Rolling, bouncing, learning
Balls are simple, fascinating, and a powerful development toy for babies and toddlers. Find out how balls can develop spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, and language skills, and help your little scientist to do their own experiments!
Balls come in many sizes and materials, which gives you the chance to stimulate lots of your child’s senses and skills (just make sure each ball is too large to swallow). Soft, spongy or squishy balls stimulate their fine motor skills by encouraging them to grab and squeeze. Balls that jingle, chime or crackle stimulate their hearing, while brightly coloured or patterned balls stimulate their visual skills.
When your baby rolls a ball they are improving their visual tracking skills, and learning about cause and effect – when I push the ball, it rolls away. As they develop more control, you can roll the ball back and forth between you – this stimulates higher level hand-eye coordination skills, and teaches them about taking turns.
Bowling is an excellent activity for hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, and easy to set up – just place a ball and a non-breakable object in front of your child, and encourage them to roll the ball towards the object. Celebrate whenever the ball gets close to the object, and even more when it hits.
You bowled the ball right to teddy!
Once your child has started crawling, chasing after the rolling ball will develop their spatial awareness and gross motor skills (and maybe lay the foundations for a career in soccer!). They’ll also enjoy greater bowling challenges, such as:
- playing pass with you over longer distances
- bowling over a set of objects, such as wooden blocks, plastic cups, or soft toys
- bowling a ball through an obstacle course, such as between your legs, under the table, and into the toy basket.
Does your child keep dropping balls (and other things) from their high chair? That’s great – they are doing science! Encourage your child to keep experimenting and teaching themselves about concepts such as:
- cause and effect (when I drop this ball, it falls down, makes a noise, then bounces back up)
- differences between objects (when I drop my banana it falls down, makes a noise, but doesn’t bounce)
- object permanency (when my banana falls down below my table it still exists, even though I can’t see it).
Like any good scientist, your child will keep repeating their experiments to see if the results change. Enrich their experiments by giving them different materials to try, such as balls with different amounts of bounce.
Do you think the big soft ball will bounce higher than the ping pong ball?
Some babies also enjoy the light touch of a soft ball over their body, a little like a massage. Try it when your baby is relaxed and calm: just gently roll the ball across their body, or brush the ball softly across their skin as if you were painting them. Follow your baby’s cues – if they are enjoying it, do more. If they’re not enjoying it, stop. If your baby finds it soothing, you could even make it part of their bath or sleep routine.
Whatever the activity, remember to develop your child’s language skills by providing a running commentary.
This ball is soft and snuggly like your blanket …
The big shiny ball makes a crackling sound …
Wow - you rolled the ball right back to my hand! …
That ball doesn’t bounce very high. Do you want to try this one?
The ball feels tickly on your tummy, doesn’t it!