Playing with a ball is one of the most quintessential gross motor activities for kids. Babies LOVE balls and that love of this round, bouncy toy will continue to grow as your child does. Did you know that, as pediatric physical therapists, we begin observing and assessing a child’s “ball” skills around the age of 12 months!!! At only one year of age, some little ones can sit facing you with their legs apart and corral a ball that is rolled to them. This back and forth game of catch quickly progresses from rolling the ball, to throwing the ball, flinging the ball (an early attempt at throwing) and eventually kicking the ball. The graphic below shows the progression of ball skills for young kids:
Obviously, as your child grows and develops, each of these skills will progress and become more refined. For some great practice, try these activities!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: A bunch of tennis balls and one slightly larger ball for kicking
WHAT TO DO: Stack up your tennis balls to make a pyramid (a square of several balls on the bottom, and then layering the balls upward to the top point). I know…this sounds a bit crazy and excessive; however, the reaction when your child hits this target of balls will be well worth it!! And, if your child is ready, you can have him help you make the stack for even more fun! Here we go:
-If your child is around the 1 year age mark, sit him about 3 feet from that pyramid of balls and have him roll a slightly larger ball toward it to knock it down! You can sit on the back side of the pyramid and verbally encourage him by saying “roll the ball to me”.
-If your child is beyond the rolling stage, have him back up and “bowl” the ball toward the pyramid.
-And, if that’s too easy, work on kicking!
HERE’S THE FUN PART…when he hits his target, those tennis balls are going to explode out of that pyramid and roll all over the place! Encourage him to “clean-up” by racing to a ball, squatting to pick it up, and putting it (or flinging it — TAKE COVER!) into a laundry basket.
HOW TO CHANGE IT UP:
-Try using another type of target. Use old toilet paper rolls, even just a grouping of different balls. I would suggest using something that your child can retrieve once he knocks it down and throw back to you to incorporate that skill into the activity!
SKILL AREAS ADDRESSED: Gross motor skills, coordination, motor control, visual motor integration
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