A ball can be a very useful tool to develop strength and balance. The following are just a few ideas to get you started. Make sure to use medium and large sized balls for the kicking and pushing games:
Sitting Activities: Place your baby on the ball in a sitting position and hold securely around the waist while you gently bounce. You can also rock your baby side to side, forward and backward, and in big circles. All of these activities will help your baby develop good balance and strength throughout the core.
Lying Activities: Place your baby on the ball on his/her tummy. You can rock in a a variety of directions as above. To develop good leg strength and jumping skills you can have them facing you with you holding their arms as they push off their feet and “fly” on their tummy on the ball to you. To develop arm muscles and protective responses, you can hold your baby’s feet and “fly” forward to let them touch the ground.
Kicking Activities (for toddlers and older children): Have your toddler kick the ball to knock over stacks of cups or just for you to catch. Make sure that you make this fun and include both legs for kicking, not allowing them to favor one leg all of the time.
A Mylar balloon partially deflated or a beach ball partially deflated are great for kicking because they do not go very far and are less hazardous indoors.
Push Games: Have your baby or toddler push the ball to you and then you push it back. Encourage them to direct the ball to you. You can work in sitting until they are able to stand and then work on this in standing with a large therapy ball. Another great way to set this up is straddle your legs facing a wall or couch and place your baby in front with the ball. Have them roll the ball to the couch and have them try to catch it as it returns to you after bouncing off the wall.
Throwing Games: If you have a ball pit with tons of small balls–great! If not, that is fine. Gather a bunch of balls of different sizes and aim them at a box or laundry basket. If you are short on balls, you can use wadded up paper or socks. Make a game of aiming at the target. As your child develops this skill, try having them throw underhanded by handing them the ball with your hand on top and then guiding them to throw this way too.
Play with all sizes and types of balls (soft ones are best, keep the ball at a non-chokable size –bigger than what can fit through a paper towel tube). There are many, like the Phlat ball, that are different from your regular balls. This ball can be stomped flat OR can be pushed down and it will “pop” up.
Get creative! These are just a sampling of the many different ways a ball can be used with toddlers and infants.
More ideas and information can be found in my books by clicking HERE: