Teaching Children to Throw

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Throwing

Throwing is one of the ball play skill sets that we as Pediatric Physical Therapists address. Throwing requires upper body strength, hand eye coordination, motor planning, and body/spatial awareness. As with all developmental milestones motivation, participation and practice are key!

Throwing Milestones 

  • Rolling Ball Forward: 8-12 months 
  • Flinging Ball (throwing ball in any direction): 12-14 months
  • Throwing Ball (by extending arm at shoulder or elbow while maintaining balance): 15-18 months
  • Throwing Overhand (throwing forward at least 3 feet in air): 19-22 months
  • Throwing Underhand (throwing forward at least 3 feet in air): 23-26 months
  • Throwing Overhand with form (moving arm upward and back, 7 ft in air): 26-30 months
  • Throwing Underhand with form (moving arm down and back, 7 ft in air): 29-36 months
  • Throwing 10ft Overhand (moving arm up and back using upper trunk rotation, arms & legs in opposition): 38-42 months
  • Hitting Target Underhand (from 5 feet away): 38-42 months
  • Hitting Target Overhand (from 5 feet away): 43-46 months
  • Throwing 10 ft Underhand (moving arm down and back using upper trunk rotation, arms & legs in opposition): 45-48 months

Tips to Teach Children to Throw

Start with Rolling

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Rolling back and forth to child teaches turn taking, cause and effect, and helps establish understanding of ball play. Also rolling a ball addresses visual tracking and hand eye coordination. The best balls to practice rolling include soft ball, balls with rattles, and tactile balls.

Try Easy to Manipulate Ball

throwO-ball is a great tool as it is lightweight, promotes bilateral grasp, easy manipulation with one hand, interlocking of fingers to hold and quick release. Start with rolling ball back and forth. Allow child to gain comfort with the ball and understand its movement. From the floor, encourage child to stand and hold ball. As child gains trunk and upper body strength they will now be able to hold and release ball. First dropping the ball and eventually being able to manipulate ball to throw.

Decrease Size of Ball

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Initially a large ball is great to practice with; it offers a bigger target, engages full body to hold and manipulate, and promotes the use of both hands to push forward. As child gains strength and comfort begin to decrease the size of the ball, encouraging child to manipulate ball with one hand at a time. 

Change Target

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Practicing throwing back and forth to another person is always wonderful, but you can also experiment with other targets. For instance, rolling or throwing ball to knock down bowling pins, colored cones or block towers are all great ideas to practice accuracy and aim in throwing skills. Throwing clothing in laundry basket is a great precursor to practicing with a child sized basketball hoop at home or the playground. Bean bag toss is also a fun way to address throwing to target!

Model Over and Underhand Throwing

Begin modeling throwing over and underhand. Child can watch older peers, siblings or adults to demonstrate these skills. Then we can use physical cues (hand over hand) to help develop motor pattern, bringing child through the motion of throwing underhand and overhand. Verbal cues can help as well. 

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For overhand throwing we say “Put it to your ear and throw!”

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For underhand throwing we say, “Swing it by your side and throw!”

Generalize Skills

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In order to generalize throwing skills, it is important to practice the same skill with different equipment in different settings. You can increase the challenge as the child gains mastery of skill and builds confidence. In the sequence of photos pictured above, Abe practices throwing into basketball hoops of different heights from variable distances. This helps generalize the skills of throwing to a target.

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We hope you enjoyed Teaching Children to Throw! For more fun ideas to encourage throwing, check out our Activity of the Week!

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For more fun with ball play skills, check out Teaching Children to Catch!

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Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!

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