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Ball skills

What skills does a child need to play with a ball?

Children need a range of skills including the ability to:

  • visually track the ball
  • bi-manual skills to bring the hands together and catch the ball
  • body awareness to know when and where to move the body.

To help the child learn, you should adjust the challenge so that it’s achievable and gradually make this more difficult.

How to help a child develop ball catching skills

The child needs to watch the ball when you throw it to them. Many children look at the person throwing to them instead of the ball which makes it harder for them to respond and catch the ball in time. Verbally prompt them to look at the ball, not you.

Practice with a slow moving object

This could be a balloon or rolled up chiffon scarf). It allows the child more time to track the object and move their body to the right position, giving them more of chance to catch it.

Make sure the child has their hands ready

Encourage them to ‘clap the ball’ (catching it between their hands) rather than bringing it to their body.

Practice with a large, light ball

Do this when the child can catch the slow moving object effectively. Throw the large, light ball over a 1 metre distance. Once the child can catch the ball at 1 metre, move it further away to 2 metres.

Gradually decrease the size of the ball

This will increase the difficulty.

When the child can catch a small ball over a 2 metre distance, throw the ball to either side of the child so they have to move to catch it.

How to help a child develop ball throwing skills

Aim at a large target

Use a large hula hoop and do this from a short distance, starting at 1 metre. Gradually increase the distance the child throws from until they can throw from 2 or 3 metres. Once they can do this, ask the child to move back to the 1 metre mark and reduce the size of the target. Repeat this process by decreasing the size of the target and increasing the distance.

Change the target

Start with something flat and easy to land in, for example, a hula hoop and encourage the child to throw into a bucket.

Play different target games for example skittles or beanbag shot putt.

How to help a child develop ball kicking skills

As with throwing, grade the size of the target and the distance the child kicks from. Start with a large target with the child standing close. Gradually change this to a smaller target with the child kicking from further away.

Encourage the child to stop the ball to control it before kicking the ball away again.