play a part to determining which tennis ball is right for your child. Let’s take a look at the recommended age range for foam tennis balls.
What Age Kids are Foam Tennis Balls Intended For?
Foam tennis balls are recommended for kids age 4-8. However, your child may be able to graduate to the next level of colored tennis balls sooner than age 8 if they develop their skills faster than average.
It’s important to note that they can be used by all ages as an early-stage introductory tool. For example, your Uncle Steve who’s never picked up a racket before, could use foam tennis balls to “slow the game down” and effectively help them develop proper coordination before using standard yellow tennis balls.
When your child is 7 or 8 years old, they can begin the transition from foam tennis balls to red-colored low pressure tennis balls. This is dependent on how far their skills have developed using foam training tennis balls.
Where to Buy Foam Tennis Balls for Beginners
Our top pick for kids foam tennis balls are the Penn QST 36 Tennis Balls. They are the best combination of quality, durability, and bang-for-the-buck. You can check the current price on Amazon here.
The Penn QST (QuickStart) foam balls are approved by the USTA for the 10 and under tennis program, though they are best used for 8 and under tennis. I have personally used this model all the time when coaching kids ages 4-8 on 36’x18′ sized courts.
Children’s Training Tennis Balls for Older Kids
By the time your child is 7 or 8, they can typically be practicing with red colored extremely low-pressure balls. After red balls have been mastered, the next step is orange colored fairly low pressure balls. Then comes green-dot semi low pressure balls, and finally standard yellow tennis balls.
To get the full scoop on which tennis balls should be used given your child’s age, read our full Kids’ Colored Tennis Ball Guide to find out which type of ball is the perfect fit.
More Specialized Junior Tennis Training Equipment
Using tailored, custom tennis balls for specific ages and skill levels has been proven to speed up development from a young age. In fact, there are numerous other tennis equipment types that NEED to be tailored to your child’s age and skill level in order to maximize learning and retention. These include kid’s rackets, portable tennis nets, and more. Read our full guides to determine which makes and models are the right fit for yourself and your children!