You do not need to wait until your child is old enough to join the local soccer club or play on the neighborhood baseball field to watch their ball skills emerge. In fact, your baby learns ball skills far earlier than those childhood days and are honing in on those skills in those late baby/early toddler days. By introducing the ball early, you are basically starting practice to get your tot on the starting line up or the second squad if that is more their speed, but by starting early you are working on a true life skill.
While throwing, catching, and kicking seem like natural movements to us, they are in fact very difficult skills that combine gross motor, fine motor, and visual motor skills that your little one may not grasp right away. Whether you have a natural born athlete on your hands or a toddler who needs a little more practice before they hit the field, early ball introduction is so very important for their development.
Below are some of the skills that ball play helps to build:
- Extending arms out to receive a ball (Gross Motor Skill)
- Visual Tracking to help catch a ball (Visual Motor Skill)
- Hand, arm and core strength to throw forcefully (Gross & Fine Motor Skills)
- Hand-eye coordination to throw towards a target (Visual Motor Skill)
- Balance to kick with one foot while kicking with the other (Gross Motor Skill)
- Coordination to throw in a mature overhand and underhand method (Gross & Fine Motor Skills)
Here are some fun ways for your toddler to practice all of these new skills:
- Keep an array of different size and shape soft balls around the house. Having access to a ball is the first step in helping your child feel comfortable using it.
- Go from larger to smaller. A larger ball is easier for toddlers to roll and catch at first. As his skills become more refined, you can start to move to smaller balls that will allow for more precision and skill.
- Encourage your toddler to aim towards different types of targets. Play bowling using paper cups as the pins, toss rolled up socks into a laundry basket, throw a bean bag to knock down a block tower. The more opportunities for target practice, the better!
- Toddlers love to kick things around- and every time your child kicks, he’s developing better balance. So try not to mind the mess and think of the wonderful balance skills developing!
So it’s time to put them in coach, they are ready to play… and LEARN!