By Mariel Uyquiengco
Most parents overlook the humble ball when getting toys for their kids. After all, what does a plain and boring ball have to offer when playthings with lights and sounds beckon?
The Strong National Museum of Play inducted the ball in its Hall of Fame in 1999 to give it the recognition that it deserves. It hardly needs that honor, as people have probably played with it since the earliest times.
In this day and age of so-called smart and educational toys, why do you still have to get a ball for your infant?
- A ball can “grow” with your child
A ball can be used for a long time in various ways as a child grows up. As an infant, your baby will just follow it with her eyes as you roll it about. At about 4 to 5 months, she can pick it up with her legs (yes, really!). As she begins to crawl, the ball makes a nice hunting object. As she begins to walk and run, the ball can be kicked, thrown, and rolled!
In the preschool years, the appeal of the ball still doesn’t wane. Kids still get excited about it!
2. A ball develops hand-eye/foot-eye coordination
Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the hand to move with the guidance of the eye. It is an important skill for playing sports (volleyball, golf, tennis, etc.), handwriting (writing between the lines), and reading (tracking the words).
Playing catch with your child is a great game for developing her hand-eye coordination. Depending on your child’s age, you can roll or throw the ball to each other.
Getting a laundry basket as a hoop is also a nice game to play with your young child. Picking up the ball and shooting it into a basket are great hand-eye exercises.
3. A ball aids in physical development
Kids love how a ball rolls and bounces. They can’t help playing with it! They want to keep it rolling and bouncing.
When your child crawls after a ball, her vestibular system is stimulated; it helps her coordination skills to develop. A ball also encourages your child to walk or run after it endlessly, boosting her gross motor skills.
Learning how to control one’s muscles is an important skill. Kicking and running after a ball is a great way to gain strength and develop body control.
4. A ball promotes free play and imagination
Free play and imagination are very important in a young child’s life. Playing with balls allows them to just play and imagine. Small balls can be used as “ingredients” in a pretend dish and bigger balls can be used as “fire” in a pretend campfire.
A ball is a ball. You can make it into anything that you want and play with it any way you like.
5. A ball promotes teamwork
Little kids can have a lot of fun with just a few balls around. You can let them play on their own for some free play or you can organize them into teams for some relay games. Such games help introduce the value of teamwork to even small kids.
As they grow up and join organized sports, balls take center stage. Soccer, basketball, football, volleyball, and baseball are some of the team sports that use a ball as an object of play.
Play is important in a child’s development. It is essential that the toys we give our kids actually benefit them. Let us avoid the bells and whistles of toys that do not encourage physical activity or stimulate the imagination.
The ball may be humble, but generations upon generations have enjoyed playing with it. Truly, the simplest toys are the best, and nothing can be simpler than a ball.
Mariel Uyquiengco hopes to inspire parents to be their children’s first and best teacher. She does this through her blog and online children’s book shop www.thelearningbasket.com and by giving parenting seminars about early childhood development, preschool homeschool, and raising children to be readers.