New Frontiers (Teaching ages 2–5)

New Frontiers: Teaching Golf and Life Skills to Ages 2–5 through Golf

There is a very big difference between how a child and adult learn a new concept. Youngsters ages 2–5 aren’t wired like adults, so teaching them like adults doesn’t work. In a teaching environment, parents and coaches should engage kids in a way that will best help them retain the information and get excited about learning through the simple concept of making it fun.

By offering play time you will allow kids to explore an idea as fully as possible. It is through play that kids will want to continue to learn. Telling a child what to do will stifle creativity and learning. Instead, allow them the chance to self-explore a concept. When a youth grasps a concept on their own, lasting learning and confident ownership takes place!

Most other sports have some kind of learning opportunity for very young children ages 2–5 (skiing, tennis, swimming, basketball, etc.). Golf has had a late arrival in understanding how to incorporate kid-friendly, effective coaching methods. While there are some very clever and respected coaches who have discovered the joys of conducting a successful early youth golf development program, not all coaches or even parents, are comfortable working with kids as young as 2 to 5 years old. I would like to share a few tips and tricks that I have learned over the years that I have found to be most helpful when working with kids ages 2–5. They can be adopted by coaches and parents, alike!

· Aim your teaching style to help develop a child in all aspects, not just golf. Lessons should definitely include activities that help teach the physical aspects of golf like swing movement. But there is also a great opportunity to teach other life lessons including, intrapersonal skills — dealing with one’s own self and emotions and interpersonal skills — dealing with other people and social settings.

· Synergize your learning environment. Kids are great at expressing themselves and are comfortable doing so in activities that they have likely, already been exposed to such as music and art. These activities are good transitions to learning the not-so-comfortable golf skills. I use The Imagination Station to let them finger paint, make paper bag puppets, use Play-Doh and more while playing children’s music in the background.

· Scale everything, clubs, equipment even your teaching. It seems intuitive, but kids ages 2–5 are small and the adult sized world that surrounds them is big. Can you imagine taking a golf lesson from someone who is 3–5 feet taller than you right now? It may be overwhelming. Try getting on their eye-level when speaking to them by squatting down or sitting.

· Use colorful, child-safe and fun props to create engaging activities for them. This age group has very short attention spans, so make it easy on them! Use lightweight, oversized, foam or plastic golf balls to give kids a bigger, easier target to hit. Kids love this as it takes them by surprise.

By breaking the game down to smaller, bite-sized activities that use props, youth will be able to process their learning and continue to want more!

· Give your youngsters the proper attention they deserve. Young children in this age range require a lot of one-on-one coaching time. For group lessons and camps, I recommend a 1:1, adult to child ratio for kids ages 2–3 and 1:5, ages 4–5. I love having parent helpers who can assist me in teaching concepts and terminology on the course as well as when they are on their own or at home.

· Stay safe and be prepared! Safety is a number one priority, so it is of the utmost importance that youngsters are given boundaries and taught that while golf is a fun game, the clubs are not toys and so should be treated with care. At the same time, you should be prepared for anything to happen. Whether it is bringing Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, extra sunscreen or even a game or a toy for a child who finishes early and needs a breather, it pays to be prepared and gives your kids a more enjoyable experience.

For coaches, resources like Little Golf Train (www.littlegolftrain.com) and the U.S. Kids Golf Learning Program can help you develop lessons and teaching styles catered to youth. Working with this age group is rewarding to the facility and staff who teach youth programs, the parents who get to bond with their kids, but most importantly, the child now has a concept of golf through fun and games.

Please feel free to contact me with questions on how I’ve been able to work with this age group at nicole.weller@landingsclub.com.

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