Playing with balls: why it’s good for children
Playing with balls makes physical activity fun.
Also, throwing, catching, rolling and kicking balls:
- works arm and leg muscles
- improves hand-eye coordination
- increases fitness.
When children practise ball skills, they’ll notice their skills improving. This helps children understand that they can learn and get better at something if they try. And this builds self-esteem and confidence.
Playing with balls with children is also a great way to spend quality time together and build relationships.
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 at home. You can also make soft balls to play with inside. For example, use 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 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 your child 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 ball play for children of different ages or children with diverse abilities
Bigger, softer balls are easier for your younger child to kick and catch.
For kicking, your child needs to be able to balance on one foot. If your child has trouble kicking, they 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 and tennis ball to the park. You could also hit a ball of scrunched-up newspaper across the family room with a small 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. You can guide your child and their friends towards fair play by keeping the rules simple and being ready to step in if children have trouble with sharing or losing.
All children learn and develop through play. Our articles on play and autistic children and play and children with disability are great starting points for adapting this activity guide for children with diverse abilities. You might also like to explore our activity guides for children with diverse abilities.