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Teach Young Children How to Control a Baseball Bat

Updated on March 5, 2017

"Instruction of needs to be modified, as does the sports equipment, when working with early learners, children ages 2-5."

— Dr Brad Kayden - Early Learning in Sports Development Expert

How to Hit a Baseball

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


As a parent, teacher or coach, it can be hard to find instructional resources online or anywhere that are tailored to meet the needs of the young children. There is plenty of coaching resource, of course, that exists, but few, if any, take the time to discuss things like how to teach young children how to control a baseball bat. After a while, we just come to taking it for granted that an older child just knows how to control a baseball bat.

Early learners in sport, young children ages 2-5, as they have been defined in research, have for generations been an anomaly of sport. We really know very little about them. And while many possess an interest in playing sports, it is their immaturity that holds their development back. They lack the physical, mental or emotional capabilities necessary to play competitive sports. As a result, they have gained a reputation for being:

  • unsportsmanlike
  • uncoachable
  • unfocused
  • unmotivated

Instructional Modifications

Teaching early learners in sports using traditional coaching methods designed for older children have been ineffective and led young children to gain their unfavorable reputations.

It is possible to teach young children bat control and other sports skills but it often requires modifying sports instruction. These modifications are little more than simple adjustments that make the context of what we are teaching more relative to young minds. They are instructional modifications that support other modifications that are being made in sports.

Supported by sports research, we have begun competitively engineering sports to more accommodate young children. In the case of tennis, it is smaller courts, in the case of basketball, lower baskets, and in the case of soccer, it is shorter fields. Rules, as well, are being adjusted to better accommodate young children (e.g. youth basketball referees don't call ever travel).

It is these instructional and other ways of competitive engineering sports modifications that are changing young children's sports experiences for the better.

Although non-traditional, the modification and competitive engineering of sports helps young children feel more connected to the sports experience while also helping them build a:

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


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.

"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 Development Expert

Young Children's Physical Limitations Inside Hitting

Often physical limitation can prevent early learners from being able to exercise proper bat control. Many young children will struggle with the weight of a little league-sized aluminum or wood baseball bat. They lack the strength to hold it for extended periods of time.

As young children's strength weakens inside your trying to teach them how to hit a baseball, you will see them lose control of the baseball bat. The bat will:

  • begin to droop backwards and
  • dropped to the ground or
  • placed upon the shoulder

A baseball purist would call this bad, unsportsmanlike or weak form. As an expert on early learning in sport that has spent over decade studying thousands of early learners, I will tell you that this sort of thing is normal.

It is this way for most young children and a perfectly normal part of the early learning in sport developmental process. There are ways to overcome it and that is what this blog post intends to focus on.

There is a factoid on early learning in sport development you might be interested in knowing. 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.

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 Brad Kayden


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    • rookssj profile image

      rookssj 8 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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