How to Teach Young Children Proper Bat Control

"It is possible to teach young children how to hit a baseball but as with many sports skills, it requires sports instruction that is often modified and games competitively engineered to accommodate the limitations of early learner's natural immaturity."

— Dr. Kayden Bradley, Co-Founder Jelly Bean Sports, Inc.

Early Learner vs. Older Children

Early Learner (Ages 2-5 yrs)
Older Children (Ages 6 yrs +)
Modified sports instructional approaches
Traditional sports instructional approaches
Many physical, mental and emotional limitations
Lesser physical, mental and emotional limitations
Largely non-competitive sports offerings
Both non-compeitive & competitive sports offerings
Some parent-assisted learning
Mostly independent learning


Young children, ages 2-5, or early learners in sport as they have recently been defined in sports research are, as they have been for generations, an anomaly of sport. We know very little about them, and while many possess an interest in playing sports, they don't possess the physical, mental or emotional abilities to play competitive sports as we typically think of them. Nonetheless, young children are still being taught sports and as a result they have gained a the reputation of being:

  • unsportsmanlike
  • uncoachable
  • unfocused
  • unmotivated

For us, as parents, teachers and coaches, it is not hard to find sports instructional resources online. There are plenty discussing how to teach the fundamentals of sports like baseball and its more specific skills like hitting to older children, ages 6 years and older. Unfortunately, when it comes to baseball resources that are supposed to tell you on how you teach young children to hit a baseball, they do not exist and if they do they are often rather vague and non-descriptive in their differentiating between traditional coaching techniques for older children and those designed for early learners.

Instructional Modifications

Teaching early learners in sports using traditional coaching methods designed for older children have been ineffective and led young children being given their bad reputations. It is possible to teach young children how to hit a baseball and other sports skills but it requires sports instruction that is modified and games that are competitively engineered to accommodate the many limitations working against young children. In many cases, these adjustments force us to breakdown sports into finer components than we've ever seen before. Early learning in sports, in this way, becomes a learning process just as much for adults as it does for children.

It is exponential difference in the effectiveness between these modified and competitively engineered instructional methods and practices versus the the more traditional ones that should have you slowly building a respect for them. Although non-traditional in their approaches, they align with coaching benchmarks related to the athletic talent development process, winning and sports success that finds sport is supposed to build children's:

  • love of the game
  • positive attitude, and
  • coachability

I will caution you ahead of time, it looks very different from the traditional ways we teach older children but when you see the results and how much young children buy into the modified approaches we use to work with them, it should become very clear that it works and that we, as parents, teachers and coaches need to be open to more using these modified methods, especially, when teaching early learners.

"Young children's bodies develop at dramatically different rates. There can be as much as a two year difference in development (plus or minus) between two early learners of the same age."

— Dr. Brad Kayden, Early Learning in Sport Expert

Young Children's Physical Limitations Inside Hitting

Often physical limitation can prevent early learners from being able to exercise proper bat control.Many struggle when they try to exercise proper bat control or management of the weight of a little league-sized aluminum or wood baseball bat for extended periods of time.

As young children weaken inside our trying to teach them the hitting process, you will see the baseball bat:

  • begin to droop and
  • when overextended and tired, the bat eventually gets dragged on the ground or
  • it is placed upon the shoulder

often to never leave before the swing occurs. This, as any baseball purist will tell you, is improper form. But as an expert on early learning in sport who has spent the better part of the last decade studying thousands of early learners, I will tell you that this sort of thing is:

  • neither bad form,
  • unsportsmanlike nor
  • weak.

It is, for the majority of young children, a perfectly normal part of the developmental process. There are ways to overcome it and that is what this blog post intends to focus on.

The maturing process children go through 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 too quickly and appears to struggle at every point to maintain bat control.


Use of Learning Aids

Early learning in sport teachings generally require the reliance upon fun and age-appropriate learning aids like plastic bats, bubbles, noodles, cones, dots, parachutes and more. The advantage the early learning coach receives from the use of these tools is that young children come into the learning environment already familiar with them. These tools inspire children, they get young children excited.

When these gentle teachings are combined with positive reinforcement and an abundance of encouragement the early learning coaching process works to develop:

  • a passion for the game,
  • positive attitude and
  • children's coachabilty.


Teaching Time: 4 Minutes

Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy

Ages Appropriate for: 3 years +

Bat Control Script

Early learners, as they get older are able to understand and retain more. At about age four, it becomes possible to adapt instructional strategies in ways that will accommodate their eventual transition into higher levels of sport. Adapted instruction, contrary to what some might think, exists not to dumb sports down for early learners but to accommodate physical limitations, help in the translations of complex sports processes and create more fluidity in practice to build confidence and a love of the game.

This is an early learning script to teach bat control. While it can begin to be taught to children age three, it works better for more mature early learners to teach young children how to hit a baseball and exercise bat control.


Parent Coach: Where does the rain from?

Children: Clouds.

Parent Coach: Where are clouds, (pointing up) high in the sky or (pointing down) low in the snow?

Children: High to the sky.


Parent Coach: And what do we use to hit a baseball?

Children: A baseball bat.

Parent Coach: Where is the top of the bat? Let child locate it. You can cognitively challenge them by pointing and saying, "Is it here (bottom of bat)? Let children locate it and communicate where it is to you. Give them a voice.

Note: Have patience --The more you allow children to do the work, the more invested the they will be in the learning process and your coaching.

Parent Coach:That's right. And where do we hold a baseball bat? Again, let the child locate it. They will often point and not know what the handle is called. This is called the handle, can you say, handle? It is the handle of the baseball bat.

Parent Coach: (Distribute plastic baseball bats to Moms or Dads) When you are ready, have them hold the baseball bat like you are, by having it point high-to-the-sky.

Parent Coach: (Pointing your bat upward) Ask, is the bat high-to-the-sky or low-to-the-snow?

Test Moving the Bat: Bat down. Ready, Bat high-to-the-sky. Repeat this up and down motion up to 5x's then add this bat control lesson to hitting from the tee.


Parent Coach Review: So where does our baseball bat point when we hit?

Children: High-to-the-sky.

Instructional Reminders

Instructional Reminders

  • Have patience. Introduce new baseball lessons 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 "high-to-the-sky" children understand, they can remember and they will be empowered by to make simple self-adjustments in their technique. Good verbal cues are qualities of great coaching.
  • Inspire children through praise. Enable a child's own ability to find value in self-improvement by praising their efforts. Ask more questions they can answer and praise them when they answer correctly.
  • Focus on the small wins. The perfect swing does not exist. Young children get better when they have fun.

Good luck and enjoy yourself,

~Dr. Brad Kayden "Coach Pickles"

© 2008 Dr Bradley Kayden

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Comments 1 comment

rookssj profile image

rookssj 7 years ago from Roswell, GA

Great how to article and I (as a coach) agree that when they have fun and they learn something small it should be classified as a win.

Good job well written.

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