My wife and I built an archery range in our backyard. With kids of our own, nieces, and nephews all shooting in our backyard range. We’ve been able to pin point what actually makes a child ready to start practicing archery.
The ideal age to start practicing archery is between the ages of 6 and 9. The child must have the strength needed to pull back a youth bow string with an 8 lb draw weight at the very least. They will also need to have the ability to take commands and follow safety procedures.
A lot of when a child can start practicing archery depends on the equipment you start them out on. But there are also some interesting cues you can watch for that will signal to you they are ready.
The Right Age To Start Archery
Many archery programs will require a child reach a certain age before they will accept them into the program. The age limit will vary from place to place. But for the most part, it looks 8 years old is when programs will allow you to sign up. I have seen kids under the age of 8 be able to handle a bow and start practicing archery though.
If you’re planning on starting them off on your own, you won’t have to worry about age restrictions. You will need to judge for yourself when you think your child will be ready to start learning. I’ve seen kids as young as 6 years old be able to pick up a bow and start target shooting right away.
The age your child will be able to start may vary though. Instead of focusing on a certain age to start, look for the signs that let you know they are ready. Get a youth bow for them, and every year have your kid hold and try to draw the bow. Closely watch their form and how they hold the bow to determine if they’re ready for target practice.
Signs That A Child Is Ready For Archery
It may be fairly obvious they aren’t ready right away if they can’t pull back the string on a small bow or youth bow. But some kids will be able to draw the bow, but still not be ready to start practicing archery. Watch to see how much your child struggles to pull the string back. Watch their stance, and look for clues that they are ready.
A Child Is Ready For Archery If:
- They can draw a youth bow
- Their arms don’t shakes when holding the string back on the bow
- They don’t lose balance when drawing the bow
- They can follow instructions and safety commands
- They can hold up the drawn bow, aiming at a target, for longer than 30 seconds
You can try these tests with your child every year. But they will not be able to practice archery until they are able to draw a bow while maintaining proper footing and aim at the target for longer than 30 seconds. You can try having them start before they can comfortably perform the test, but it could become a safety issue and they won’t really enjoy it anyway.
Your kids should also have some level of maturity and understanding that safety comes first. Make sure they are mentally ready by ensuring they can take simple commands. As a safety concern, you want to make sure they will cease firing when you tell them to.
If you feel confident your child can set goals for themselves, and will value archery safety, then it’s time to get them started practicing archery. If you know they’re ready, but are thinking of holding off until they’re older, let me explain some of the benefits of starting archery young.
Reasons To Start Archery At A Young Age
The main benefit you may notice right away, is that it gets the kids outside. Help get them off their electronics for a little while and out enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Archery has always been considered a healthy physical activity for people of any age.
There was a study done that showed some significant improvements in many aspects of some high school students lives. 9 male and 9 female high school students were given tests before and after a 12 weeks archery course, and the archery course showed improvements in many other areas of their lives other than physical health. (source)
After 12 weeks of activity, it is found that students’ average scores show increase in “Health”, “Competition”, “Appearance”, “Social and Entertainment”, and “Skill Development” sub-dimensions. A t-test was performed on the related samples to determine whether this increase was significant or not and it was found to be statistically significant.Universal Journal of Educational Research, v5 n10 p1764-1771 2017 Investigation of Participation Motivations in Exercises of Students Participating in Archery in Extra Curricular Activities
So there have been real studies that prove the benefits of archery for kids, but there’s another reason to start them early. Archery is a great confidence builder. Once the kids start seeing improvement, they start becoming more confident in other areas of their lives. The younger they can start, the better archers they will be as they grow up.
Here is an article I wrote that goes into more detail about The Benefits Of Archery if you want to know more.
Archery Safety For Kids
Every archery range you go to will have some sort of range rules or safety rules you will be required to follow. You should also make some archery rules for yourself and your kids to follow, especially if you’ll be shooting in your own backyard. Not just so no one gets hurt, it’s a good idea to keep archery in the front of everyone’s mind while shooting a bow.
Getting used to good habits early on will help make proper archery and range safety just a part of the process. Here is the archery rules sheet we hang up near our range in the backyard. I’ll add a download link in case you want to use this as well.
I wrote a more in depth article about Archery Safety that covers more information about safety rules, gear, and range commands.
Range Setup For Kids
I’ve noticed the younger kids like to aim too high sometimes. We try to keep an eye on them while their shooting, and ‘lower your aim’ has become a common phrase when shooting in our backyard with the young ones. It’s not that they struggle the bow so much, I think it has more to do with anticipating the arch of the shot.
Whatever the reason being, we’ve had to modify our backstop a little bit to compensate for the overshooting kiddos. In my case, I simply raised the height of the backstop a bit with a piece of plywood. Keep this in mind when introducing the kids to archery, you may need to widen your backstop, or make it taller.
Another range consideration is the shooting distance. When someone is first starting out, it’s best to start them close to the target. This is especially helpful for younger archers with a youth bow. Between 10 and 20 feet starting distance will help build their confidence and keep them interested in archery. As they improve, start to move them back 10 feet or so at a time.
Use The Right Equipment
Using the right equipment is important from a safety stand point, but also from a comfort and enjoyment point of view. Many times a young archer that struggles with their equipment gets frustrated and quits before really experiencing archery.
For the youngest beginning archers, I recommend the Bear Archery Scout Bow Set on Amazon. It has an 8 to 13 lb draw weight which is perfect for young beginners. The recommended age of that bow is 4 – 7 years old. It can still be a good bow after 7 years old, but at some point you will have to upgrade. But for under 30 bucks, it won’t hit the wallet that hard when they grow out of it. We have this bow and love it.
Although it’s not necessary to wear an arm guard to practice archery, especially with the low draw weight youth bows, I still suggest having kids wear one. The bow string can still sting if it slaps your arm, and having them get into the habit of wearing an Arm Guard will create good habits in the future.
Archery Growing Costs
There will costs associated with archery as your child grows. You can expect to need a new bow every few years and new arrows every so often. Once they reach their teens, the bows get more expensive, but will be useful to them for longer. In fact, my Favorite Compound Bow is a great bow for teens, and I use it myself for target shooting all the time.
The only other expense will be an arm guard. This is no big deal really as arm guards are usually under 20 bucks. Buying targets and eye protection are typical archery costs, but not related to the costs of the archer growing. Just keep in mind that the younger you start them, the more the growing costs will end up being.
Teaching Kids To Use A Bow
Enrolling your kid in a league or tournament is a great way for them to learn and meet new people. The archery community is full of some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I wouldn’t try getting them involved into anything if they’re under 8 years old. A lot of programs won’t even accept archers until they’ve reached a certain age.
The same goes for training programs, they have age limits. I don’t recommend going to trainer anyway unless you are training your kid for competitions. If you’re just doing some casual backyard target practice, teaching them yourself will work just fine. Also that way, you’ll be spending some time together doing something you both enjoy.
Don’t worry about being a good teacher, you will just need to focus them on the basics. Here’s a video that will give you some tips on how to teach kids to shoot a bow.
Archery Games For Kids
We spend a lot of time playing archery games to help improve our, and the kids skills. It makes archery so much more fun for the younger archers to play games called robin hood. Here is a list of 14 Fun Archery Games For Kids with instructions on how to setup and play them.