Introducing tennis to 4-year-olds can be a challenge. The kids can get frustrated when they can't hit the ball over the net or when they miss the ball entirely. Using tennis games to introduce various aspects of the game to 4-year-olds can be a good way to get them comfortable on the court. Tennis games and drills are also more likely to engage children in a group when the action is fact-paced, so don't spend too much time on any one activity.
Count the Hits
This versatile game can be appreciated and enjoyed by beginners and experienced players alike. The idea is to count the number of hits by each player in a rally and try to beat the record each time. If you have more than one player at a time, then have each player try to beat the previous player's record. With 4-year-olds, you might only get a few hits per player, but having a number to shoot for will make this game especially interesting to kids still learning to count.
To help get young children used to the side-to-side footwork of tennis, have your little players on the baseline while you stand facing them at the net. Then play follow-the-leader, emphasizing the importance of keeping their toes on the line, as you move side to side. You stand with your back to the net, facing the kids, as you shuffle your feet side to side, to the left and to the right. To make it more interesting, every so often hit a ball to a child and explain how to stop and turn to return a shot, while emphasizing the importance of getting a racket on the ball, not hitting the ball over the net.
Goldilocks and the 3-Ball Forehands
This game is a way to help beginning players learn the different ways to swing a racket and strike a ball. Have your young player opposite you on the other side of the net, as you prepare to toss tennis balls at her. The first ball is like a "baby bear" shot and she should try to hit it softly, but hard enough to go back over the net. The second ball is a "mama bear" shot to the middle of the court, and the third ball is the "papa bear" shot, in which the player is instructed to hit the ball as hard as she can.
Balloon or Beach Ball Tennis
Kids try to keep an inflated balloon or big beach ball afloat, bouncing it back and forth before it hits the ground. This game lets kids hold their rackets and become comfortable with the racket. Kids can either run around and try to keep the balloon or beach ball bouncing up and not hitting the ground, or they can hit the balloon or ball lightly between themselves and a parent or competent youth tennis instructor.