Teaching Your Child Ball Skills

Acknowledgement of Country:  Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which we live, work, learn, and play, and pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

Adding a ball into your child’s play can make the day so much fun! It is also an important part of your child’s play development and physical skills. However, there is more than meets the eye that occurs during participation in ball sports.

What’s involved?

There are a variety of skills which are drawn upon to allow for successful participation in ball sports, which includes:

    • Visual-motor-integration skills (VMI): Visual-motor integration is our ability to take in the visual information that we receive and combine this with our motor (movement) skills, to accurately execute movements in our body. An example of this would be throwing and catching a ball.
    • Gross motor skills: These skills involve any movement that is using the body’s large muscle groups (stabilising muscles) including the core, legs, and arms. Typically, children begin to learn the gross motor skills of kicking and catching a large ball, and start to explore underarm throwing, around the age of 4.
    • Social skills: Social skills are how we interact and communicate with others both verbally and non-verbally. Ball games can be a great way for children to develop their social skills in many different aspects such as sharing resources, taking turns, following rules, working as part of a team, etc.
    • Managing winning/losing outcomes: Ball games can bring out the competitive side in all of us (even adults). So, ball sports can be used as an important tool in teaching your child to show good sportsmanship.
Activities to try at home:

As you can see, there is a LOT to achieve successful participation with ball sports. So, what can you do if you notice that your child needs some support with these areas? Here are some suggestions that you can try at home!

  1. An activity to assist in developing VMI skills is passing a large soft ball slowly so your child has better success with catching it. You can then increase the difficulty of the task as they become more competent by using smaller balls or passing it faster.
    If you have a little one, using a ball can be a great way to build social skills and facilitate interactions. A game of roll the ball suits children as young as toddlers.
  2. Kids take turns rolling a ball back and forth between them, laying the foundation for other social skills.
  3. As your child grows more confident with kicking, catching, and throwing, you can introduce a target, goal, or possibly a hoop.
  4. Bouncing the ball in one spot, and progress to bouncing it back and forth to one another. You can grade this by using a smaller and firmer ball and turning it into a game of handball for older children (keeping the rules simple).
  5. Hitting a balloon back and forth can be beneficial for younger children as they have more time to react before hitting the balloon. You can see how many hits they can do to keep it off the ground and even involve other members of the family to make a team.
  6. Bouncing a tennis ball with a racket (on the ground first, and then in the air). See how many bounces they can do before it hits the ground.
  7. Scrunch up bits of newspaper to make a soft and light ball and flick it with your hand across a table to another person.
  8. You can also use small bits of scrunched-up newspaper to play ‘finger soccer’ and set goals on each end of the table. This promotes fine motor development and VMI development.

If you try these games at home and still have questions and concerns about your child’s ball skills, please reach out to our friendly Occupational Therapists!

Falcy, E. (2022). Visual Motor Integration and Visual Motor Skills | NAPA Center. NAPA. Retrieved 5 August 2022, from https://napacenter.org/visual-motor-integration/#:~:text=Visual%20motor%20integration%20is%20the%20ability%20to%20incorporate%20visual%20information,successfully%20engage%20in%20daily%20occupations.

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