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7 best ball games for toddlers: good for motor development

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  December 12, 2022

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Toddlers are active, curious and in full development.

Young children therefore need a lot of stimulation, encouragement and guidance.

By playing the right games you can positively influence the motor development of your child.

Play with whale is an excellent way for toddlers to develop their physical, cognitive and emotional skills. Balls are a great tool to encourage movement, help toddlers learn cause and effect and improve their coordination.

By playing with balls, toddlers can also develop their fine motor skills practice by picking up balls of different sizes and colors.

They can also practice their hand-eye coordination by throwing and catching the ball or rolling around the room.

Enough reasons to play with balls with your toddler!

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The best ball games for toddlers in a row

To make your busy life a little easier, we have listed the best games for you.

  • Roll the ball
  • Throw the ball
  • Balls form a stove
  • Ball pit
  • Golf or shuffleboard
  • Tin throwing
  • Ball in the bucket
  • (bowling?)
  • Ball mikado
  • Bouncing ball
  • Balancing on a skippy ball (hold tight to mama)
  • Parachute ball (with friends)
  • Sensopathic Balls (affiliate link!)
  • Ball track
  • Paint with balls (beware of the mess)
  • Massage with balls
  • Transparent balloons with confetti
  • Ball bingo (maybe toddlers are too young)

Young children need a lot of positive affirmation. So keep in mind that games that are still too difficult can actually be frustrating.

Motor development

Your baby's development to toddler (both physically, mentally and emotionally) goes in small steps.

Motor development in a child is about learning to move. This can be divided into gross and fine motor skills.

  • gross motor skills: as the name implies, this involves large movements. Think of movements such as crawling, walking, swinging, standing, sitting, cycling, swimming and so on.
  • Fine motor skills: this concerns the small, finer movements and hand motor skills (so especially the muscle development in the hands and fingers) such as writing, making crafts, coloring, tying shoelaces and grasping small objects. Fine motor skills require more concentration from the child.

The timeline of these developments can differ per child; with some children intermediate steps go very quickly and in other cases it takes a little longer before a child is ready for the next phase.

There are generally a number of milestones that you can hold on to as a parent.

One of them is ball games. This is a fun way to play together, but you will also be able to easily see the growth of your child.

Shooting a ball, but also walking and swimming movements that we can identify under gross motor skills.

The best ball games for toddlers

When a child is about one year old, she often begins to show an interest in a ball.

The child will try to control a ball by throwing or kicking it.

Only if a child between 3 and 4 years motor skills will be further developed, which gives him or her the opportunity to also learn to catch the ball.

Over the years, your toddler's sense of balance and hand-eye coordination will improve.

Roll the ball

It may be best to start with a soft ball so that the little one doesn't get hurt.

  1. Sit opposite each other and get the child's attention by saying, for example, "Watch out, the ball is coming!"
  2. Now you roll the ball gently towards your child. He will be completely happy when the ball comes in his or her direction.
  3. Also show how your little one can roll the ball back to you.

You start close together first. When that is easy, you can keep increasing the distance between you.

This simple game is a lot of fun for toddlers. It is also a fantastic lesson in waiting your turn.

In addition to a soft ball, you can also take a plastic or rubber ball.

To make it even more fun, you can create a strip between you and your child along which the ball will roll. You can do this with your legs, or with the wall, or a bunch of books.

Many children will find it easier to throw the ball back than to roll it. Rolling requires more control and focus. Help your child to control the rolling movement as well.

Later, you show your child that you can not only throw the ball, but also kick it.

Rolling a ball back and forth helps your child develop hand-eye coordination.

This is an important skill that helps not only with throwing and catching, but also with eating, drawing and writing.

Throw the ball

Throwing a ball is again a simple, but instructive Games for toddlers around mobility to improve.

In addition, a child learns to share and play with others.

By the time your child is two years old, they can already hold the ball well, keep their balance and it's time to start practicing throwing and catching a ball!

If this is still difficult, try it with a balloon first.

A balloon is of course much lighter in weight and moves more slowly through the air, which makes throwing and catching easier.

After a while you may be able to use different types of balls (different shapes, weights, etc).

Of course you can also make / invent ball games for toddlers yourself.

Ball games are for sale, but you can also easily make your own ball games for your kids!

If you have a little free time, you can create really fun games with little stuff. We will give you some ideas.

except it play together, the development of motor skills, sharing and throwing and catching, teaches a child about social roles and self-control in a playful way.

Balls form a stove

A super fun DIY idea! All you need is a cardboard box and balls.

Cut or cut circles in the cardboard box, through which your child can push the balls.

To make it even more fun, you can give each hole a color, where your child is supposed to push the ball of a certain color through the hole of the same color.

You can also make the holes of different sizes and adjust the balls accordingly, so that a child understands which ball will or will not fit through a hole.

A child learns a lot of things at the same time!

Playing with a shape set is a great way to help toddlers learn basic shapes, hand-eye coordination, and color recognition.

Through the game they gain skills such as problem solving and spatial reasoning.

As they maneuver the balls through different holes of different sizes and colors, they develop fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination.

In addition, they can better understand and recognize shapes when they compare the size and shape of the ball with the hole it should go into

Shape sets also help toddlers with visual discrimination and cognitive development.

As they place each ball in the correct hole, they must pay attention to details such as the size, color and shape of each object.

This helps them build attention span skills that are important for later learning in school.

They can also practice counting by putting a ball in each hole until they are all correct.

Furthermore, color matching is an important skill for toddlers that can be improved by playing with a shape set.

If they match each colored ball with the corresponding colored hole, their color recognition skills will be strengthened

Playing with a shape set helps toddlers practice several basic skills that are a crucial part of their development.

It allows them to learn about shapes, sizes, colors and counting, while also improving hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and cognitive development.

Ball pit

If you have an inflatable pool at home, you can fill it with ball pit balls (you can buy these everywhere, even at the thrift store!).

If the weather is nice, you can also fill the pool with some water and throw the balls in it.

You can even fill your travel cot with balls for a real DYI ball pit.

Or you can make it a whole treasure hunt!

Play with ball pit balls is a perfect sensory activity, and kids love it a lot!

They learn to improve both their gross and fine motor skills and to recognize colors.

Golf or shuffleboard

You also need one or more cardboard boxes for this game.

For example, you make various gates with a number of points each. The intention is to aim the balls (for example golf balls) in the gates.

Make each gate different in terms of width and also assign different scores to the gates.

The narrower gates should score more points than the wider gates, because it is more difficult to aim your ball in a narrow gate.

Whoever has scored the most points (for example with 5 attempts) wins!

Or do you prefer a traditional shuffleboard, just like the old days? Check out the cute mini version of Znoet here.

Znoet Shuffleboard - Collapsible to play with toddlers

(view more images)

A toddler playing shuffleboard or golf can learn many important skills.

First, they develop their hand-eye coordination when aiming and throwing the balls into the different gates.

They learn to accurately estimate distances and develop fine motor skills that are useful in many areas of life, such as drawing, writing or even playing musical instruments

Secondly, motor development is improved because toddlers have to use their muscles to throw the ball accurately and with enough power.

Through this exercise, they practice strength and agility while developing their balance and coordination.

Limb coordination is also improved through this game as toddlers learn how to move each limb independently while using them together to gain control of the ball

Thirdly, the strategy is also sharpened in these early stages of development.

As toddlers try to score more points by aiming for narrower gates with higher scores, they are encouraged to think about where the ball should go next based on what has already been done to achieve a successful outcome.

This teaches problem-solving in an appropriate context that encourages children not only to think ahead, but also to evaluate what has worked before so that it can be repeated or changed

Finally, patience is another essential quality children learn playing shuffleboard or golf, because they have to wait their turn and take turns playing with others who are playing the game with them – be they family members or friends.

While this may not seem like an important skill at first glance, being patient can help children develop empathy and social skills such as communication and cooperation – all necessary when living in a society with other people.

Tin throwing

What does a child like more than knocking over towers?

Stack up some old cans like a pyramid and have your child throw a ball at them.

Organize a competition and give a prize to the child who knocked over the most cans!

This game is also fun with bottled water, provided the weather is nice outside.

Hand-eye coordination is developed when the child throws the ball at the cans and watches it go to its target.

In addition, the understanding of cause and effect is further strengthened when the child notices that his actions cause something else – in this case, knocking over the cans.

This helps them solve problems and think logically in scenarios, providing a strong foundation for future learning.

Depending on the number of cans lined up, toddlers can also work on their early math skills by counting the number of cans and keeping track of who knocked over more during a game

Can throwing is an engaging activity that encourages physical activity while also teaching fundamental skills such as coordination, balance, problem solving and early math concepts.

It's an easy way for kids to practice these important developmental lessons while having fun!

Ball in the bucket

Throwing is not always desirable in the house, but one thing is for sure: children love it!

Suppose the weather is bad outside, you can put a bucket in a corner and throw balls with your child. Anyone who manages to aim in the bucket gets a point.

For example, place a mat where you have to stand on to aim the ball in the bucket. You can make it a little more difficult for your child by moving the mat a little further back.

Don't you have any balls in your house and don't you have the opportunity to run to the store at that moment?

Then go for a pair of rolled up socks, they can just as well be used as balls!

Throwing the ball strengthens skills such as counting, measuring distance, hand control and balance.

Practicing how to correctly aim their throws will help toddlers use their hands to control their movements and determine where to throw to make sure they hit their target.

Ball mikado

I think we've all played Mikado at some point.

Do you want to design your own (balls) Mikado and then play with it with your toddler? Then you can!

What do you need? A roll of chicken wire, a few wooden sticks and balls. That's it! 

You are supposed to put the sticks in the basket and then put the balls on it.

The players pull a stick out of the basket one by one, trying not to let the balls fall.

Each time a player drops the ball, he/she gets a point. The player with the fewest points wins.

Now you don't have to make a competition out of it with toddlers, and it might be more fun to drop the balls by pulling the sticks out of the mesh.

It is actually a kind of giant Mikado that you play, adapted to the age of the players (toddlers in this case). 

Toddlers will work on their (fine and gross) motor skills and insight and have a lot of fun at the same time.

They are socially engaged and their self-esteem will also be stimulated with this mega Mikado game.

Bouncing ball

Kids love bouncy balls! Of course you have to be a little careful with small children if you let them play with a bouncing ball.

Fortunately, there are also bouncing balls in yo-yo shape, where there is a string attached to the ball.

That is also useful, so that you cannot lose it so easily and it does not just bounce everywhere. 

But you can also go for a somewhat larger ball, which can bounce a lot.

Let your child start with both hands at the same time so that he/she will master that symmetry. So throw (bounce) and catch with two hands.

If your child masters this, it can throw and catch with one hand, but it is important to have dexterity on both sides. 

There are all kinds of fun games to think of with a bouncing ball, but in the case of toddlers you can keep it very simple.

Let your toddler bounce with the ball. You can also sit across from your toddler and bounce the ball towards each other, gently.

What's more, you can give your little one a plastic cup and let him/her try to aim the bouncing ball in it, with or without a bounce!

Kind of the same idea as the ball in the bucket game I mentioned above.

Balancing on a skippy ball (holding on to parent)

Do you want to teach your toddler how to balance? Then you can with a skippy ball! It is big enough for toddlers.

You can also think of a fitness ball, but it may still be a bit too big for your toddler. Let your toddler sit on the ball and support him/her.

If that works, you can let your toddler go around in circles. And if your child is a real daredevil, you can also try to get him/her to stand on the ball.

Always with your support, of course.

Your toddler can also lie on his/her stomach on the skippy ball, resting on the floor with his arms. You as a parent naturally hold your toddler.

In addition, the child can lie on his/her back on the ball, this time with the legs resting on the floor.

Mum or dad then holds the ball so that the toddler does not fall over or slide off the ball. Your little one can also bounce with a skippy ball.

By balancing on a skippy ball, your child will work on his/her balance.

Your toddler will also learn to discover and use all his / her muscles and work will also be done on hand-eye coordination. 

Parachute ball (with friends)

Parachute ball is really fun!

To be able to play this game, you first need a number of boyfriends or girlfriends.

You also need a cloth that you can hold together. This can be a tablecloth, but also possibly a towel.

You then place a ball on that cloth that the children try to get into motion together. Laugh, screech, roar!

The kids can try to keep the ball in the air, or just wave the rug and see what happens to the ball. 

You can also do this alone with your toddler. Or you help your toddler hold the cloth and let someone else hold the other side. 

In this game, a child appeals to gross motor skills, trying to keep the ball on the canvas with physical movements.

But here the child must cooperate with the other, who is on the other side of the canvas, or with the rest of the children if there are several players.

This stimulates the social-emotional development of the child.

If he/she manages to keep the ball on the canvas, it will also be good for the child's self-confidence.

Sensory balls

Sensory balls are often filled with various materials and have different colors, so that children are challenged to explore.

The balls are special and sometimes have bulges. Your toddler will be impressed!

Sensory Balls - Sensory Shapes 5 St. - Maternity Gift - Baby Gift

(view more images)

'Senso' stands for sense, and 'pathic' means experience. With sensory play you use your senses during the game.

Sensopathic play seems more like a 'pastime', because there is often no direct goal (which is the case, for example, with drawing or cooking).

But secretly, children actually learn a lot. 

In the case of sensory balls, they get to know the material and also find out what they can do with it.

Furthermore, toddlers will learn about their own preferences. What do I like to feel and what not?

Moreover, children are busy with their motor skills, by grasping the material, possibly manipulating it and feeling it. 

In addition to the above benefits, sensory play can help to process certain emotions or events.

The reason that sensory play is also used in therapy. TULLO has a nice set with bright colors that you can take with you in the bath.

ball court

You can easily make a ball track with just a few materials!

For example, think of a set of downspouts – or some other kind of pipes – or maybe even a gutter, and some duct tape from your husband's materials box. 

You can also make a ball track on the fence. Then your child can play outside, provided the weather is good, of course. 

Take a rain pipe, gutter, or something else and saw them into pieces of 1 meter, for example. Then you can drill holes for balls in it.

When that is done, the ball track can be screwed to the fence. But you can also put drainpipes on the table, or on the floor, and let the balls roll through them.

Might be easier to get together and just as much fun!

By playing with a ball track, your toddler exercises his/her fine motor skills, develops problem-solving skills, learns cause and effect and also works on hand-eye coordination. 

Paint with balls (beware of the mess)

You may have never thought about it before, but with balls you can even paint.

For example, take an old cardboard box (for example, a shoebox) and roll in it with balls dipped in the paint.

In addition to a shoe box, you can also use an old sheet to roll the balls over. If you go for the cloth, stretch it around the table.

Throw some blobs of paint on the sheet and let your toddler roll the ball over it.

It might be useful to put an apron or old clothes on your little one. And also pay attention to your own clothes! 

You can roll the ball towards each other, or help your toddler roll the ball. You will be amazed at the beautiful work of art that you end up creating together!

You can also let the ball bounce, but for that your child must have enough coordination and you must also pay attention to the mess it can leave behind. 

Painting with balls contributes to the development of fine motor skills. Your child grabs the ball and rolls it through the paint, as you show.

When your child gets a little older, you can also let him / her name the different colors, working on cognitive development.

What colors does he/she see, and what happens when colors are mixed with each other?

Because the child uses its own imagination, it will also develop visual expression.

For smaller children, this game will mainly stimulate fine motor skills.

Massage with balls

With a special massage ball, which is provided with soft stimuli, for example, you can gently massage your little one.

The massage ball is also perfect for tactile stimuli, with which your child learns to process tactile information and also learns to deal with touch. 

You can also gently massage your baby with an ordinary ball, which may be slightly harder. And vice versa, your toddler can also try to give you a massage! 

If you start rolling over the body with the massage balls, you will feel that gently rolling over your head with the ball feels different than over your legs.

This is a real discovery for children. Toddlers learn in which parts of their body they like the massage, and where less so.

The massage ball can contribute to a good body awareness, and this is very important for the development of your toddler.

If your toddler understands his/her body, it will feel much more self-confident and it will also be able to better discover the environment in which he/she is.

Massage balls can also give a relaxed feeling, because they stimulate the blood circulation in the muscles and your child will relax as a result.  

Transparent balloons with confetti

Toddlers often enjoy playing with balloons. But even more fun are transparent balloons that have confetti on the inside!

You probably understand what happens when those balloons pop; yes, it's party time!

The confetti will end up in the air and flutter down.

Don't forget to vacuum after playing, though. You can also fill the balloons with helium to keep them floating in the air. 

Playing with balloons will stimulate your toddler's motor development.

Watch the eye movements your toddler makes, check if he/she can locate where the balloon is and where it should hold his/her hands to properly catch or knock the balloon away.

In addition to gross motor skills, it also appeals to hand-eye coordination. 

Ball bingo (for older toddlers)

With ball bingo you are supposed to take a number of (ping pong) balls and then write numbers on them.

Then you spread the balls in a room (or you can hide them, that might be even more fun).

Then you call out a number and then the child has to find the ball with that number written on it.

If your child has found the correct ball five times, it has bingo. If there are several children, you can turn this into a competition. 

There are also other games to think of if you are with more children. For example, each child gets a ball with a number on it.

The balls are collected and distributed in the hall. Now it is the intention that the children try to find their own ball. If successful, they shout 'bingo'! 

In ball bingo, children learn numbers, they work on their fine and gross motor skills, and their eye-hand coordination.

In addition, they will appeal to their cognitive development

Perhaps toddlers are still a bit too young for this game and you should save the idea for when they are a bit older.

Ball games you can buy

In general, little is needed for ball games. Sometimes a ball alone is enough!

But there are also a number of ball games that you can buy ready-made in the store. These games are designed to challenge your child and stimulate healthy development.

Here are some of our favorite games.

There are nice play tents with balls that bring a lot of fun!

For example, tents can be used indoors and outdoors and you can clean them up after playing.

Looking for fun play tents for children? watch here our top 12 best play tents!

But a game of bowling or skittles are activities that young and old love to do.

With the BS Toys mini skittles game you get 10 pins and two balls. Put down the skittles and try to knock them all down with the help of the balls:

Lifetime games mini bowling game

(view more images)

This toy stimulates the hand-eye coordination and motor skills of kids.

Children learn to aim well and estimate speed and power when throwing the balls towards the pins.

The balls are made of wood, which gives this set an authentic look. The cones are hand painted in red and white.

Suitable for children from 3 years.

Why play with a ball?

Balls are familiar play material for most children. Balls invite you to play, alone or with others.

Most children are already familiar with a game with a ball, which can be very simple.

You have balls of all shapes and sizes, suitable for different ages. The bigger the ball, the easier it is to catch.

To make a game more difficult, a somewhat smaller ball can be used.

Playing with a ball allows you to use many different body parts: your hands, feet, torso, head, and so on.

Balls also bring a lot of variation in the game, because you can use a ball in different ways. You can roll, throw, bounce, kick, catch a ball. All this stimulates the motor skills.

Also Read: The Complete List Of Toddler Games To Never Get Bored

The motor skills of children at different ages

A child can do different things at every age, also with balls.

1,5-2

This is a good age for the football parents; you can finally play soccer with your little one!

The child will now be able to kick a ball without losing balance.

2,5-3

Playing games with toddlers is getting easier now.

Throwing and catching a large ball and throwing it in a certain direction will be smooth.

3-4

Your child can now easily catch a ball with two hands, although it will still press the ball against the body.

In addition, it will also be able to throw the ball from over the head.

4-5

Your child is now undergoing a development from toddler to toddler.

A small ball can now be introduced, catching and throwing shouldn't be a problem.

5 years and older

It is important to continue to encourage ball games from the age of five. They are a challenge for your child.

It may also be time around this age to find a sports club and have your child part of a sports team.

Let your child try different sports and find out where his or her interests lie.

Ball games for toddlers: definitely a good idea

As you can see, ball games are fundamental to the healthy development of any child, especially toddlers.

Kids love to play with a ball, and it often takes very little. As a parent, make sure that you always challenge your child by slowly making the ball games a bit more difficult.

Ball games can be bought everywhere and there are a lot of fun options to be found. You can also choose to make or invent ball games yourself.

We have given you some simple ideas in this article.

It's important to emphasize play, not practice.

It's about having fun together and playing together, which allows a child to develop without thinking too much.

Encourage your child by saying that they are doing very well and that you can see that they are getting better and better. Positive feedback is essential!

Also read: educational toys for toddlers to help their development

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Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.