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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

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