Playing with balls: why it’s good for children

Playing with balls makes physical activity fun.

Also, throwing, catching, rolling and kicking balls:

  • works your child’s arm and leg muscles
  • improves hand-eye coordination
  • increases fitness.

When your child practises his ball skills, he’ll notice his skills improving. This helps him understand that he can learn and get better at something if he tries. And this builds his self-esteem and confidence.

Playing with a ball with your child is also a great way to spend quality time with your child and build your relationship.

What you need for playing with balls

You and your child can play with balls of any size, colour and texture.

You probably already have a ball or two at home. You can make a soft ball to use inside using a pair of rolled-up socks, or a scrunched-up piece of newspaper and some tape. Just start with what you have.

How to play with balls

Start with the basic ball skills – catching, throwing or kicking.

As your child gets better at these skills, you can kick or throw a ball at a target or into a goal, through a hoop or to another person. Just pick an activity that you and your child enjoy.

Try these ideas:

  • Teach your child to catch using a big, soft ball. Start close together and slowly increase the distance between you as your child’s skills improve. Praise your child and remind her how close you were when you started practising.
  • Play with soft balls (or a ball of socks) inside with your child. Take turns to throw them into a bucket or laundry basket. You could move the bucket or basket closer when it’s your child’s turn.
  • Take a ball to the playground. Practise kicking it to each other or to a goal or target. Pick an easy target so your child can have a go and feel successful.
  • Take a ball outside and bounce it together. Your child could practise dribbling it like a basketball player, or you could bounce it back and forth to each other.

Adapting for children of different ages

Bigger, softer balls are easier for your young child to kick and catch.

For kicking, your child needs to be able to balance on one foot. If he has trouble kicking, he could hold onto a tree or a piece of playground equipment while you kick a ball back and forth.

Small balls can be fun for your older child to bounce or throw at a target. You can also play ball games using bats or racquets. For example, you could take a cricket bat to the park. You could also just hit a ball of scrunched-up newspaper across the family room with a tennis racquet.

Your older child might also like to play a game of soccer or kick-to-kick at the park with a group of friends. Keep the rules simple and be ready to step in if children start to have trouble with sharing or losing.