I often get asked by parents which table tennis bat their child should use. There is a ridiculous amount of choice available, so I completely understand why parents seek advice, especially if they do not play table tennis themselves.
Questions often include: What’s the best bat? How much do I need to spend? Do kids need different bats to adults? Is this cheap bat I bought any good? What’s the best brand? Should my child play with the same bat as the professionals?
So many questions!
But let’s keep things simple.
In this blog post, I will share the advice I give to parents of juniors I coach. My advice is based upon two main factors: age and playing standard. I will look at two different age groups (4-8 and 9-16) and give a few recommendations for each age group.
So let’s start with the younger ones…
For young children I recommend buying a smaller ‘child-sized’ table tennis bat. This has a slightly smaller playing surface, a thinner handle and weighs less than a regular-sized table tennis bat.
The main benefit of a child-sized table tennis bat is the thinner handle. A young child will often struggle with a thicker handle, especially when switching between strokes and trying to use their wrist to add spin. A thinner handle sits much better in a child’s hand. They find it more comfortable to hold and easier to play with.
In most cases, a child will have only just started playing table tennis in this age range. So he or she will be a beginner standard. For beginners I recommend buying a Butterfly Skills Junior Table Tennis Bat (buy in UK | buy in USA).
It’s quite possible that a child will start improving quite quickly when they get to age 7 and 8, especially if they have been playing for a couple of years. If this is the case, they may need a better bat.
There isn’t really many options for high quality child-sized table tennis bats which you can just buy off the shelf. The best option is to buy a custom-made table tennis bat. This is where you choose a blade, red rubber and black rubber and a table tennis retailer will put the bat together for you.
Again, there isn’t many blades available in a smaller size, but there’s a few good choices:
- Butterfly Primorac Table Tennis Blade
- Butterfly Korbel Table Tennis Blade
- Butterfly Timo Boll All Table Tennis Blade
You can choose any rubbers to go with these blades, as the rubber will be cut to match the size of the blade. It’s best to choose rubbers which are faster and spinner than the beginner bats, but still have good control. This will prevent the child from overhitting the ball too much. Some good choices for medium speed rubbers are:
- Butterfly Roundell Soft
- Yasaka Mark V
- Donic Vario
As a child grows bigger, he or she will need to make the switch to a regular sized table tennis bat.
When is the best age to switch? This really depends on the size and strength of the child. From my experience most 9 and 10 year-olds have no problem with a regular sized bat. I would expect anyone aged 11+ to be using a regular sized bat.
Switching to a regular sized table tennis bat isn’t a major issue. A regular sized bat isn’t really that big or heavy. The child may find it a bit awkward at first playing with a thicker handle, but will soon adapt.
So let’s look at the best table tennis bats for different standard juniors.
For beginner juniors, any of the following table tennis bats are a good choice:
- Palio Expert Table Tennis Bat
- DHS All-Star Table Tennis Bat
- Butterfly Zhang Jike Platin Table Tennis Bat
These bats are much better than the very cheap bats you can buy (bats which cost under £10 are usually pretty rubbish). These are good starter bats. Not too fast, not too slow, lots of control, but you can still generate decent spin. They will help a junior develop good technique, if being guided by an experienced player or coach.
BEST-SELLERS: Also, take a look at my list of the most popular table tennis bats purchased by readers of my website.
If a junior plays regularly, he or she will usually improve quite quickly. If this is the case, a better bat will probably be needed.
Here’s a few options for a ready-made bat suitable for an improving junior who has progressed beyond the beginner stage.
- Stiga Allround Classic Table Tennis Bat
- Palio Master Table Tennis Bat
- Tibhar Powercarbon XT Table Tennis Bat
Alternatively, you buy a custom made bat, where you choose from the huge range of blades and rubbers available and a retailer will put the bat together for you. (Take a look at my list of retailers in UK, USA, Europe, Asia and Australia to find a store near you.)
Whichever option you go for, it’s important to get something with decent control (i.e. not too fast). The temptation for a junior at this age and standard is to think they’re better than they actually are. They may want to play with the rubbers which professional players use. But these fast rubbers are very responsive and require a very high ability level to control the ball consistently. An intermediate junior will struggle with these fast rubbers. An “all-round” bat is a far better option.
For more advice on table tennis bats for intermediate players, take a look at my blog post Best table tennis bats for intermediate players.
Some juniors will start performing at a very high level. This is one of the things I love about table tennis. It really is a sport where different ages (and generations!) can compete equally.
Tomokazu Harimoto shot to fame at age 11, when he started beating adults ranked in the top 100 in the world.
Just recently, Miu Hirano became the youngest ever winner of the Women’s World Cup. Hirano is just 16 years old.
If a junior reaches an advanced level, he or she will be competing with and beating adults. Advanced juniors can choose any equipment they want. They will be able to cope with, and will benefit from, the very fast and spinny rubbers.
It’s impossible to make specific recommendations, as it all depends on a junior’s particular playing style.
There will be plenty of trial and error involved, as the junior tries out different equipment. You should be prepared to change blades and rubbers a few times before you find the perfect combination.
Take a look at my blog post Tips on buying a new table tennis bat for more advice for advanced players.
If a junior plays table tennis regularly and starts taking the sport seriously, he or she will go through a lot of table tennis bats.
This is partly because table tennis rubbers deteriorate over time and need replacing. It’s also because juniors can improve very quickly, so will need to keep upgrading to better equipment.
It’s important to get a table tennis bat which is suitable for a junior’s age and standard of play.
Be wary of buying bats which are too fast. A junior learning how to play may struggle to control the ball consistently.
If in doubt, go for an all-round bat. These are a bit more forgiving than the fast bats and are easier for juniors to play with as they learn the game.
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