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How to Teach Young Children to Properly Hold a Bat

Updated on March 2, 2017

"An all-too-common problem early learners experience in hitting is their hands do not always remain together when gripping the bat and they lose power in their swing."

— Dr. Brad Kayden, Early Learning in Sports Development Expert

How to Hit a Baseball

Caterpillar Hands

Caterpillar Hands, the proper grip when holding a baseball bay and hitting.
Caterpillar Hands, the proper grip when holding a baseball bay and hitting. | Source

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Boy holding a baseball bat
Boy holding a baseball bat
Boy demonstrates Caterpilar Hands
Boy demonstrates Caterpilar Hands

Caterpillar Hands Overview

Hitting is an important part of baseball. One of the biggest problems with young hitters experience is they often fail at the grip or learning to keep their hands together on the bat.

Imagine for a minute, your young child stepping up to his first at-bat. It is the moment you have been most waiting for, the excitement of this opportunity for some of you has been building almost since their birth. Then they do so and low and behold their grip is all wrong. They are holding the bat with their hands apart. As your child's #1 fan, your mind darts immediately into fix-it mode. "Put your hands together," you yell!

It is a teachable moment we often overlook working with them on in the backyard. It is something, even if we do teach, that is easy for a young child to forget.

Kids love to use baseball bats, but doesn't just come naturally, some guidance is necessary. Hand placement on the bat matters and it just might be one of the easiest and most fun adjustments a child can make in baseball if they get it wrong. Teaching proper grip of the baseball bat doesn't have to be hard.

Our Caterpillar Hands technique puts your child in control to gives you the advantage of having a quick instructional cue that is fun and that they can connect with easily.

The following Do-it-Yourself (DIY) coaching script is designed to teach young children how to properly hold a baseball bat hit using Caterpillar Hands. It is a quick and easy lesson that can be taught anytime, anywhere because it does not require a bat. Caterpillar Hands should be taught and then reinforced every time an early learner practices hitting.

Caterpillar Hands

Important Note

Early learners won't always perfectly align their knuckles. It is O.K. Remember the purpose of this instruction is, first and foremost, to help them keep their fists together.

DIY Coaching Script

Teaching Time: 5 Minutes

Equipment: Plastic bat (optional)

Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy

Steps: 3

Ages Appropriate for: 2.5 years +

Keywords: hitting, baseball, batting, caterpillar, hands

Step One

DIY Coach: Show me a fist (extend yours out) Make another fist (again showing them). Then stack one fist on top of the other. (Again showing how it is done)

DIY Coach: (Be excited) Do you know what animal you just created? (don't rush this, let them anticipate the answer) A CATERPILLAR!


Step Two

Help your child align all his knuckles. As you see their stacked fists, there will be four knuckles on one fist and four knuckles on the other. Getting down on their level, use your index finger but very much count with your eyes because they cannot see your finger. Start at the top knuckle and begin.

DIY Coach: Count,"1-2-3-4" and then on the other hand "5-6-7-8". Celebrate with them saying, "You did it, you've created a caterpillar."

Seed what your child has learned by making your own caterpillar with your fist and knuckles and having your early learner count Mom or Dad's caterpillar segments. Children absolutely love doing this. Even if they don't count the caterpillar's segments correctly, the idea is that they are learning structure, and building understanding that their fists need to stay together.

Step Three

DIY Coach: Show the children your fists together. Tell them, "When our fists are together the caterpillar is fixed." Step three is to show children how to separate their fists, essentially break the caterpillar. You will actually say, "Break it!" as you do it. It is best to overemphasize the movement by putting one fist below your belly button and the other over your head. Then give the instruction, say "Fix it!" and put your fists back together. Repeat 6-10 times for best results.

Spend some time having fun breaking and fixing your caterpillars. Again this seeds the learning nicely and allows them to retain it so later they can respond automatically when asked to fix their caterpillar.

Review and Knowledge Check

Finally, ask them the obvious question. So, what animal do we make when we hold a baseball bat? The answer, Caterpillars! Show me with your hands.

If you follow these three easy steps with your early learner, he will quickly and easily begin to understand the value of keeping his fists together and learning how to effectively grip a baseball bat.


Instructional Reminders

  • Have patience. Introduce baseball a few steps at a time when teaching young children. Remember children learn best by doing.
  • Have fun. Try to teach without using the word "no." Great coaches are birdies on the shoulders guiding players, not bulldozers.
  • Use verbal cues. Try to use a hands off approach when coaching. Easy phrases like "catepillars" children understand, they can remember and they will be empowered by to make simple self-adjustments in their techniques. Good verbal cues are qualities of great coaching.
  • Inspire children through praise. Enable a child's own ability to find value in self-improvement.
  • Focus on the small wins. The perfect swing does not exist. Young children get better when they have fun.

3-step hitting instruction:  Caterpillar, Chicken Wing, Swing
3-step hitting instruction: Caterpillar, Chicken Wing, Swing | Source

Non-Competitive Engineering

Caterpillar Hands is anything but a traditional term in baseball. But gripping the baseball bat is. As a parent, teacher or coach, it is necessary to teach use more age-appropriate baseball terminology children can better understand and remember. This has required getting creative and seeing instruction the ways young children like to think about things. This type of engineering of sports is makes sports more accessible for young children. It makes them happier playing it because they don't just play it, they are able to actually think about. As such, when they get older they will be more apt to being able to make the split second adjustments that will be required of them as we did when we told them to "Create your caterpillars!" "Break it!" and "Fix it!"

Dr. Kayden Bradley
Dr. Kayden Bradley | Source

Early Learning Best Practices

Best practices are proven strategies. Early learning in sport best practices are new. They require our education if we expect to win at teaching our young children sports. You must learn how to adapt sports to fit early learners. Unfortunately, it isn't something you can Google, making this type of resource something you'll want to be a FOLLOWER of to get all the latest updates on teaching early learners in sports.

Use of a Plastic Bat

Young children should learn the finer points of hitting without the distraction of their physical limitations. The heavier little league, aluminum or wood, baseball bats should be used to mix things up but best practices suggest the use of a plastic bat. Early learners are naturally immature and have limited attention spans. The ability to diversify instruction is important but so is minimizing young children's physical limitations and the distractions caused by them.

Conclusion

Since physical limitations are a natural part of the maturing process, they must be accounted for when you plan to work with early learners in sport. The fact is young children's bodies can develop at dramatically different rates. This means there can be as much as a two year difference in development (plus or minus) between two early learners in sport of the same age. It is why you might see one four-year old tirelessly hitting in a machine-like fashion, while another tires quickly and appears to struggle not long after beginning.

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    • profile image

      increase vertical 8 years ago

      I was still wondering at your info's ideas..Thanks for sharing the ideas..Its really a pertinent info..Thanks for the great Hub!Such a cool and nice to glance up this site

    • profile image

      Melissa Gough 7 years ago

      Would love more info on your program! Please email melissa@funfit.hk!

      Best, Melissa

    • profile image

      francisco  7 years ago

      tryiung to coach my 5 year old is hard could figure out how to explain to hold the bat awesome idea would love more info lhoustonf@yahoo.com

    • profile image

      Greg. 6 years ago

      Great advice, wish me luck.

    • profile image

      Coach Michael 6 years ago

      Good info. Teaching cues do work best. I will try the catepillar. I use other cues to remind the players to align feet with plate, make sure they have plate coverage with the bat, and to load (shift weight back before swinging).

    • profile image

      Brent Viger 5 years ago

      I am really struggling with getting my 6 year old to hit a ball. Would like more info on your program. My email address is bvigs7421@gmail.com

      Thanks!!

    • Coach_Pickles profile image
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      Dr Brad Kayden 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for the comments. Several requests for more information. Stay tune for more posts. Please refer to our website at www.jellybeansports.com.

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