We aren't born with the ability to throw or catch. Kids from toddlers to teens learn these skills through repetition and experience. It's important to encourage play throughout these formative years so that children develop the coordination necessary for participation in all physical activity, including sports. The good news is that learning how to throw and catch is great fun and children love it. The British Heart Foundation advises parents to build on activities their children enjoy and develop games from their interests.
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Very young chiildren need games that will give them confidence in catching and throwing. Soft balls and large targets develop their hand-eye co-ordination. The slow movement of a balloon gives them time to respond in catching games. Balloon Volleyball is popular with toddlers. It involves them trying to stop balloons from touching the floor. As their throwing skills become more accurate, small hollow plastic balls are perfect for throwing into upturned umbrellas or onto a baby blanket. Another great idea, suitable for older pre-schoolers is setting up scoops cut from two-litre plastic milk bottles for them to catch bean bags in.
Interactive ball games such as netball, rounders and cricket teach children how to co-operate by working in teams. Smaller teams are needed for skittles, where partners work together to knock down two-litre fizzy drinks bottles by throwing high-density foam balls. In Roman Ball, team members stand outside a large circle and throw a football into a smaller inner circle, so that another team member can catch it as it bounces out. Even in winter, primary children can develop their throwing accuracy with snowball games.
High-energy teenagers need fast-paced games and they like an element of danger, so Waterbomb Warfare is ideal. Like paintballing but without the guns, two teams of waterbombers try to capture their opponent's flag. Players hit with a waterbomb must return to their base camp for fifteen seconds before returning to the game. Noisy and messy, this is best played in a large space where non-participants will not get hit. Another sure-fire hit with teenagers is Velcro Dodge. This involves them wearing targeted fabric tabards and helmets and throwing velcroed fabric balls at each other to score points.
Family games often involve children of different ages playing together. Throwing and catching games such as Frisbee or Piggy In The Middle accommodate the full range of motor skills. Arcade games such as bowling can also be enjoyed by a mixed age-group. Simple games like Penny or Card Toss can be adapted for different abilities. Throwing pennies into numbered egg carton holes to score points can be made easier by using larger targets like cupcake tins. Catching playing cards in a paper bag can be scored either by the number of cards caught or by their face value.
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