Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Getting Started Playing Tennis

Here are my tips for children who are getting started playing tennis.

Equipment/Clothing Required

Clothing: Comfort is the main concern when selecting what to wear. Any sports clothes will work as long as you can move freely/easily.

Footwear: Any tennis shoes you are comfortable with. However, running shoes should be avoided as they don’t support the sudden changes in direction that you make while playing the game.

Racket: The tennis racket has definitely changed over the years. No more wood! Now, there are many styles available and all sorts of string types. When children are playing the game, you want to make sure the racket is a size appropriate for them. Many manufacturers make rackets specifically tailored to a child’s age and height. Guidelines are as follows:

AGE                         HEIGHT                  RACKET SIZE

5 yrs. or less            44” or less               19” or 21”

6-8 yrs.                     45”-49”                    23”

8-10 yrs.                   50”-55”                    25”

10 yrs. or older         55” or taller              26”

For adults, you want to make sure you are using a racket with the right grip size. To test: when you hold the handle, there should be a 1cm gap between your thumb and index finger. As far as the racket type and string type, try a few out. See what is comfortable for you. Oversize and heavier rackets typically provide more power while smaller heads tend to give more control.

The Ball: You probably never thought about this one before, huh? But, there are actually several different varieties. Here’s a good guide for what to use when starting out:

-Ages 4-6: Use foam tennis balls with high density foam
-Ages 6-8: Use low compression balls at 50%
-Ages 10 and older: Use low compression balls at 75%
-Adults: When learning, start off with a low compression ball and once comfortable, switch to a regular ball.

 Rules of the Game

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 1. Tennis is played on a rectangular court, 78 ft. long and 27 ft. wide (for singles) or 36 ft. wide (for doubles) with a net running across the center of the court.

2. The object of the game is to hit the ball over the net into your opponent’s court while keeping the ball within the margins of the court. You gain points each time your opponent is unable to return a ball that you landed within those guidelines.

3. Play can consist of one person on each side of the net (singles) or, a team of two people on each side of the net (doubles).

4. To start the game, a coin toss is performed. The winner of the coin toss can either decide to serve or, decide which side of the court to start on.

5. The serve takes place behind the baseline, starting at the right hand corner and alternating right side, then left side for each point. The ball is always served cross-court (diagonally) into the opponent’s service box. The score is announced prior to each ball served. The server’s feet must remain behind the baseline until the service is complete or they are subject to a foot fault. If a server hits the net and the ball bounces inside the service box, this is called a let and they are allowed to serve again. If the ball hits the net and bounces outside of the service box, that is a fault. Two faults and the opponent wins the point. In the case of a doubles game, service is shared by the two players of each team alternately and changed between the opposing team after every game (each player will serve every 4th game). The receiver may stand wherever they wish to return the serve. But, on the serve, the ball must bounce once. If it is returned without a bounce, then the server will receive the point. If a serve is good but the opponent fails to hit it, the server will receive the point (this is called an ace).

6. If the serve is good, play continues until a player fails to return the ball, the ball bounces twice or a player calls a ball “out”. The ball is allowed to hit any part of the baseline or sideline to be “in” during play, if the ball bounces outside of the baseline or sideline, the ball is “out”. The baseline is the line furthest back on each side of the court and the inner sideline is for singles with the outer sideline being for doubles.

7. The player who scores 4 points first wins, as long as there is a difference of two points in the score. Win 6 games to win a set.

8. Remember: Always respect your fellow players.

Learning a Good Grip

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The easiest grip for learning the forehand is the Eastern Forehand Grip. To use the Semi-Western Forehand Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad should rest on bevel 4. And, for the Western Forehand Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad reside on bevel 5.hand is the Eastern Forehand Grip. To execute this grip, pretend you are going to shake hands with the racket. You could also follow the illustration above and place your index knuckle and heel pad on bevel 3. Some other grips include the Continental Grip, the Semi-Western Forehand Grip and the Western Forehand Grip. For the Continental Grip, the index knuckle and heel pad should rest on bevel 2. This grip is popular for serving the b


Some players prefer to use two hands for their backhand. To execute a Two Handed Backhand Grip, the right hand will be at the bottom of the grip with the index knuckle at bevel 2 and the heel pad at bevel 1. The left hand will be higher on the grip and the index knuckle and heel pad will rest at bevel 7. An Eastern Backhand Grip is done by placing the index knuckle and heel pad at bevel 1.

How to Volley

The volley takes place near the net. It can be risky to come forward and leave the court behind you open. But, it can also mean a point for you if you do it right. You want to be in a ready position; facing forward, knees slightly bent and your racket held in front of you with both hands and your grip in place.

-Move your elbows forward so they are just in front of your body.
-When you see the ball coming, move your head and hands toward the ball.
-Do not swing at the ball but rather, the shot should be short and choppy.
-Use your wrist and forearm to bring the racket head down on the ball in a sharp action.
-Follow through in the direction you would like the ball to go.

Types of Tennis Shots

In addition to the volley, here are some tennis shots to get you started:

The Serve: This is the shot that starts the game. It is carried out by throwing the ball up in the air and hitting it at its peak height. Remember, your feet need to stay behind the baseline until the serve is complete. Start serving on the right hand side of the court and serve diagonally into the opponent’s service box.

The Lob: This is when you return a ball that goes very high in the air, usually out of reach of your opponent.

The Drop Shot: When your opponent is playing the baseline, you can try this trick. Hit the ball just enough to go over the net and bounce in. Your opponent rarely has time to get to the ball before it bounces twice. Be careful though, if the ball doesn’t make it over the net, you opponent wins the point.

The Backhand Shot: This is when you swing the racket from the opposite side of your strong hand. Some use two hands for this shot. The backhand is essential for when you can’t make it to the ball using your forehand.

The Forehand Shot: The easiest and what you will use the most. Just swing the racket away from your body on the same side in which you hold your racket. Always step into the shot and follow completely through with your swing.

Slice: A slice can be used when serving or during a forehand or backhand shot. A slice shot is hit by brushing underneath the tennis ball and creating backspin.


When starting the game, each player has 0 (referred to as LOVE).

1 point = 15
2 points = 30
3 points = 40
4 points = Game

If both players (or teams) reach 40 (and the score is tied), a deuce will take place. In order to win, a player or team must win both points consecutively. A deuce is served on the right hand side of the court. If the server wins the point, he or she then serves from the left hand side of the court and has advantage (ad-in). If he/she wins that point, they will win the game. But, if they lose the point it goes back to a deuce. This continues until the deuce and advantage points are both won by the same person/team.

SETS- A set is completed when one of the players wins 6 games by a margin of two or more games.

MATCHES- Matches are played in several different ways depending on the players and the setting. The best 2 out of 3 sets is the most common.

Games for Fun

Tennis is a great sport and provides exercise and excitement. But, the most important thing is to have fun. Tennis involves a lot of rules and regulations. Here are a couple of games that still have you learning about the game but are a little less rigid.

The Bucket Game: To set up, place 5 buckets on each side of the court. Players stand on the baseline. The first player tries to hit 20 balls into any of the buckets on the other side of the net. If a ball doesn’t make it over the net, the other player will add it to their ball count. The other player then does the same thing. After all balls are hit, each player collects the balls not in the buckets on his/her side of the net and tries again. Play continues until all balls are in the buckets. Whoever makes the most shots wins.

The School Game: Players start at the service line and try to serve into the service box. Once he/she gets three serves into both service boxes, the player will graduate from Kindergarten to Grade School. Now, do the same thing but 4 ft. from the service line (Grade School). Then, 12 ft. from the service line (High School). When a player is able to serve from behind the baseline, they have graduated!

Looking for some tennis camps? Here’s a few ideas.

Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Making Your Own Music

Brief History of Music

Music may very well have existed even before man. The first musical instrument was likely to have been a hollowed out stick that one could blow through to make sound. There are 6 major periods of Western Music:

Middle Ages (400-1400)- This period consisted of mostly chants and church music. Some greats included Hildegard and Machaut.

Renaissance (1400-1600)- Music became more sophisticated and a variety of different styles emerged. Some greats included Marcello and Monteverdi.

Baroque (1600-1750)- Music became even more complex with lots of experimentation with instruments and form. Some greats include Bach and Vivaldi.

Classical (1750-1800)- Music now follows well defined forms with the main form being the Sonata. Some greats include Beethoven and Mozart.

Romantic (1800-1900)- Music shifts to emotional and expressive as it tells a story. Some greats include Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

20th Century (1900-2000)- This period took on a rule of “no rules”. Lots of new styles and ideas. Some greats include Stravinsky and Bernstein.

The collaboration of all these periods makes up the roots of music. And, it keeps on growing and growing.

Making Your Own Music – Instruments



Supplies Needed:

-Empty and rinsed 20 oz. soda bottles
-Sand, dry beans, rice or small pebbles
-Low temp glue gun
-Decorations such as stickers, ribbon or yarn


1. Using the funnel, fill each bottle 1/3 full with your sand, beans, rice or pebbles. (You can easily make colored rice by mixing rice in a bowl with some food coloring)
2. Secure the lid on with the hot glue.
3. Decorate your maraca with ribbon, yarn, stickers, anything you like.
4. Shake!



Supplies Needed:

-Empty tin cans, various sizes (bottom end should be removed with can opener too)
-Leather laces
-Decorative fabric
-Low temp glue gun
-Large needle or hole punch
-Dowels (3/16” x 12”): 2 for each drumstick
-Spools (3/4” x 5/8”): 2 for each drumstick
-Piece of leather (large enough to cover both ends of your tin can)


1. Start by cutting your decorative fabric to fit around your can. Glue in place.

2. Next, place your can onto the leather and trace with a pen. Measure 1 inch from your traced circle and draw another circle. Repeat this process so you will have a covering for each end of your drum. Cut out your circles along the outside line.

3. Go around the outer circles and mark holes where you will string your laces through. Make sure not to get too close to the edge. Use a large needle or a hole punch to poke out your holes.

4. Run your lace through the holes like you are sewing and place over the top of your can. Cinch up tight and tie. Turn the drum over and repeat the process for the other end. String some laces diagonally from the top to the bottom of the drum if desired. Your drum is now complete!

5. For your drumsticks, put hot glue on one end of the dowel and poke into the spool. Set aside to dry. Repeat the process for your second drumstick. Once dry, you are ready to start drumming!

6. If your child can’t get enough, they can learn drumming at a number of locations!



Supplies Needed:

-Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
-Wax paper
-Rubber Bands


1. Decorate the tube by coloring designs with the markers.

2. Cut a piece of wax paper about 4” x 4”. Place the wax paper over one end of the tube and secure it tight with a rubber band.

3. With your scissors, poke a small hole in the tube near the end with the wax paper. (The hole should be no bigger than the end of a pencil)

4. Play your kazoo by blowing into the open end.


-You can play your maraca in several different ways. Shake it once per note, twice per note, play every note of the song or try every other. You can shake it in the air or shake it against the side of your leg.

-For your drums, try making different sounds depending on where and how hard you strike the drum. You can hit the drum once per beat, or a couple of times. Try some drum rolls too!

-For your kazoo, experiment making different tones by changing the form of your lips or changing how hard or light you breathe into your kazoo. Make distinct beats by saying “to” as you blow into the kazoo.

Song List

Familiar songs that everyone knows work the best and provide the most fun (and laughs). Consider some classics like:

-Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
-Yankee Doodle
-If You’re Happy And You Know It
-Mary Had A Little Lamb
-You Are My Sunshine
-Skip To My Lou
-When The Saints Go Marching In
-She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain

Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Crafty Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day originated in the Middle Ages and was named after Saint Valentine. There are varying opinions about the origins of Valentine’s Day (there were actually three saints named Valentine). But, today we have come to recognize February 14th as a day of love and romance. It is a day to show each other how much we care and to say thank you for being a part of my life! Here are some neat ideas to help celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family and friends.

Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards

Lollipop Heart Flowers.jpg

For a special treat this year, try making these Lollipop Heart Flowers. They are a card and a treat combined into one!

Supplies Needed:

Construction paper
Heart Template (included, just print!)
Bag of Dum Dum Lollipops
Elmer’s Glue
Hole Punch
Stickers (optional)
Glitter (optional)


1. Print out the heart template and cut out the heart shapes.

2. With a pencil, trace the hearts onto pink, red, white (or whatever color you desire) construction paper. Cut the hearts out with your scissors. You will need 4 hearts for each card. You can make all of the hearts the same color or mix and match.

3. Glue two hearts together at the pointy tips. Punch a hole into the center with your hole punch. Now, glue the other two petals over the top like a cross (be sure not to cover up your hole). This is your flower.

4. With the markers, write your message onto the petals. You could use To: and From:, Be Mine, 2 Good + 2 Be = 4 Gotten, You’re Sweet, anything you want to say! Add glitter or stickers if you desire.

5. The Dum Dum will be your stem. Dab on a generous amount of glue and insert a lollipop into the center hole.

6. Once dry, your card is ready to give to your Valentine!

Heart Garland Keepsake

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The whole family can get involved in this one. Remember that old t-shirt you just can’t part with? Do you have clothes the kids have out grown? How about old curtains with sentimental value? Now, you can make good use of those treasures! Keep them around in the form of this garland that will be sure to brighten up any room. This is a keepsake to enjoy for years to come.

Supplies Needed:

Old T-shirts, Curtains, Sheets, etc.
Light Cardboard (like a box pop comes in)
Hole Punch
Heart Templates (included, just print!)
Low Temp Glue Gun
Red Ribbon (optional)


1. Print out the heart templates – you can find them with a simple Google search. Cut the hearts out with your scissors. Tape them onto the cardboard, trace them and cut around them to make cardboard cutouts of the hearts. Punch two holes at the top of each side of the top of the hearts for stringing.

2. Use the heart cutouts to trace hearts onto all different kinds of fabric with the sharpie. You will need two pieces of fabric (the same size) for each heart that you make. Trace enough hearts so you can make 10-20 (2 sided).

3. Cut out all of the fabric hearts. Hot glue 2 pieces of the same size together for each heart. Trim edges as needed. Punch four holes at the top of each heart using your template as a guide. You may need to use your scissors to help poke the holes through depending on the thickness of the fabric

4. Use your twine to string all of the hearts together in any sequence you like. Note: If you take a piece of scotch tape and wrap it around the end of your twine, it will string through the hearts much easier. Tie red bows on each end of your garland if desired. Your garland is ready to hang up!

Valentine’s Day Centerpiece

Valentine's Day Centerpiece.jpg

Ever wonder what to do with all of those Valentines the kids get at school? Now you can display them on this cute Valentine’s Day tree.

Supplies Needed:

Assorted Branches
Hole Punch
School Valentines (or hearts cut from construction paper)
Gold or silver spray paint


1. Collect several assorted branches from outdoors or, purchase from a craft store. Spray the branches with either silver or gold paint.

2. Once dry, arrange the branches, tie a ribbon around them and place in the vase.

3. Punch holes into the top of your Valentine cards or cutout hearts. Cut several 6 inch pieces of yarn. String through your holes, tie a knot and hang the cards all around your tree.

 Homemade Valentine’s Day Sock Wreath

Homemade Sock Wreath.jpg

This wreath is a great welcome to visitors and most of the supplies to make it can be found at your local dollar store!

Supplies Needed:

10” or 12” Foam Wreath
Foam or Felt Pieces in pink and red
X and Y Templates (included, just print!)
4 Pairs of Valentine’s Day Tube Socks (or tube socks in pink, red, white, etc.)
Low Temp Glue Gun
Packing Tape


1. Print out the x and y templates onto cardstock or other heavy paper. Cut out the x and y templates with your scissors.

2. Cut the heels and toes off of your socks.

3. Cut the foam wreath in one spot in order to make a place to slide on your socks.

4. Gather your socks up and keep sliding socks on until your wreath is full. Tape your wreath back together with the packing tape and spread the socks all around evenly.

5. Use your x and y templates to trace and cut out shapes from the foam or felt. Hot glue those onto the wreath in any pattern you choose.

6. Use the ribbon to hang the wreath on your front door.