There is a lot of attention surrounding pickleball for kids. As one of the fastest-growing sports, it makes sense that more children would become interested in the game of pickleball.
The United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA) even created a USAPA Juniors program to accommodate the younger players.
With this increased interest, a couple of the top pickleball paddle manufacturers have started producing paddles and lighter-weight sets for kids.
If you want the best junior pickleball paddle, check out the following buyer’s guide and reviews.
How to Select a Pickleball Paddle for Kids
When shopping for a kid’s paddle, you still want to pay attention to the main features, such as:
- Core material
- Surface material
- Dimensions and shape
- Paddle weight
- Grip size and length
- USAPA approval
The core and surface materials directly impact the performance of the paddle for kids and adults.
The best racquet size for juniors is the standard size used for players of all ages. The average pickleball paddle is about eight inches wide and 15 inches long. After years of innovation, pickleball paddle manufacturers have realized that the standard dimensions help provide the largest sweet spot.
The sweet spot is the area on the paddle surface that offers the most accuracy and spin control for players. For younger players, this is an important feature. They are still learning to play the game and developing their hand-eye coordination.
While the materials and dimensions are important, the weight and grip are the biggest details when shopping for the best junior pickleball paddle.
What is the Right Kid’s Play Weight Set for Paddles?
Adult paddles typically weigh between seven and nine ounces. The USAPA allows paddles weighing between six and 14 ounces for junior tournaments or adult tournaments.
The preferred JR weight set is about seven ounces or lower. A lightweight paddle is easier to control. It allows your child to swing without generating too much force, which could affect accuracy.
While many pickleball paddle manufacturers offer lightweight paddles that are suitable for kids or adults, the only paddle designed specifically for kids is the Paddletek Ranger. It weighs between 6.5 ounces and 6.9 ounces, depending on which version you purchase.
What Size Grip Should You Get for a Child?
Adult pickleball paddles often have grips measuring between four inches and four and a half inches. With a junior size 4 or lower grip, your child can maintain a firmer hold on the paddle, which is needed for stability and accuracy.
If the grip is too thick or long, your child may struggle to hold it steady. The grip sizes start at four inches and go up to four and a half inches. Stick with the thinner grip when shopping for pickleball paddles for children.
What Is the Best Youth Pickleball Paddle?
As mentioned, Paddletek is the only company that has a children paddle. However, there are several other options that are suitable for kids or adults. Here are the top choices:
- USAPA Approved: YES
- Weight: 6.3-7.2 oz
- Grip: 4 1/8"
- USAPA Approved: NO
- Weight: 6.5 to 6.9 oz
- Grip: 4"
- USAPA Approved: YES
- Weight: 6.7-7.0 oz
- Grip: 4 1/4"
- USAPA Approved: YES
- Weight: 6.8-7.3 oz
- Grip: 4 1/4"
The best paddle for younger players should possess the features discussed. It should be lightweight with a large sweet spot and an appropriate grip size.
The Stratus is small enough for younger players, but it’s not the only option. The Ranger is designed specifically for junior players. It has a smaller grip size, weighs less, and has a decent core. Other features include:
- 15.5-inches long
- 8-inches wide
- 5-inch handle
- 4-inch grip size
- Weighs 6.5 to 6.9 ounces
The Paddletek Ranger is one of the lightest options as it is made just for kids. It also has a four-inch grip size, which should be more comfortable for younger players.
The paddle features a vinyl face that has just the right amount of texture to help improve ball control. The wide dimensions of the paddle also help create a larger playing surface and better balance for younger players. It is recommended for players under the age of 12 but it is not yet USAPA-approved.
Pickleball Elite Finesse
- Quick feel and subtle control.
- Lightweight and fast
- USAPA Tournament Approved
- High-end performance grip
The Pickleball Elite Finesse is also lightweight. In fact, if you choose the 6.3-ounce version, you are getting one of the lightest paddles available. It also has a four and one-eighth-inch grip.
As with most of the top choices for kids, this paddle has a graphite face. This material offers the best grip for improving ball accuracy. With the Elite paddle, you also get a teardrop-shaped design that allows for less weight without needing a smaller surface.
Engage Encore Lite
- Great speed and control
- Special textured surface helps to put a spin on balls
- ControlPro core provides right amount of power when dinking
With the Engage Encore Lite, you get a lightweight paddle and a forgiving sweet spot, which can help with accuracy. However, it has a four-and-a-quarter-inch grip size, which may be a little thick for preteens and younger.
If the grip size is not too large, this is a top choice, thanks to the large surface. It has one of the biggest faces for a lightweight paddle.
The Stratus is a lightweight paddle with a small grip. It is perfect for finesse players that want to remain near the net. Here are the details:
- 15.5-inches long
- 7.75-inches wide
- 4.5-inch handle
- 4.125-inch grip size
- Polymer core
- Composite facing
The Stratus also features a four and a quarter-inch grip size, which is best suited for teenagers instead of younger kids. The weight of the paddle is between 6.8-ounces and 7.3-ounces.
This paddle comes from one of the top manufacturers. It is durable, balanced, and USAPA-approved. It just may be a little too big for players under the age of 12.
Gamma Neutron 2.0
- USAPA-approved for tournament play
- GAMMA Honeycomb Grip features an extra tacky and firm surface
- Textured Graphite Hitting Surface
- Flush-Fit™ Bumper
Besides the Ranger, the Gamma Neutron 2.0 is one of the only paddles with a four-inch grip. It also has one of the largest sweet spots out of the paddles reviewed.
It has the standard honeycomb core and a fiberglass face. Due to the lightweight design, textured surface, and four-inch grip, this one of the top choices for young players. It is also USAPA-approved.
Besides these paddles, there are dozens of other suitable options. Standard adult paddles also work for younger players, especially teenagers and young adults. For example, some of the lighter-weight Pickleball Inc paddles offer the right balance for juniors.
Pickleball Inc also has a few low-cost options, which is great when you are first getting into the sport. You can purchase the necessary equipment for your child without spending a lot of money.
Conclusion: How to Shop for Pickleball for Kids
If you look for images of pickleball competitions, you will notice that there are a lot of younger players competing in tournaments. Pickleball is a great game for people of all ages and skill levels.
In the end, finding the right equipment for pickleball is not hard. There are many great pickleball rackets and balls that are suitable for younger players.
You do not need to get a little paddle for younger players. Most of the paddles made for children are the same size as adult paddles but at the lower end of the weight range.
When shopping for a pickleball paddle, kids should find something that feels comfortable. To find the right option, focus on the weight and grip.