Did you know that playing a simple game of catch with your children aids immensely in their development? While the actions may be quite minimal, they offer significant benefits at all stages of growth.
There are many physical, cognitive, and social benefits children can get from even a simple game of catch. However, it is crucial to know how to avoid the risk of an accident and how to help your child get the most out of the game.
In this article, an experienced coach and our collaborator, Seth Coffing, will help educate you on the benefits and risks of playing catch at each stage of your child’s development.
Stage: 10-12 Months
You can begin playing catch with your child as early as 10-12 months of age. While they may be too young to understand complex concepts, gently tossing or rolling soft cloth balls of various sizes that they can grasp is a good way to start.
While they won’t have a good aim, they will be able to slap or throw the ball back. This experience, with practice, will help them to develop fine and gross motor skills and coordination.
Make sure the balls you use are soft and made specifically for babies, to reduce the risk of choking or injury.
Stage: 1-3 Years
At the toddler stage, your child will continue to fine-tune their coordination skills and will be getting to the point where you can have an actual game of catch with them. Continue to toss the ball gently towards them, but at this point, you may be able to graduate to lightweight plastic balls designed for toddlers.
This is a great activity that will keep them entertained, and you can begin to make a game out of it since they are beginning to understand small concepts. Establishing the habit of being physically active early will also promote a healthy lifestyle later on.
Make sure the balls are made specifically for toddlers since they still run the risk of putting items in their mouth and choking, and that they are lightweight to avoid injury.
Stage: 4-7 Years
Once your child can understand the concept of playing catch, you may begin to incorporate other concepts, like math skills and teamwork.
Having them count each consecutive catch or solve a problem every time they throw the ball is a great way to practice their math skills. At this point, your child may also be advanced enough to start playing catch with friends or siblings, which can build teamwork and excellent sportsmanship skills.
Though your child is older, refrain from using harder balls, such as baseballs, to avoid injury. Instead, use a plastic or whiffle ball.
Stage 8+ Years
Now that your child is older, they will have a good understanding of timing and coordination, developed motor skills, and teamwork. After being exposed to sports, they will also be ready to be involved in new sports, such as baseball.
Your child will have the added benefit of being physically active, which promotes their overall health and prepares them for lifelong health.
From this point on, you can continue to advance them in sports, now that they have a good base.