Catching is a skill set that requires hand eye coordination, motor planning, balance, visual acuity, and depth perception. It is a helpful skill for children to encourage reciprocal play, turn taking and peer modeling too!
Catching Rolling Ball (in sitting child corrals rolling ball with arms and/or hands without losing balance): 6-13 months
Catching Ball from 5 Feet (child presents with extended arms directly in front, palms upward or facing each other; attempts to secure ball by bending arms toward chest): 20-30 months
Catching Ball from 5 Feet (catches ball with hands and arms extended): 30-40 months
Catching Ball from 5 Feet (catches ball with hands with arms bent 45-90 degrees at the elbows and palms up or facing each other): 40-50 months
Catching Tennis Ball from 5 Feet (catches ball on 2 of 3 trails using hands only): 50-60 months
Catching Bounced Tennis Ball (bounces and catches ball on 2 of 3 trials): 62-72 months
Tips to Teach Children to Catch
Big Ball Rolling
Similar to our preparation for throwing, rolling is a great first step! Encourage child to sit with legs open. Roll ball towards them allowing child the opportunity to corral ball with hands. Rolling offers opportunities to practice visual tracking, cause and effect and hand eye coordination. Utilize a large therapy ball for bigger visual target and more input to hands and body!
We can progress along using a smaller ball. The o-ball is great as it offers an easy to grip option. Balls with added sensory components (visual, auditory, tactile) are great motivators as well.
Hand-Eye Coordination Practice
Start with slow moving object like balloon, allowing child ability to visually track and follow. As child gains comfort tracking the balloon and anticipating its movement, they have time needed to prepare body and upper extremities for catching and securing balloon to body. Once child masters this concept, we can pass balloon back and forth increasing speed of its trajectory and challenging hand eye coordination further.
For added fun introduce a net like this one from Hall Stars. Pictured above Abe shows off his skills in a game of balloon tennis!
Easy to Grab Balls
Balls like the Yogibo Yogi Ball offer an easy to grab option when practicing catching. With its bean bag core and soft cotton/lycra cover, small hands will be able to throw and catch this ball with ease! Pictured above, Abe practices catching the smaller Yogibo ball option to challenge his object manipulation skills.
Catching with velcro paddles offer children the opportunity to practice the act of catching without the finer coordination needed to manipulate ball with hands. Initially we stand close by and throw the ball directly to the child’s paddle, the ball adheres to the velcro as child learns cause and effect of catching. We can begin to encourage child to move body or upper extremity towards the moving object. As children gain more control a velcro ball and glove set is a great option as well!
Colored cones are great to practice hand eye coordination needed for catching. The cone offers the option of two handed manipulation or one, as child gains strength and confidence in catching skills. The pop n’ catch game is also a fun option to develop hand eye coordination and motor planning needed for catching as well!
- Velcro Ball
- Hall Stars Volleyball & Tennis
- Alex Toys 3 in 1 Net Set
- Geospace Pop ‘n Catch Game
- Melissa & Doug Crab Toss and Grip Game
- Melissa & Doug Shark Toss and Catch
- Yogibo Yogi Ball Max
- Toysmith Easy Catch Ball & Glove
For more fun with ball play skills, check out Teaching Children to Throw!
Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!