*** This article originally appeared in the Wnter 2012 issue of Traverse Bay Family Magazine. It is reprinted with permission. ***
Explore balls with a different variety of textures, sizes, colors and patterns. Describe the ball to them – feel, sight, sound (if any).
When a baby is having tummy time, put the ball just out of his reach. Encourage him to stretch, move, and wiggle to get a hold of it. (~3 mos)
When the baby is able to crawl and get around, roll the ball toward them and have them go and get it. (~6 mos)
Gently bounce the baby on ball. In our house, the exercise ball was the most used piece of baby equipment we owned. When they were super-small, we cradled them while bouncing gently. As they got older, we would sit them on our laps facing either in or out and bounce harder for more fun. We even have movies of them wanting to keep going when we stopped! (6-9 mos and up)
Get a bucket, washtub or laundry basket and drop balls inside of them. (~9 mos)
When they master dropping balls into the bucket, have them drop them in, and dump them out. Rinse, lather, repeat :).
Before they learn to throw, they can hand you the ball. Get a ball that is easy to grip and pass it back and forth. As they get better, repeat with a ball that is harder to hold. (12 mos)
Once they get the idea of passing the ball back and forth, begin to sit a little farther away and roll it back and forth. Again, try different balls, some may be easier to roll than others. (~15 mos)
A child’s ability to throw will probably be developed independent of you teaching it with a ball. Channeling that energy with a soft ball is always useful. If your child is extra boisterous or it’s winter, try modifying this activity by using a balloon to save the lamps! (~18 mos)
By this time, children are ready to start catching balls, too. Try using a ball about the width of their chest in diameter for easy catching. A favorite is using a slightly deflated beach ball so that they can get a bit of a grip on it. (~24 mos)
What are your favorite types of balls for small babies & toddlers?