Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On the Ball: Extend Your Child’s Learning

By: Al Stewart
If you ask your child to tell you about playtime with balls, you might hear about a favorite ball that bounces, or a yarn ball that doesn't roll away. A child might mention a sponge ball or a beach ball because they’re soft, or a playground ball with a bell inside that makes a noise when it’s rolled across the ground.
Young children enjoy playing with balls and they should be given opportunities to experience a variety of sizes, shapes, and textures. Building learning around children’s interests is definitely an approach that teachers and/or parents would want to use. Balls are a great learning tool that help children learn concepts in many different areas, such as, but not limited to:
  • Language 
  • Math
  • Science
  • Motor Development
For this to be most enjoyable, you might want to have the following items ready to use during your discussion about balls:
  • Pictures of a number of different kinds of balls – baseball, soccer ball, football, basketball, tennis ball, softball, beach ball, koosh ball, nerfball, golf ball, super ball, volleyball, bowling ball, and many others.
  • Since young children are concrete learners, it would be a good idea to have a basket of different kinds of actual, physical balls.
First, ask your child how many different kind of balls he/she can name. Maybe write the names on a big sheet of paper as your child names them. If you already have a picture of the ball mentioned by your child, place it beside its name on the paper. If you would like to be brave, try to draw a ball and label it as your child names each one. Maybe your child is ready to try and draw the balls. This back-and-forth dialogue could go on for a few minutes. This would be an opportunity to introduce your child to other kinds of balls that he/she may not be familiar with such as an exercise ball, a medicine ball, a whiffle ball, a rugby ball, a ping-pong ball, a billiard ball, a handball, and others. Encourage your child to ask other children, siblings, and grownups if they can think of even more kinds of balls. This will help with the next level of this discussion.
Do we play with all balls? The answer is no. Discuss with your child what balls we do not play with. Such answers could be food balls like meatballs, cheeseballs and gum balls. Other balls would be disco balls, crystal balls, coronation balls, and snowballs. You will probably think of others. My list has 63 different kinds of balls on it. What others can you think of that we didn't name?
Ask your child, what can we do with balls, specifically those that we play with? We can throw, catch, kick, roll, hit, toss, bounce, dribble, and carry balls. Ask your child to demonstrate each of these action verbs. This would be a fun activity to do outside or in a large indoor space that would allow your child lots of room to play with a variety of balls. To encourage critical thinking, we might ask such questions as:
  • Are all balls round?
  • Do all balls bounce?
  • What is the largest ball you have seen?
  • What is the smallest ball you have ever seen?
  • Which ball is the heaviest?
  • Which ball is the lightest?
  • Which ball is easier to kick? Catch? Throw? Bounce? Dribble?
  • What are balls made of?
  • What does inflate mean and what balls need to be inflated?
  • How many times can you bounce a basketball?
As you can see, the use of balls can help young children to develop motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and language, math, science, and higher-order thinking skills. What children’s books, songs, or movement activities do you know that would be enhanced by the use of balls?

Click here to download an activity page from Choosy about balls. Choosy would also love to see you and your child playing with balls. You can always submit your pictures, videos and even art work to info@choosykids.com and you may see it on our Facebook page!
About the Author: Al Stewart has work in the early childhood field for 42 plus years including the public school sector in Texas for 34 years as a teacher, early childhood special/general education specialist and consultant as well as Head Start. After he retired, he started his own consulting business, A. Stewart Consulting, and continued his passion for teaching by conducting training sessions for teachers in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and administration throughout the country.


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