The humble ball was inducted into the US National Toy Hall of Fame in 2009. But it’s role in childhood play stretches back to the beginnings of civilisation. In fact many consider it one of the earliest children’s toys.
Archeological finds show that in ancient Egypt children played games with balls made from papyrus or leather with straw stuffing, while tomb paintings show young girls juggling balls. Ancient Roman children played ball games that would not be out of place in schoolyards today, including dodge-ball and catch, using balls made from reeds and linen or inflated pigs’ bladders.
It seems kids have been ‘having a ball’ for a very long time. And is it any wonder? Balls can be used in so many different ways and provide loads of developmental opportunities for children, in addition to being heaps of fun.
Ball play provides multiple benefits across many areas of development, including hand-eye coordination, gross and fine motor skills, spatial awareness, grasping skills and balance.
From the time babies can sit on their own, they can start to roll a ball. It’s a great introduction to cause and effect and feeling in control of something other than their own movements. And a great way to improve their visual tracking skills. Little ones start to learn about the properties of a ball too — they roll when pushed, they bounce and sometimes they are squishy. Grasping skills and early hand-eye coordination is also encouraged.
As they grow, children learn to master a range of gross motor skills with balls, including catching, throwing, aiming, bouncing and kicking. Social skills also come into play as kids join together or play with an adult for simple games, like rolling, throwing, kicking and passing balls to one another. These kinds of games also help develop spatial awareness by helping children understand where their body is in relation to the ball and other people.
Kicking in particular is an awesome activity for practicing balance and coordination. At first small children walk into a ball to move it forward. As they mature, they will begin to lift one leg to kick. This requires balance and is a great challenge for toddlers and preschoolers. As their balance improves they will be able to kick the ball harder and further and in a straight line.
Importantly playing with balls teaches kids to unplug, get outside and enjoy physical activity. Experts agree that outdoor play is vitally important for a child’s development by helping to improve their immune systems, providing sunshine for vitamin D production and simply getting a daily dose of fresh air.
And just quietly, long hours of energetic ball play in a local park will simply wear them out, improving sleep quality, which helps them function better in every aspect of their lives.
Crocodile Creek Playground Balls collection come in two sizes (5 and 7 inch) are perfect for helping keep kids active and outside. Made of tough, natural rubber with a textured surface to help kids grip and catch, they also come in a range of gorgeous designs including dinosaurs, sharks, butterflies and rainbows.