“Ball skills are vital for eye-hand coordination, for rhythm, timing and sequencing and even for strengthening eye tracking skills”, says OT and founder of GAP playgroups, Lourdes Bruwer. “Later on, these skills are very important for fine motor skills and academic skills such as reading and writing.”
Understanding the magic inherent in ball games and the value they bring, these activities will help you to be prepared-ish to enhance your baby’s development in general:
- Before your toddler can try to throw or catch a ball, he has to first master grasping, releasing, eye tracking and bilateral hand coordination. Rolling a ball slowly along the ground to him while in a seated position will help him with these precursors for throwing and catching.
- Your toddler’s first ‘ball’ to catch can be a balloon. Balloons are great fun because they are big and they also move much slower through the air than a ball. This allows your toddler to prepare his body to catch, kick or hit the balloon.
- Then you can move on to large balls, which require two hands to catch. This develops bilateral co-ordination – using the two sides of the body together.
- Waiting his turn and sharing are part of any ball game and are milestones that your baby is learning from as early as 3 months when he gurgles and you wait for him to stop “talking” and babble back to him while he listens.
- Once your little one has mastered using his body to connect with the ball, you can move onto using a stick or club to hit the ball. Using a tool with a ball is a higher level of skill for toddlers.
Of course in addition to ticking a lot of developmental milestone boxes, ball games are just fabulous fun too.