Do you want to find another way to bond with your child and help them physically and mentally develop? As parents, we always look for new and creative ways to spend quality time with our children. It is easy to get stuck in a routine; getting children ready for school, helping them with homework, and packing lunches. We forget the simple, inexpensive opportunities typical of sitting in the living room toy box…
This Christmas break, taking time out of the daily grind to have some fun can help families reconnect while also providing emotional, mental, and physical well-being by grabbing any ball you can find and starting an age-appropriate game with your kiddo(s)!
Playing ball with your child can improve their self-esteem, help them focus on goals, and foster social connections. Read on to learn more about the 6 therapeutic benefits of playing ball with your child.
1. It’s a Bonding Experience
Playing catch is a great way to bond with your child. It gives you both a chance to spend some quality time together while also getting some exercise. This can be a special time for you and your child to chat and connect. For kiddos who struggle with social interaction, the ball can sometimes serve as a focal point rather than the other individual’s face. This can take pressure off the kiddo and often open the door to meaningful interactions and conversation.
For those kiddos still working on motor skills that allow them to catch and throw, consider rolling the ball back and forth, rolling/bouncing it on their feet, hands, etc.
2. It Teaches Hand-Eye Coordination
Playing catch is also a great way to help your child develop hand-eye coordination. This is an important skill for them as they grow up and will help them with tasks such as writing, catching a ball, and using utensils.
Adaptations for kiddos who need additional support, including hand-over-hand support for catching and throwing. I recommend the supporting individual be situated behind the kiddo so he/she has no visual constraints while playing and can feel the support of the right arm–to–right arm and left arm–to–left arm.
3. It Improves Their Motor Skills
Now, as a music therapist, here is my plug for incorporating music into this activity! Turn on a song with a strong rhythmic structure (Wellerman, Drummer Boy, Joy To The World, Frosty, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!, etc..) and work on tossing, rolling, and bouncing the ball to the rhythm. The motor areas in your child’s brain will be firing, and it will help them organize their movements into a predictable pattern.
When I was younger, my sisters and I loved to go outside and play volleyball together. Some days, we struggled to get into a “rhythm” with each other, so we would always start the ABCs. It sounds silly, but typically it would help us stay in sync with each other longer because we were all moving in a rhythm, and our motor system was desperately trying to keep in time with the rhythmic structure we had started. Consider this if your child is struggling to organize their movements. It is not necessarily going to be an immediate fix. Still, it activates motor pathways in their brain by creating a space for the brain and body to entrain to a temporal pattern.
The Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) technique I often use for goals such as these is called Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation. Stay tuned for a blog dedicated to this evidence-based NMT technique.
4. It’s Good Exercise
No matter what playing ball and catch looks like with your kiddo, It helps to get their heart rate up and gets them moving their muscles. This is important for their overall health!
5. It Helps With Balance
Running and jumping, reaching while sitting, or however, your child is moving to get the ball helps your child develop their balance. This is an important skill for them as they grow up and will help them with tasks such as riding a bike, skateboarding, or even just walking on uneven surfaces.
6. It Teaches Them About Teamwork
If you play catch with another person, it also teaches your child about teamwork. They learn that it takes two people working together to make the game work and that it’s important to cooperate with others. This is an important lesson for them as they grow up and will help them in various aspects of their life, such as school, work, and relationships.
Well, that is it! Go grab a ball, take some breaths, and enjoy a simple activity with a lot to offer you and your child over the holiday break!