Catching is a skill that takes many years to master, as it requires the development of several other skills before seeing catching success. Hand-eye coordination, being able to track an object visually and fine motor skills to grasp the object can all be encouraged by providing children with lots of opportunities playing with balls or objects of different shapes and sizes.
We don’t normally see fully developed catching skills until the ages of 6-9 years, and so children need a lot of opportunities to attempt this complex skill.
Initially introduce early catching skills such as moving the ball with our hands and following the ball with our eyes through ball and beanbag games. Moving balls around the body, tapping balloons up in the air, rolling balls and chasing after them and passing them around a circle will all help develop these skills while building the confidence to catch. When children are ready to start catching, use KIDDO’s teaching vocabulary:
- Eyes on the ball
- Soft fingers
- Butterfly hands: thumbs together and fingers pointing up for balls being caught above the waist
- Wriggly worms: fingers pointing down for balls being caught below the waist
- Move hands to the ball
Introduce your baby to to visual tracking by playing with bubbles and balloons. Encourage them to reach out and try to grab them as they float around. See how many your toddler can pop. Dangle or throw scarves and see if your child can catch them or reach out and grab them.
At this time it is important to help develop your baby's grasping and object manipulation skills.
- Practice reaching out for balls
- Rolling a ball is a great way to help your toddler track a ball
- Incorporate toys into bath times to allow your child to practice object tracking and grasping in a dynamic environment.
It is important for their confidence levels to help children experience success as they learn to catch. The easiest ball to catch is one you throw or bounce yourself, use beanbags that little hands can grasp hold off easily.
- Games like Sticky Catches are great to introduce ball control and tracking in a reduced pressure environment.
- Try using buckets, hats or bowls to catch balls. This helps children track balls and move their hands and arms to the ball.
Blow up some balloons and try keeping them in the air – use your hands and feet.
Provide plenty of opportunities to catch and general ball play. Try asking questions such as:
- Can you move the ball through your legs?
- Try rolling the ball and chasing after it
- What do you do with your hands when you catch?
- Can you try throwing a beanbag in the air and catching it?
- Do you want to throw and catch with me?
At around age 6, children begin to learn to move their body when catching. To encourage this development, revisit games such as Witch's Cauldron, where your child has developed confidence, and challenge them to move their body by throwing the ball further from them. Adjust the speed and distance at which objects are thrown.
- This is also a great time to practice throwing and catching as a group - try Shrink and Grow.
- Challenge your child by encouraging them to catch with their non-dominant hand, or catching on the run.
- For older children, taking a ball to a swimming pool is a fun and stress free way to practice catching in mid-air.
- For those children ready to explore competitive or team sports, try playing basketball or netball with them
Children may initially:
- Trap the ball on their chest,
- Look away to their side, lean away from the ball and
- Close their eyes as they get worried about the ball hitting them
- Have rigid arms and hands and the ball will bounce off their chest