Toddler Development and Rolling Balls

Sometimes the simplest toys are the best toys. A ball can be a valuable tool in teaching your toddler important motor skills, such as grasping, using small finger muscles, hand-eye coordination or the ability to move objects from one hand to another, according to Scholastic Teachers 1. The first step for your toddler in ball-handling skills is to roll a ball. There are some simple and engaging games you can play to help with her development through ball rolling.

Back and Forth

Rolling a ball can help develop many skills other than motor development. When you roll a ball back and forth with your toddler, she is also practicing social skills of taking turns and sharing an object. Sit across from your toddler with your legs spread apart and ask her to do the same. Using a large, light-weight ball, roll it gently to her and have her try to catch it in her arms. Then ask her to roll it back to you, and continue the game for as long as it interests her. As you play, you can also practice language skills by saying things such as, "Here comes the ball. It's your turn now. Roll the ball back to me." Repeat the same phrases each time so she will get many exposures to the language of sharing and turn taking. To add variety to this game, position your toddler at the top of a small plastic slide and have her roll the ball down to you at the bottom. Return the ball to her to repeat the game, and after several turns, switch places.

In The Basket

According to, the ability to grasp an object is learned between the ages of 3 and 7 months, but the coordination to throw a ball doesn't come until after about 18 months. Since rolling a ball is easier for children younger than age 2, your toddler will roll a ball before she throws or kicks one. To help her learn to coordinate her movements, give her a target to aim for. An easy way to do this is to turn an empty laundry basket on its side and give her a light-weight ball to roll into the open basket. Start with the goal very close to her and then gradually move it farther away as she begins to master her aim.

Bowling and Bocce

To help your toddler practice her ball rolling, adapt some well-known adult ball games for her to play. Your toddler will enjoy bowling because she gets to crash and knock things over. Set up some empty plastic bottles and place your little one a short distance away. Give her a ball to roll toward the bottles and try to knock down as many as she can. Practice some early math skills as you stand them back up and count how many fell. Bocce is an Italian target game in which players roll their balls to move other balls. Gather three balls and give one to your toddler, keep one for yourself, and place the third on the ground a short distance away. Take turns with your little one rolling your balls to try to move the third ball toward a designated ending point, such as the tree across the yard.

Which Ball is Best?

When your toddler is learning to roll a ball, it is best to start with a large light-weight ball such as a beach ball that will be easier for her to handle and catch. To give her practice with using the smaller muscles in her hand, look for balls that she can grasp with one hand, although it should still be light weight. Balls that are soft and squishy, such as a foam ball, can also be easier for your toddler to catch and grab. No matter what ball you choose, just be sure that it can pass the choke-tube test, meaning that it cannot pass through a tube about the size of a toilet-paper roll.

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