There are probably as many types of ball as there are children in the world, and as many different variations on each type again. From the small bouncy balls to the hard plastic aero balls right up to proper footballs, there really is a type to suit every child, and at every stage. A ball, it would normally seem, is an essential toy for any child to have, at any age. But why is this so, and what type of balls prove to be more suited to each age group?
From being a baby, a child can usually learn to hold a ball. The rounded shape allows them to hold it quite easily, since pressing it between their hands usually is all that is required. As it has no corners or sharp bits it is also superbly safe. Small babies will usually try to suck or eat the ball, and to no small extent this is probably an instinctive response related to breastfeeding. A ball is therefore familiar and reassuring to even a small child.
Of course, as a child grows older, they will need a ball that they can learn to manipulate with their hands, and ones which are fairly small, about tennis ball sized at most, and smooth are most suited. Tennis balls have fluff which is not advisable for them to get in their mouths, quite apart from being fairly unpleasant on the tongue. However, once a child becomes a toddler, throwing a ball becomes a prime activity. At this stage, a light plastic ball is best as they can easily throw this a fair distance, but it is unlikely to do much harm in the house, or to hurt anyone it strikes. Very light plastic tends not to travel very far either.
After throwing comes kicking, and a light football is ideal, giving the child plenty of surface area to strike, and more chance at success. Once the child can throw and kick, they will be anxious to start catching. This is quite possibly the hardest skill of all to learn, and will require something fairly large, but light. Although a football is a good size, since there is a very frequent chance of it hitting the child in the face, a better alternative is a light beach ball or other inflatable ball. This helps them to grasp the ball, and not be hurt if it hits them. It will also move slower through the air, and be easier. Of course, even easier still is to use a balloon, since this will be harmless if it hits them, easy to catch, and will move slow enough for them to predict. Moving from a balloon to a beach ball, to a football, and then back down the scale to smaller balls like tennis balls will help to steadily increase the skill level required.
Although small rubber bouncy balls are fun, they do require a high level of skill to control, can be quite dangerous near delicate objects or windows, and are often easy to bit and swallow parts of. Therefore these are not recommended until the child has mastered the previous stage completely, as they will by this time be competent and reliable and able to understand the safety implications.
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