In the book “Outliers”, social psychologist Malcolm Gladwell made a startling observation. Children, it seemed, were not born gifted at any one sport. It was the sport that they were exposed to early in which they excelled. It’s essentially a race towards 10,000 hours of practice because that’s the amount of time it takes to master any one skill.
So whether you want your baby to be the next Lebron James or Lisa Leslie or you’re just looking to develop a bond over basketball, buying your kid a hoop is definitely a good move.
Here’s all the info you need to make an educated purchase and find the best possible basketball hoop for your kid:
Fiberglass and metal can do a lot more damage than plastic. It’s a good idea to graduate your little ballplayer from plastic to metal and fiberglass at the right age after introducing them to the fundamental skills of basketball. They’ll be less likely to hurt themselves if they have a pretty good idea of what they are doing.
All the hoops reviewed here have breakaway rims for safety purposes. A young ballplayer can be easily hurt on a rigid rim no matter skill level. It’s a good idea to avoid any hoop that won’t bend or move when dunked upon unless you want to deal with jammed fingers or face bops.
Stability plays into safety in a big way. The small plastic hoops aren’t much of a worry because they are too light to hurt if they fall over. But you may want to delay the purchase of a moveable outdoor hoop until your ballplayer can handle the responsibility. Even at five feet, a sand-based hoop made of metal and fiberglass can tip over if slammed into or dunked on aggressively. Your child should be old enough to know the dangers before using a hoop that can tip.
Make sure to buy a hoop with a virtually unbreakable backboard. The hoop should advertise such invincibility and the backboard should be made of some composite material, such as fiberglass or polycarbonate.
Durability and Longevity
If you plan your little rising star’s ascent properly, you may be able to skip a few hoops purchases. Of course, you’ll want to get that extremely early-age hoop. But instead of upgrading to a larger plastic hoop for larger toddlers, you may be able to hold out for a door-mount hoop that’ll last him or her through older age.
Fun and Addictability
Basketball is fun and you want to share that with your kid. That means you want hoops that will be fun and rewarding; the kind of hoops that will keep your kid shooting hoops all day and night. What’s more fun than making baskets?
For the most fun, it’s advisable to get the youngest one a hoop that is colorful and easy to make shots on. The hoops can become more challenging with age as your ballplayer comes closer to the real deal.
Adjustable heights play a huge role in the challenge and fun of a hoop. Being able to adjust the height of the rim allows you to set new challenges. You can put it on the lowest rung for the most fun and then move it up slowly as skill progresses. This keeps the kids engaged and having a good time as they get better.
Alright, so those are the three things to keep in mind when buying a child’s basketball hoop:
- Durability and Long-term vs. Short-term Usefulness
- Fun and Incremental Challenge
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular mini basketball hoops:
Top 6 Basketball Hoops for Toddlers and Older Kids
This hoop is high on fun, safety, and durability. The Little Tikes Easy Score Basketball hoop will last you a while as it is designed for kids ages one through five. And this is a hoop that can get them hooked to the game of basketball.
It comes with three balls so your little guy won’t have to go running around the room collecting rebounds for his next shot. He can shoot, wander to the next ball and shoot again; rapid-fire.
This beginner setup is incredibly affordable, easy to put together and very safe. You weight down the plastic base with sand (not included) so that the lightweight hoop won’t tip. But since the whole rig is made of soft plastic, it won’t cause any sort of damage if it does tip.
And there is a great reward with this hoop. The goal is oversized for easy buckets and the rim pulls away for monster jams. It’s also adjustable between two and four feet so that you can train your kid’s range with a taller rim as she ages. The rapid-fire of the three-ball set combined with the oversized rim will get your little shooter hooked.
This Little Tikes Adjust and Jam hoop picks up right where the smaller Little Tikes Easy Score left off. It starts adjusting at 4 feet and ratchets all the way up to 6 feet. Like its smaller version, it is made of entirely soft plastic so it is very difficult for the hoop to hurt the little ones even if the assembly falls over.
This assembly is much larger than the Easy Score so you may not have room for it inside. Fortunately, it is also made for outdoor use. The breakaway rim makes dunking an epic experience. The rim also makes it difficult to tip the hoop even on an aggressive dunk because the rim simply falls away; there’s nothing to yank the hoop down with.
The assembly is easy but you’ll need to buy more sand to weigh down the base. It only comes with one ball but this assembly is made for older children. Attention span isn’t so much of a worry for a basketball-loving kid. The Adjust and Jam is made out of soft plastic, you’ll know you need a new one when the young ballplayer rips the rig to shreds.
The door mounted basketball hoop is a great space saver for those who don’t want a clunky, sand-filled assembly in the house. This Little Tikes rig has three height settings so that the hoop can grow taller along with the player.
These hoops tend to break from time to time. Despite the fact that the Little Tikes assembly comes with a break-away rim, the plastic holding the hoop to the door can be ripped down on an epic dunk. The opening and closing of the door can also jar the assembly loose. Despite the fact that it is made out of soft plastic, the backboard can fall to the ground loudly.
You also have to be careful about which door you choose. Doors that open up to stairways can be dangerous as the door can open during a game to leave a falling hazard. And there’s always the risk of someone simply entering the room during a game.
This door mounted hoop is made of shatterproof fiberglass and comes with a steel rim. The hoop is not adjustable in any way. The rim is unforgiving and some have been disheartened at how difficult it is to make a hoop.
The court-like feel of this SKLZ Pro Mini Hoop is obviously intended for older children with some basketball skills. You wouldn’t want to buy this assembly for an extremely young player who would lose interest quickly after finding it difficult to make a basket.
While the same warnings hold true for the SKLZ hoop as the Little Tikes Attach n’ Play, this assembly may be a good option for an older child who loves the game. It’s an especially attractive option during the winter.
Falling hazards, the opening of doors and breaking the hoop with a monster jam are all less of a worry with an older child. After all, if the hoop breaks, there’s no more basketball.
This outdoor hoop adjusts from 5 feet all the way up to 7.5 feet. The base can be filled with sand or water allowing you to run the hose out to the hoop for convenience and cost savings. It also saves you a bit of mess.
The Lifetime assembly is made mostly of metal with an impact shatter-proof backboard. It does not come with a ball. But the Lifetime hoop gives you an opportunity to save money.
The very first hoop — Little Tikes Easy Score — is a plastic hoop adjustable up to 4 feet. Why not make the jump from 4 feet, the highest setting on the Little Tikes, to 5 feet, the lowest setting on the Lifetime hoop, right away? After all, this Lifetime Hoop comes with a 5-year limited warranty.
Get them started on the Lifetime hoop early and you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
The final step. The Lifetime 1221 starts adjusting right where the Lifetime Youth Basketball Hoop left off — 7.5 feet up to the regulation height of 10 feet. The 44-inch backboard is virtually unbreakable and the base of the hoop can be filled with either sand or water. The rest of the hoop is metal.
By now, your young basketball player should have the fundamental skills of the game making safety a bit less of a worry. You can also adjust the hoop just out of dunk height for added safety and to save it from abuse.
The Lifetime 1221 is durable and can survive any season. All you have to do is sit back, relax and watch your little ballplayer develop into a full-fledged athlete one 6-inch rim height adjustment at a time. If you are interested in more expensive and higher quality hoops make sure to check out my article about the best portable basketball hoops.
There seems to be a clear progression — Little Tikes Easy Score, Little Tikes Adjust and Jam, Lifetime Junior and then Lifetime 1221 — to a regulation-sized hoop. And you may want to consider skipping the Adjust and Jam to save some money. You’d only cut out the heights between 4 and 5 feet.
The progression should get your little guy hooked with fun and then challenge him as he grows. It should also keep him safe while he develops his skills. After about 18 years, you’ll see if a scholarship or pro contract comes out of all of it. Even if he’s not the next Lebron, you’ll have shared a lifetime of basketball memories together.