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Friday, January 27, 2017

Development of Early Ball Skills Part III: Kicking and Catching a Ball By Trisha Roberts

STUMBLE-KICKING: Young children (ages 15-18 months) usually ‘stumble-kick’ a ball before performing a true kick.  Stumble-kicking is essentially walking into a ball and perhaps nudging it with their toes in order to move the ball forward.

Learning to kick a ball
Early Kicking--"Stumble Kick"

KICKING A PLAYGROUND BALL: Swing-through kicking a stationary ball typically occurs at 18-24 months. Pre-requisites for true swing-kicking include the ability to stand alone, weight shift from one leg to another, rotate at the trunk, and momentarily stand alone on one foot. I love to practice kicking in a hallway. Rather than running after a wayward ball, the ball stays ‘corralled’ within the corridor and can be easily retrieved.  If a child is having difficulty balancing, I might initially place them in standing against a wall to assist with trunk support and prevent loss of balance. This can give them initial success in kicking because they are not worried about falling.

Balance is required for swing-through kicking a ball
Swing-Through Kicking Requires Standing on 1 Foot Momentarily

Child learning to kick a ball
Trunk Rotation is Necessary for a True Swing-Through Kick

CATCHING A BALL:  The typical age for catching a large ball is 24-26 months. Many children develop a fear of catching a ball because they are afraid of getting hit in the face by a ball.  Balls come fast and they are hard! That is why I love to teach the skill of  catching by using a 12-15 inch inflated balloon. A tossed balloon arrives more slowly and floats in front of the child, giving them a slightly longer period of time to get their arms together to ‘trap’ it.  It is soft, so if they are unsuccessful in catching the balloon, they don’t get startled by a whack on the nose!  Once a child is having 80% success rate with catching a balloon, I might try a stuffed animal of about the same size. The stuffed animal is heavier and moves faster, but it is soft and of an irregular shape.  This often leads to successful catching, as the child is able to snag an arm, leg, or head of the stuffed animal before it falls to the floor.  When your child has been successful catching balloons and stuffed animals you can try a playground ball.  If they don’t have success, don’t force the issue.  Let them continue with the balloon or stuffed animal for a while longer.

Other ball games for older children:

Bocce is a great game to practice throwing.  It is easy to learn and fun for every age.

Children playing Bocce Ball

Set of Bocce Balls for family fun

Family fun playing Bocce

  Another great way to perfect ball skills and balance is bowling.  There are lots of fun, inexpensive Bowling Sets that you can purchase or you can easily create a bowling set by using small boxes or stuffed animals and having children forward roll a small ball between their legs toward the "pins".

Remember that ball playing should be fun!  Don’t stress out if your child isn’t able to catch the first time you try.  Mastery of ball skills will take years.  Make it a good time of family play and interaction and kids will love practicing and will eventually be successful.

This Concludes our 3 Part Series of the Development of Early Ball Skills 

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2017 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Development of Early Ball Skills Part II: Flinging and Throwing a Ball by Trisha Roberts

We continue this week with the 3-part series of "Development of Early Ball Skills".

FLINGING A BALL:  As soon as children are walking well, they are ready to start flinging a ball.  When a child is able to walk with their hands at their sides (typically at 15 months old or about 3 months after they start walking) they should have enough control to stand and raise their arm to shoulder height.

Baby developing ball skills

 For initial exposure to ball throwing, I prefer a “Koosh” ball, small stuffed animal, or other soft object that won’t roll away when it lands.  (Again, I love a foam ball--see our Foam Ball Sets). This allows more time to practice the actual skill of throwing rather than chasing the ball as it rolls all over the house and gets trapped under furniture.  When a stuffed animal lands, it usually stays put and is easy to retrieve! The typical pattern children initially use when starting to throw a ball is called “forward fling”.  With the arm raised to about shoulder height, kids will move their arm forward and fling the ball downward with a flick at the wrist (wrist flexion). 

OVERHAND THROW:  It typically takes several months before an actual overhand throw develops, typically between 27-28 months of age.  A true overhand throw requires a child to raise their hand over their head, rotate their trunk and weight shift from one foot to the other while bringing their arm forward and releasing the ball at the top of the arc of movement.  Frequently children who are just learning to throw overhand will release prematurely and the ball will fall off their hand backward instead of moving forward.  Some children persist in a forward fling pattern because they don’t know to raise their arm; I will demonstrate raising my arm in the air over my head and say something like, “Arm up!” Then I release the ball accompanied by, “Throw the ball!”  Getting the child in this ‘start’ position usually leads to a successful throwing pattern.

Learning to Throw Overhand
True Overhand Throw

Playing with balls is fun and develops strength and coordination and leads to success in sports and other coordinated movements.  There are great Velcro Balls with Velcro Mitts that can develop hand strength and postural control during ball play.

Don't miss next week:

Development of Early Ball Skills Part III:  Kicking and Catching a Ball

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2017 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Development of Early Ball Skills Part I: Rolling a Ball by Trisha Roberts

How do ball skills typically develop in young children? This topic will be divided and discussed in three parts.

Children of all ages love balls and ball play.  Important skills are learned while manipulating a ball that help overall development. Tummy time can be enhanced by rolling a ball in front of your baby and encouraging him/her to reach for or crawl toward the ball. Visual skills are enhanced as the eyes need to follow the rapid movement of an object in motion. Social interaction, the understanding of cause and effect, and the Fine Motor skills of grasping and release are some of the additional abilities that can develop when playing with a simple ball.

ROLLING A BALL: Children learn to sit alone at about 6 months of age.  Initially they need to use their hands to support their weight, propping forward for balance.  But with time, they are able to stabilize their trunk using their core muscles and free their hands for play.  This is a great time to start holding and rolling a ball.  I recommend using a 4-6 inch diameter ball. (See our FoamBall Set)

Ball Skill Development

I am also enamored with the O'BALL.  There are many products they produce and they are all fantastic for babies and young children, as they are easy to grasp, made of soft plastic, and make fun sounds when manipulated.
I place the baby on the floor in a long sitting position with their legs abducted (legs out front and opened, forming a “V”) I then sit in front of them, mirroring the same position. This helps keep the ball corralled, decreases the distraction and bother of chasing after the ball, and leads to extended play time.

Develop ball skills early in kids

Begin by rolling the ball toward the child and letting them ‘capture’ it with their arms against their body.  I ask them to roll the ball back to me and then physically assist the ball’s return.

We continue taking turns rolling back and forth, assisting as needed.  This is one of the first games of turn taking baby can experience (See our Blog about the early game of Peek-a-Boo) It is a beautiful illustration of sharing and language preparation—I talk, you talk; I get the ball, you get the ball.

Don't miss next week:

Development of Early Ball Skills Part II:  Flinging and Throwing a Ball

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2017 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Importance to Reading to Your Children by Guest Blogger, Meghan Ames

This week I am featuring Meghan Ames, a Pediatric Physical Therapist with whom I have the privilege of working.  She is passionate about children—their growth, development and maturity. This is what she has to say about reading to kids!

The Importance to Reading to Your Children

Many parents think that their baby is too young to be read to. They think, “Why would I start reading to my baby when they do not understand what I am saying?” Believe it or not, there are multiple benefits to reading to your baby, even while they are still in utero!

Reading builds family relationships

Reading to your baby allows them to become familiar with your voice, builds a relationship between you and your child, teaches them about communication, introduces important concepts, improves their attention and listening skills, promotes thinking skills and social development, enhances memory, and expands their vocabulary. In 2014, The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement recommending reading to your child beginning at birth and continuing to at least through kindergarten. They stated that behavioral evidence has shown that children who are read to experience stronger parent-child relationships and learn valuable language and literacy skills. They also found that children who are frequently read to, have greater activity in brain areas supporting narrative comprehension and visual imagery, which are both important for language and reading skills.

Fathers should read to children
Reading helps develop relationships

Reading to your baby does not have to take up much of your time! Reading one or two pages or just pointing to the images on the page can be beneficial.

Here are some tips for making reading a part of your life:

  • Make it part of your child’s bedtime routine
  • Turn off the TV and create a quiet environment
  • Use silly voices while reading, change the pitch of your voice for different characters
  • Point to the pictures, name them, and talk about them
  • Choose books with bright, bold, and high-contrast illustrations
  • Keep books where your baby can reach them 
  • Use interactive books (mirrors, flap books, slide and see, finger-trails, etc.)

Establish a bedtime routine of reading

Due to my passion for children’s literacy, I recently became an Usborne Book Consultant. Usborne has a variety of books for children from birth through young adulthood. All Usborne books have an educational component and make learning fun! Feel free to visit my page and take a look!

Feel free to contact me with any questions at I would be happy to give you recommendations based on age, reading level, or interests.

Works Cited

Blog Administrator:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2017 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.