How to Help a Child Catch a Ball

Written by kira jaines
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How to Help a Child Catch a Ball
Full development of ball-catching skills may take several years. (boy playing catch image by sonya etchison from

Catching a ball is no easy thing for a 2- or 3-year-old child. It requires coordination of eyes, hands, and body. Learning to catch a ball is a progression, says Stephen Sanders, Ed.D., author of "Active for Life: Developmentally Appropriate Movement Programs for Young Children." A child will first learn to catch a ball with his whole body, then with his arms and hands, and finally with his hands only. Mastering this skill takes time and practice.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Soft balls of various sizes

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    Teach a child how to catch a ball

  1. 1

    Sit on the ground facing your child, with legs spread apart and feet touching. Begin by rolling the ball back and forth in the space created between your legs. Your child will learn to track the ball and will learn about back-and-forth and how to stop the ball.

  2. 2

    Widen the distance between you and your child, still sitting on the ground, but with a longer space in which to roll the ball. Do this gradually, as your child grasps the concept of rolling the ball back and forth between you.

  3. 3

    Move to your knees and continue to roll the ball between you. This adds a new dimension to the rolling game, changing your child's centre of balance. Your child should stop the ball with both hands then roll it back to you.

  4. 4

    Stand up, spacing yourself a few feet apart from your child. Instead of rolling the ball, bounce it gently so it reaches your child on one bounce. Your child will have to change hand position to try and catch the ball, from the previous palm-down position likely used when rolling the ball back to you to sideways or palm-up.

  5. 5

    Begin gently tossing the ball as you stand a few feet away from your child. Your child will likely try to catch the ball in her arms. At first, the ball will probably fall right through and the two of you can have a good laugh. But with time and patience, your child will begin to scoop the ball into her body with her arms. As your child's motor skills develop, her ball-catching ability will progress.

Tips and warnings

  • To help your child discover what it feels like to catch a ball, stand behind him and hold his hands out with yours while another person gently tosses the ball to him. Help him move his arms into position to catch the ball then bring them up to his body to complete the catch.
  • Helping your child catch a ball can only be accomplished over time. Your child may begin trying to catch a ball by age 2, but a mature catch will likely not fully develop until age 6. Remember not all children follow the same developmental schedule; however, if your child cannot throw or catch a large ball bounced to him by age 5, contact your paediatrician.

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