Imagine two different learning environments, one being a colorful area full of pictures, learning toys, various stations that allow for choice and equipment of different sizes and then the other being a stoic area of rows of the same desks with minimal visual aids and more of a verbal learning setting. Can you guess which one might be more suited for a child versus an adult?
If you guessed the colorful setting full of visual tools in different sizes that might imitate a pre-school or elementary school, you guessed correctly! The challenge with golf is that most learning settings have been arranged in an adult-fashion as if instructing an adult. But that’s not how kids learn, and even that varies by their developmental age. Below are some ideas on how to set up a great learning environment for kids based on approximate ages based on their development and fun ways to get them and keep them engaged in golf!
Children up to age 2
Children at this stage
• learn by exploring with their hands and mouth • play in parallel with another child but not with that child • cry and shut eyes when a need is not met • giggle or smile when they want more of something • like active exploration • learn to start saying “NO!” • short attention span • temper tantrums • separation anxiety (often acute) • imitate adults
What to expect in golf with students age 2, children
• may put golf equipment into mouths • may disassemble golf stations and move equipment • may grab clubs and bang around clumsily without precise motor control • may move a golf ball to the edge of the hole and just rake or drop it in • can make a motion that resembles a swing • may not want to do what an adult wants them to do • will deliberately throw/drop equipment and watch it fall (start of cause and effect)
How to work with age 2 students
• use colorful plastic golf balls • use light clubs like Littlest Golfer First Set with molded grips • use big tees like SNAG Launchpads or BirTees • make up a golf song or rhyme • teach from your hands and knees, squatting or kneeling at their height (if able) • teach through games and with music • have safety stations (hula hoops) • organize in small group settings with an adult helper present for each student • start for just 15-30 minutes • keep things visual and concrete (not as verbal) • use footprints for them to stand on
Children ages 3 to 5
Children at this stage
• like imaginary play and can understand simple counting • like being read to aloud • are frustrated with wanting to do something physically and not being able to do it yet • increase interaction with other children • like fantasy play and imagination (and sometimes can’t distinguish between the two) • start dealing with conflict and problem solving (still emotionally) • may have wild tantrums or meltdowns in dealing with emotions • may do things wrong on purpose
What to expect in golf with students ages 3-5
• play golf games that deal with simple numbers and colors • can draw basic golf scenes • may get angry when told how to do something or being positioned physically by someone instead of doing it themselves • can be very chatty during class (build in extra time for chatting) • like to tell stories about very irrelevant things • love praise • can be easily frustrated • short attention span • will probably not understand others’ points of view (egocentric) • will exaggerate
How to work with students ages 3-5
• play games out of Stick to Sports: Let’s Play Golf activity book • use interesting golf balls with designs • use light clubs like The Littlest Golfer First Set and US Kids Club based on strength • warm-up with the Stretching Zoo (imitate animal sounds and movements) or an obstacle course • have them express themselves with coloring (dry erase board or crayons on paper) or Play-Doh or Finger Paint, all child-safe • don’t focus on mistakes but reinforce the goal with excitement • check on potty breaks before and during class • use rhymes like “1-2-Show My Shoe” and check for bubble gum on the back shoe in follow-through • don’t worry about being technically perfect or correct at this stage • make in non-competitive • BE SILLY! • keeping learning visual and concrete (not verbal)
Children ages 6-9
Children at this stage
• understand time more effectively • like to move (are restless and wiggle) • practice balancing on various items • may have more conflicts with peers • can be argumentative when they lose • can be hard on younger siblings • are self-centered • may pout or worry and can have their feelings easily hurt (maybe someone “did it on purpose” and they feel victimized) • begin to learn mastery and competence • can have a period of industriousness and focus
What to expect in golf at ages 6-9
• incorporate math into their games (score, addition, subtraction) • engage in more advanced functional movement and motor skill activities • become concerned with fairness in golf games • spend time or pair up with a friend in class • demonstrate better balance at set-up and finish • engage in more competitive games • love doing things by oneself • start comparing self with others (lowers self-esteem if comparing self to more advanced skill children) • enjoy keeping personal bests and records
How to work with students ages 6-9
• start with SNAG and U.S. Kids Golf equipment • use suitable functional sport specific skill and movement skill activities • review core life skills like honesty, sportsmanship, sharing and integrity in teachable moments • mix various golf, fitness, rule, etiquette, terminology and play education into lessons • provide children with simple goals that can be accomplished • emphasize personal goals versus comparing goals to other children • provide observation and imitating (not detailed verbal explanations) • incorporate lots of movement (constant movement at this age) • group with similar ability • avoid heavy competition, make it more team-oriented
Here are some good resources to find out more about creating fun golf experiences for kids of all ages.
- Patricia Donnelly, Ph.D. Eat Think Win! www.patriciadonnellyphd.com
As Head Teaching Professional at The Landings Club in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, Nicole Weller is a member of the LPGA T&CP, PGA of America and Proponent Group. She has served on the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf of Savannah Board, two terms on the PGA National Youth Player Development Committee (currently 2017-2019), PGA Special Awards Committee, is a co-author of the LPGA Girls Golf Playbook and is a proud partner with both Little Linksters and The Littlest Golfer (staff ambassador).
Nicole is a U.S. Kids Master Kids Teacher and is certified with U.S. Kids Golf and Spirit of Golf. She was given the prestigious honor of being the first professional to receive both the 2013 PGA and LPGA National Junior Golf Leader awards in the same year and was listed on the 2017 LPGA / Women’s Golf Journal Inaugural LPGA Top 50 Teachers List.