What a four to five-year-old can do:
- Very little or no developed eye-foot coordination – concentrate on developing balance and basic striking technique
- Children of this age have a very low attention span. Encouraging enthusiasm is more important at this stage than any skill development
- Play with balls but has difficulty kicking, catching and throwing accurately
Cricket activities for children aged 4-7 years old
The following basic cricket skills should be included when introducing this age group to the game (Note: all activities below can practised in the garden at home or on the beach):
Include exercises involving an overarm throw, catching (high and low balls), receiving an oncoming rolling ball, chasing a hit ball and retrieving it as well as the long barrier method of fielding.
The basic action from stationary position to one where a short run up is included.
Practise the basic action with a stationary ball to one where the ball is rolled and then bowled to the player. Also include learning to run between the wickets.
The approach during this stage should be an unintimidating and positive fun one. It is essential to build the child’s self esteem here as this will determine whether the child continues with sport or not – remember to have realistic and age related expectations of the child. The activities below are age related. Remember to use a tennis ball at this stage.
The overarm throw – A child should stand side-on with tennis ball held in his/her best hand. Use a bunny eared grip on ball i.e. middle and fore fingers extended over the top of the ball. The front foot must be pointing at the target, while the back foot is square. The other hand points towards target and the child throws the ball at the target.
You could use a bucket as a target or you could paint a set of wickets on the garage door or on the garden wall in an unobtrusive spot. The child should stand at a distance of approximately five meters. The distance must increase as the child grows older. Also start teaching them to say “howzat” when wickets are hit – as they must learn to appeal to the umpire in the real game.
High balls – The child must out his/her thumbs together so that their hands form a “nest” in which the ball lands. Teach the child to get under ball, to squeeze it when it lands safely in their hands and to pull their hands down towards their stomach once the ball has been caught. With the younger ones, allow the ball to bounce before catching.
You could make this fun when there is a group of children by playing ”eggy”. Each child has a number and has to run forward and catch the ball when the adult throws it into air and calls the child’s number. Depending on their age, the adult can decide on how many bounces are allowed. To reinforce positivity and motivation, give them a letter each time they are successful. For example, instead of calling them “D O N K E Y” (a letter for each missed ball) rather let them work towards being called “J O N T Y”, a letter for each successful catch.
The adult rolls the ball towards child who “glues” his pinkies together to make a cage for the ball to roll into. The fingertips should touch the ground . The child moves so that he/she is in line with the oncoming ball, and bends down and scoops it up and then throws it overarm back to the coach.
Make a boundary of sorts, using a skipping rope or something similar. Challenge the child by encouraging him to reach and field the rolled ball before it crosses the boundary line. Should the ball cross the boundary before they field it, then you, the “batsman” gets 4 runs (this is game related).
Chasing and retrieving batted or rolled balls
The child stands next to the adult who is standing behind the wickets. The adult rolls the ball towards the boundary (see previous skill). The child chases after the ball, catches up with it and runs next to the ball, then bends down to allow the ball to roll into his cupped hand. He turns and throws the ball at the wickets using an overarm throw.
You could make this fun by introducing a scoring system.
How you can help
Throughout all activities, always ensure a balance between learning and fun.
For more ideas or information on a structured sports programme for young children aged 3- 9 years explore www.usaplayball.com