Childhood should be a ball! Literally and figuratively. Remarkable for its versatility, universal appeal to age groups and ability to inspire healthy activity throughout childhood, a ball should be found in every toy box.
Whether its a simple beach ball, a rubber ball, or a plastic ball, balls inspire endless opportunities for play -- and getting kids moving. Throwing, catching, rolling, kicking, or chasing after a ball means they are moving around, building strong muscles, developing eye-hand coordination, and gaining confidence in themselves and their physical abilities.
Here are some fun ways to, well, -- have a ball!
- Babies: At two months and older, many infants enjoy being placed on a slightly deflated beach ball. With an adult holding the baby securely on the ball, roll backward and forward and side to side. Older babies may like the game of pushing large balls around when they crawl. Siblings or parents can have fun getting on their hands and knees and joining in!
- Toddlers: Kids aged one and two can have fun playing a simple form of basketball by dropping balls of various sizes into a laundry basket or pail or cardboard box. This game can get progressively more challenging by adding more targets or having the child stand further and further back from the target as she becomes more skilled and can actually throw the ball.
- Preschoolers: Starting about age three, many children are good at kicking. So grab all the soccer balls, beach balls, basketballs, rubber balls, and even tennis balls you have around the house and line them up outside. Play with your preschooler by kicking the balls one by one. Which one is easiest to kick? Which goes farthest? Everyone in the family can join in on both the predictions and the kicking.
- Early elementary kids: By the time children are five to six years old, most can throw balls and catch them from short distances and have enough dexterity to swing a bat. This is when so many are channeled into organized sports, but make sure they have plenty of opportunities for free play as well. Its a good time to introduce ball-bouncing folk games that have stood the test of time, like A, My Name is Alice.
Many thanks to Susan J. Oliver, Tropomedia, for her contributions to this article