My son is obsessed with balls. Since around his first birthday, it is rare to find him without a ball somewhere near him, usually in his hand. At one point, this obsession started to worry me. He has tons of toys; why does he only want to play with his balls? In order to squash this first time mom anxiety, I turned to the research. Specifically, I started to research the benefits of ball exploration.
There is a ton of information on the value of learning through play. In fact, children gain all of their necessary skill building in their early years through play. Balls are naturally fascinating for infants and toddlers. They roll, bounce, and come in many different colors, textures, and sizes. Heck, balls are so neat that some athletes spend their entire career playing with balls!
Skills learned by playing with balls
Playing with balls promotes muscle control, coordination, and balance.
Ball play can involve others. Children learn to share by rolling the ball back to their parents. Later, they learn how to bounce the ball to a peer.
Ball exploration promotes learning cause and effect. When a child manipulates the ball in a certain way, they learn the effect they have on the ball. For instance, rolling the ball down a slide causes it to go down, but they cannot roll it up a slide. Throwing a ball causes some balls to bounce, but others to fall to the ground and roll.
Parents can promote language by describing balls to their children. “Let’s bounce the pink ball! Where is your big, yellow ball? This ball is bumpy while this ball is smooth.”
Fun activities using balls
- Take a baby blanket and put several balls in the middle. Have your child hold two edges of the blanket while you hold the other two. Yell popcorn while waving the blanket to bounce the balls. When they all bounce off, ask your child to retrieve the balls you describe.
- Practice sorting different balls by color or size.
- Have a contest to find out which balls bounce the highest.
- Practice “shooting hoops” into a laundry basket.
- Practice kicking a ball. Once your child has mastered this, practice kicking a ball while walking.
What are your favorite ways to encourage ball play/exploration?