A ball is one of the best and most indispensable of toys! Ball games can develop many different skills, and are a never ending source of fun for almost any baby, toddler or pre- schooler.
Liz Senior of the Clamber Club gives you some ideas…

Where to start
Some balls work better than others for certain types of play. Collect a variety if you can, for a variety of games. Heavy, light, big, small, textured, fabric, ping pong balls, tennis balls, a rugby shaped ball, beach balls, plastic soccer balls and home made balls!


Batty ball games!

With your plastic soccer ball
• Roll it and encourage your baby to crawl/ toddle after it.
• Sit your baby on the ball and bounce on it.
• Lie baby on the ball, on his tummy and roll him backwards and forwards over it .
• Throw it up for your baby to watch, and encourage him to throw it, or simply let it go.
• Place a small blanket on the floor. Put the ball on top of the blanket. Hold two corners of the blanket while your toddler holds the other two. Show him how to shake the blanket. When the ball drops, let him chase it and put it back into the blanket. Hide it under the blanket and see if he can find it.
• Kicking is great fun for a toddler, or even just walking with the ball in font of his feet in a type of `dribble’ is a challenge.
• Hold the ball gently in front of your baby and show him how to bat it out of your hands.


With your beach ball
• Sit your baby on the ball. Hold his feet firmly and rock him forwards, backwards and side to side. Encourage him to balance on it while you move him.
• Push the ball against each other, as hard as you can. He may not understand the concept of push, so you may have to help him a bit!
• Lie on the floor and roll the ball over his body. Encourage him to do the same to you!
• Pat the ball, softly and then loud.
• Lift your baby up, and swing his legs to kick the ball with his feet.
• With your toddler sitting on the floor, legs spread apart, roll a large ball into his lap. Encourage him to roll it back. (Remember, accuracy is of no concern here!)


Balls and boxes
• Give your toddler a washing basket or cardboard box, and some balls to drop into and dump out of again. Use tennis balls, ping pong balls, balls made from crumpled paper, socks tied into a tight ball or even bean bags.
• Place a large cardboard box on it’s side, open at either end. Show your toddler how to roll the balls through the `tunnel’. Chairs and tables also work as great tunnels, especially if covered with a cloth.
• Lie your large cardboard box on the floor. Cut out arches along the side. Show your toddler how to roll the balls through the arches.


Balls and tins
• Collect your formula tins, and decorate or paint them.
• Place one tin on top of another, and encourage your toddler to knock them down by throwing or rolling the ball at them.
• Show your toddler how to balance balls on top of tins with open lids.

Balloons are magical floating balls. They’re large but light, and they move in unpredictable ways. They are easy targets for visual tracking skills as they move slowly and it’s easier for your child to follow their movement.
• Bat a balloon back and forth between you and your toddler.
• Show him how you can keep a balloon up in the air by hitting it up, and help him to do so too!
• A balloon is easy to catch or kick as it moves slowly, so give him lots of practice.
NB! Never leave your child on his own with a balloon. If it pops, he could choke on it.


More basic ball games…
• Sponge or rubber balls can strengthen little fingers if you squeeze them.
• Put a ball in an onion bag or a stocking. Hang it from a tree. Let your toddler, tap, hit, box, kick or punch it.
• Hang balls of different sizes and weights from a tree. Encourage your toddler to hit them and feel the difference between heavy and light.

Did you know?
• Ball games can develop body awareness, spatial awareness, balance, the coordination of body sides, eye foot and eye hand coordination.
• If you throw a ball up, it will come down.
• Because a ball is round, it can roll. Wheels go round, squares can’t. There are many objects that are round. The sun, coins, hoops.
• You can make your body round and roll like a log or a ball.


Ball talk
Balls games can promote your toddler’s language skills and understanding of concepts.
Use words to describe the fun you are having: roll, round, bounce, slowly, fast, heavy, big, small, light, lots of balls, few balls, different colour balls.
Body balls
If you don’t happen to have a ball handy, try this body ball poem together, author unknown!

A little ball (clasp your hands together in a ball)
A bigger ball (move your hands apart, curving them into a ball shape)
A great big ball I see (stretch your arms and hands into a wide arc)

Now let’s count the balls,
one (Stretch your hands up into a wide arc)
two (curve your hands into a ball shape)
three (clasp your hands together)