If you enjoy archery, you might want to share your passion with your child. Or maybe your child has shown that he/she is interested in archery, and you would like to provide the opportunity to discover this sport.
Simply put, you want to know, how do I get my child started? What kind of equipment do I need to buy, and how do I ensure that my child can shoot in a safe environment? Regardless of whether you are an experienced archer or a parent without any experience, you have come to the right place.
I have shot a bow and arrow since I was 12 years old and have seen countless of youngsters learn archery at my local archery club. I also know a ton of parents from young archers. For this article, I collected all these experiences and wrote my recommendations accordingly.
Choosing the right gear
Before you can get your child started with archery, he or she will need some equipment. This is often quite difficult as you do not want to give a young child a heavy bow, but you also do not want to give a teen a toy bow. The gear should match the archer. Therefore, below I give some recommendations on what you should buy for a child.
For children (6 years old or younger)
Small children are generally more easily distracted and are less able to follow safety instructions. That’s why I recommend a weak bow that cannot hurt or damage anything. This NSG Deluxe bow and arrow set is perfect for children in this age group.
Although the advertising recommends it for ages 6 and up, I think younger children will be able to shoot this as well. This set with the target and quiver gives the child a more serious archery experience, which helps the child when it’s time to get to a ‘’real’’ bow.
For children (7 till 12 years old)
You might be tempted to give your 9-year-old the toy bow with suction cups discussed above, but generally, that is not a good idea. Your child will see the bow as a toy and behave as such. Therefore, he/she will probably not use it for target practice but merely for play.
Giving your child responsibility and allowing them to use a more serious bow will help build their self-esteem. Of course, it is important to always supervise your child and give safety instructions. We will discuss this in more detail later in this article.
For a child between 7 and 12 years old I recommend this Youthbow from Keshes set. The bow has a low draw weight, and the gear is easy to use and suitable for children. You get everything you need to start shooting for an affordable price. You even get a sight, which makes it easier to aim.
If you do not have a foam target yet, I recommend buying this target for the youth bow. Although you might think that this is quite expensive, you will not find a good archery target that cost less than $40. Archery targets are quite expensive because they are from high-density foam to consistently stop the arrow.
Archery targets for heavier bows (adult bows) tend to be much more expensive and can easily cost $200 or more!
For teens (13 years old or older)
For older children and teens, I recommend the Samick Sage takedown recurve bow set. This set includes a serious bow that adults can use as well. I recommend this bow over a youth bow because a youth bow will feel too much like a toy. What 13-year-old wants to be seen with a toy bow?
This bow is available in variable draw weight. From 25 LBS to 60 LBS. I always recommend going with the lowest option of 25 LBS for children. Even for older teenagers, I recommend the 25 LBS draw weight. Since older teenagers can draw further, they will experience more draw weight than a young teenager that draws 5 inches less.
Backyard or archery club?
Once you have bought a bow you should think about how your child will learn archery. It might seem easy, but there is a lot of technique involved. You can teach your child archery yourself in your backyard or you can visit an archery club.
Most archery clubs will have a course that children can follow to learn archery. You can also find a dedicated archery coach for your child; you can learn more about archery coaches in this article. Bringing your kid to a club or hiring an archery coach is a more hands-off approach. If your kid shoots in your backyard you will have to help learn the basic technique, give safety instructions, and supervise while shooting.
When you are shooting in your backyard, you will also have to invest in some additional gear, such as an archery target and maybe even some archery netting. Your child will need a safe place to shoot, we will discuss this in more detail later in the article.
Learning the technique
You may feel that you know the basics of archery. You have seen plenty of archers in the movies, so how difficult can it be? Well…, archery is a lot more difficult than it seems. It is not just point and shoot, you must be very mindful of how you shoot. A common beginner mistake, for example, is to point your toes towards the target. Instead, you should have your feet at a 90-degree angle.
This is just one of the many mistakes you can make while learning the technique. You do not need to get everything right the first time, nor will that be possible. But if your child continues to use the wrong technique for a long time, it can be more difficult to unlearn those bad habits.
If you are not familiar with the archery technique, I highly recommend reading the article below. It goes through the basic technique for shooting a bow, from the draw to the release. It has a ton of pictures and a video, so you can even watch it together with your child.
How to keep archery safe for children
You must supervise your children if they practice archer with their real bow. Give them proper instructions and explain why they must be careful with their bow. It is also important to provide your child with a safe location for shooting.
It is important to supervise a child while he/she is using a bow. Even a youth bow can do significant damage to people, animals, or property. Therefore, you should regularly check if your child adheres to the necessary safety precautions.
You as the parent know best whether your child/teen needs supervision or not. There are of course some general guidelines. Below are some recommendations on how much supervision your child needs:
- 8 years or younger: never let your child near the bow if you are not right next to them. Always safely store the bow where your child cannot reach it on his own.
- 8-10 years old: if the child understands the safety instructions and follows them correctly, then it’s safe to be a bit more relaxed. That does not mean keeping your kid unsupervised, but you can for example watch from a distance.
- 11-15 years old: it is generally not necessary to constantly supervise younger teenagers. Still, make sure to check up on them occasionally. You want to make sure that they are following the safety rules, even when you are away.
- 16 years or older: older teens can shoot their bow on their own. If it’s safe for them to drive a car, they should also be able to handle a bow.
Do not rely fully on these recommendations though. Some children can be more responsible at a young age while others stay irresponsible their entire life! So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Also, be more careful if your child starts shooting a bow with friends. In groups, children and teens can act irresponsibly due to peer pressure.
If you practice archery at a club, you will always get some safety instructions. These are not only meant for children but also adults. As mentioned earlier even some adults can act rather irresponsibly with a bow. Here are the safety instructions to keep it safe:
- All people should be behind the shooting line while the archer is shooting: this means that bystanders should be behind the archery. Other archers can stand next to the archer to shoot, but nobody should shoot a bow if there is someone in front of him/her.
- Only nock an arrow when you intend to shoot: first check if it is safe, and if everyone is on the shooting line or behind you.
- Keep your distance when an archer is retrieving the arrow: when an archer is pulling the arrow out of the target you should keep an appropriate distance. While pulling you could hit the person behind you when the arrow suddenly gets loose from the target.
- Regularly check your archery gear for damage: do not use your bow if it is damaged. If the limb has a crack, it’s only a matter of time until it snaps in two. Also do not shoot arrows that do not have a point. Arrows without a point will not launch properly, which can cause them to fly off course.
The distance between the target and the archer is primarily dependent on the skill and strength of the archer. Shooting a shorter distance is safer and can also be more fun for smaller children. On the other hand, shooting at a long distance can be a good challenge. Therefore, you must balance these to find the ideal range.
If your kid is just getting started, I recommend starting at short range as listed below. If hitting the center of the target becomes too easy you can increase the distance.
|6 years or younger
|4 yards (4 meters)
|8 yards (7 meters)
|7 till 12 years old
|6 yards (5 meters)
|12 yards (11 meters)
|13 till 15 years old
|10 yards (9 meters)
|20 yards (18 meters)
|16 years and older
|20 yards (18 meters)
|35 yards (32 meters)
Even experienced archers often dial in their bow at 20 yards, so there is no need to start shooting long distances. You will only spend more time searching for your arrows!
How to set up the shooting range
Now you know the distance it’s also important to think about the target and more importantly everything behind the target. Although it is your goal to hit the target, some arrows might miss it. Especially if your child accidentally shoots over the target, it can fly quite far. Therefore, for safety it’s often better to place the target on the ground, than to put it on a table
Therefore, make sure that even if your child misses the target, it will not hit anything or anyone! If you are worried about an arrow flying off, you might want to invest in some archery netting. This material will catch the arrows. Make sure to not taut the netting, it should hang loose, like a curtain.
How to keep it fun
If you are into archery yourself, you might think that shooting arrows will entertain your child forever. What is there not to like about this sport? Well, archery is quite a repetitive sport, and children learn new things.
To keep archery fun, you can change things up a bit by:
- Popping balloons or eggs: Popping balloons is satisfying especially when it’s due to a perfectly aimed shot. If you want to increase the challenge, you can use small water balloons or you can even use eggs.
- Shoot at fruit: Do you have some fruit laying around that you don’t intend to eat? Make your practice extra fun by shooting at different fruits.
- Have a competition with a friend: have a competition with a friend by shooting on a small challenging target. You can of course use fruit or balloons to make it even more fun.
- Shoot at a moving target: you can make the target more difficult by making it move. You can for example hang a tennis ball on a string and give it a swing. You will see that this is quite a challenge.
- 3D archery: buy or make a 3D target and create a hunting experience. You can make it more difficult by hiding the target behind bushes or changing the distance.