Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for best youth basketballs

Whether they’re bouncing the ball in the driveway or playing in a youth league, basketball is a big part of growing up for a lot of kids. It’s a simple game to learn to play but a fun challenge to perfect, which is ideal for kids. Plus, it’s a great way to burn off some youthful energy.

Parents like basketball because it has fewer collisions than sports like football. And basketball is an inexpensive game requiring very little equipment, which parents also like. All you need is a hoop and a good ball.

When it comes to basketball, finding the right ball to suit small hands is key to keeping kids interested and improving playing form. Youth basketballs are available in multiple sizes, colors, and construction materials. You’ll find our five favorites in the matrix above and everything you need to know before you buy in our shopping guide.

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Youth basketballs are smaller than standard-size balls, which measure 29.5 inches in circumference.

Key considerations

The material used in the construction of the basketball plays an important role in its durability. It also plays a role in where you can use the ball.

Indoor youth basketballs

Indoor basketballs are genuine leather, which is the highest-quality material found in basketballs. A leather ball provides a comfortable texture for players, allowing them to control their dribble and shoot accurately. The feel and bounce of a leather ball is true and consistent. They’re always used for high school, college, and pro league games.

Because the floor of an indoor basketball court is smooth and free of debris, an indoor ball doesn’t have to stand up to rough conditions. This type of leather ball will become scuffed or gouged if used on an asphalt or concrete surface.

Indoor/outdoor youth basketballs

For the typical young basketball player, an indoor/outdoor ball is the perfect choice. It works equally well on a regulation wood court or on a neighborhood concrete court.

An indoor/outdoor basketball is a tough composite leather material. This synthetic leather doesn’t cost as much as genuine leather and is much more durable. It doesn’t quite have the feel of a leather game ball, but it’s a good alternative for young players.

Outdoor youth basketballs

The most durable type of basketball is made for outdoor use on concrete or asphalt courts. This type of ball is rubber, meaning you can use it over and over on rough surfaces without causing damage.

You can use an outdoor basketball on an indoor court. However, a rubber ball has a greater level of bounce than a leather or synthetic leather ball, which may affect gameplay.

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Did you know?
Standard basketballs have a solid orange or brown color. Youth balls are available in many different colors, both solid and multicolored.



When buying a youth basketball, parents should pay attention to the size of the ball. The ball’s circumference is measured in inches. Smaller basketballs are better for younger players. They can grip a lighter and smaller ball better with their small hands. Multiple sizes of basketballs are considered appropriate for children to use.

  • Size 2: A size 2 ball is called a micro mini ball. It has a circumference of 16 inches and a diameter of 5.1 inches.
  • Size 3: A size 3 ball is a novelty ball that is used for recreational play rather than league play. It measures 22 inches in circumference and 7 inches in diameter. It’s often called a mini ball.
  • Size 4: Some youth leagues will use a size 4 ball, mainly for boys and girls age five to eight. A size 4 ball has a circumference of 25.5 inches and a diameter of 8.1 inches.
  • Size 5: A size 5 ball measures 27.5 inches in circumference and about 8.75 inches in diameter. This ball is best for boys and girls up to age 11.
  • Size 6: A size 6 ball is 28.5 inches in circumference and about 9 inches in diameter. It’s made for youth boys age nine to 14 and girls and women age 9 and older. A size 6 ball is used in all high school, college, and professional women’s games.

A size 7 ball is considered a regulation-size ball. High school, college, and professional men’s players use a size 7 basketball.


No matter what size basketball you use, it will have a texture that is easy to grip. The surface of the ball consists of tiny bumps called pebbles. These provide a high level of friction between the ball and the player’s skin, making it easier to control.

Having a ball with good friction simplifies spinning the ball when shooting or passing. For a child who’s just learning to play, being able to spin the ball helps with maintaining the right shooting and dribbling form.

"To inflate a basketball, simply insert the inflation needle in the tiny hole and add air as needed. "

Youth basketball prices

Youth basketballs vary quite a bit in price, depending on the quality of the material and the size of the ball.

The least expensive basketballs for kids cost $5 to $15. These are often size 4 basketballs and novelty basketballs, although some size 5 balls fit in this price range. Inexpensive basketballs may be foam or rubber.

Mid-range children’s basketballs cost between $15 and $40. These basketballs are typically size 5 or size 6 balls. These balls are often composite leather, meaning they’re made for indoor or outdoor play. You’ll find high-level rubber balls at the lower end of this price range. Occasionally, you’ll find an indoor leather ball at the upper end of this range.

The most expensive youth basketballs cost between $40 and $100. These are size 5 or size 6 basketballs. They’re often made of leather and designed for indoor use only. You’ll find a few brands of synthetic leather balls at the lower end of this price range, too.


  • Pay attention to the panels. Some youth basketballs have non-standard panel designs. A typical basketball has eight panels, all of the same size. Some manufacturers use odd shapes in the panels for kids’ basketballs. These panels look cool, but they can affect the player’s grip on the ball.
  • Adjust the height of the rim. For a youth player, regulation-size basketballs are too heavy and large to use proper shooting form. To help even further with developing the right form, lower the height of the basketball rim. Younger players don’t have the strength to properly launch the ball to a standard 10-foot rim, even a youth-size ball.
  • Don’t over-inflate the ball. If you inflate a basketball too much, it could become misshapen. An over-inflated ball may also develop weak spots, which could lead to punctures. Always keep the ball inflated to its suggested PSI range.
  • Carefully insert the inflation needle. To avoid causing damage to the bladder inside the basketball, always insert the needle slowly. If you insert the needle too quickly, you could puncture the bladder or damage the insertion tube. It’s probably best if parents inflate the ball to avoid damage.
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Most basketballs will have the recommended inflation pressure for the ball printed near the needle hole.


Q. How often should I inflate a youth basketball?
It depends on how often your kids use the basketball. Each time a ball is dribbled or strikes a hard surface, it will lose a tiny amount of air. Older basketballs tend to lose air faster than newer balls. A ball that’s used daily probably should be checked for proper inflation once or twice a week.

Q. Do I need to store basketballs indoors?
To give your basketball the longest lifespan, it’s best to store it at a consistent temperature indoors. If the ball will be stored in an area where the temperature will not be controlled, like a garage, avoid placing the ball in direct sunlight. If the ball will be outdoors, try to store it in a dry location.

Q. Should I clean a basketball regularly?
If your kids play with the ball outdoors, it may get dirty or wet. After playing, you can wipe the ball with a damp cloth to remove dirt or other particles. For more stubborn soiling, you can use mild soap and warm water on the surface of the ball. If the ball becomes wet, allow it to air dry before using it again.

Q. What’s the best ball for a youth player who’s just starting the game?
Picking a versatile basketball is best for those new to the game. An indoor/outdoor ball that’s rubber or synthetic leather allows your child to use the ball anywhere. Select a ball that’s the right size for the child’s age. Using a ball that’s too large could lead to improper shooting form. Finally, if the child’s interest in the game will be sparked by a wildly colored ball, go for it!

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