Although young children may not be able to physically play a game of volleyball with a hard ball and regulation size net while following the proper rules, they can start learning the skills that will help them in this game. Howie Weiss, who wrote the book "Fun, Fitness, and Skills -- The Powerful Original Games Approach" and runs a website dedicated to the best practices in physical education, has written ideas and activities for children as young as five years old to work on volleyball skills using beach balls, balloons, and low nets. Children enjoy themselves while learning important skills and proper techniques.
Beach Ball Volleyball
One game that students can play to work on volleyball skills is Beach Ball Volleyball. With this game, young children will be in small groups (between three and five students) with one beach ball for each group. The point of the game is to keep the volleyball up in the air for as long as possible by using volleyball hand techniques such as finger pad volleying with both hands reaching over head when hitting the ball. You can play this game in three different ways. You can ask students to see how long they can keep the ball up in their own group by either counting the number of volleys they achieve before the ball hits the ground or by timing themselves. You can also start all groups at the same time and see which group can keep the ball in the air the longest. Another variation is to add a low net that the group must stand around and hit the ball over. The important thing for you to do during this game is to walk around, observe students and help them with their form while they play the game.
Keep It in the Air
Keep It in the Air is very similar to Beach Ball Volleyball except this is an individual game where students can work more on different volleyball hand skills such as the underhand toss, volleying and bumping. Give students a soft kickball, beach ball or balloon, depending on their age or ability levels. You can have all three types of balls available so that children can try different materials. The game begins when you say, "Go." Each child has a ball and uses volleyball techniques to keep the ball in the air. When the ball hits the ground, children sit down. The winner is the player who can keep it up in the air the longest. You can also ask students to compete against themselves by keeping individual times. Another variation is to do a type of experiment and ask children to use each of the balls and see which one is easier for them to keep in the air. If you have large PE classes, you can divide students into pairs, and they can take turns with the equipment. This also helps if you have a small gym to play in. Young children need a lot of space for volleyball games when they are learning these new skills.
Team Serve and Catch
One of the hardest skills for anyone to learn when playing volleyball is serving. Young children will learn to serve underhanded, so you can play Team Serve and Catch to practice serving skills, which comes from a lesson plan idea on PE Central. Each child has a partner and one beach ball or soft kickball. After students have practiced the underhand toss and the serving motion against a wall, they are ready to partner up for the game. One child takes the ball, tosses it up and serves it to his partner who then tries to catch the ball. Each time one of the partners serves and the other catches the ball, the team gets a point. The first team to 10 points is the winner. You can play several variations of this game such as starting all teams at the same time. When a team drops the ball, then that team sits out. The team that serves and catches the longest is the winner. Another variation is for teams to meet their own challenges by setting a goal of a certain number of catches in a specified amount of time like: "We will make 10 catches in eight minutes." If students are successful, then they tell you and get a sticker on a chart or some other small reward. Volleyball skill games are fun, and you can adapt them for any classroom with almost any age group.