Generally, children are ready to learn how to catch a light ball when they are three to four years old. By age five, you should definitely be playing catch with them.
This activity teaches basic underhand catching skills using a simple sock ball, and it can be done indoors or outdoors. Catching is a very difficult skill and your child will likely drop the ball frequently at the beginning, so be patient.
Make a sock ball
- Find two large, thick socks. Wool work socks are ideal.
- Stuff one sock into the other one, pushing it all the way down to the toe.
- Roll-back the outer sock as if you are turning it inside-out. Do this a couple of times until you have a basic ball shape. It won’t be perfectly round, but it doesn’t need to be.
- Stand 1 to 2 metres away from your child.
- Show your child how to stand with their hands in front of their stomach, palms facing upwards, baby fingers side-by-side and almost touching.
- Gently toss the sock ball into their hands.
- Their hands should move to adjust for the toss. At first, they won’t move their hands quickly enough. This is a natural part of the learning process as their eyes learn to track the ball and move their hands accordingly.
- If your child is struggling, move closer and make your toss very short, so the ball travels as little as 30 centimetres in the air, about the length of a standard school ruler.
- As your child starts to catch the sock ball consistently you can increase the distance of your toss from 30 centimetres to one metre and from one metre to two metres.
Once your child is consistently catching the sock ball from two metres, challenge them to go even further. Make it playful by asking them to back up as far as they can to make a “Mega Catch” or a “Super Catch”. Celebrate successful catches with cheers and high-fives.